DIANA K. BROWN
MEGAN S. BROWN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CO-ADMINISTRATOR, C.T.A OF THE ESTATE OF BRUCE S. BROWN AND JOSHUA K. BROWN, CO-ADMINISTRATOR, C.T.A. OF THE ESTATE OF BRUCE S. BROWN
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF YORK COUNTY Richard H. Rizk, Judge.
Richard G. Collins (Collins & Hyman, PLC, on briefs), for
L. Hatchett (Daniel F. Basnight; Kaufman & Canoles, on
brief), for appellees.
Present: Judges Petty, Chafin and Senior Judge Frank Argued
at Norfolk, Virginia
WILLIAM G. PETTY JUDGE.
appeal, we consider the effect of the death of a party in a
bifurcated divorce proceeding after the entry of a final
decree of divorce but before the equitable distribution of
the marital property.
K. Brown (former wife) and Bruce S. Brown (former husband)
were married in 1989. On March 8, 2017, the circuit court
entered a final decree of divorce between them. In part, the
circuit court decreed,
By agreement of the parties, and upon good cause shown, the
[c]ourt reserves final determination of equitable
distribution of property and debt in accordance with §
20-107.3 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended, and an
award of attorney's fees and costs. A hearing is
scheduled for April 19, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. to present closing
arguments regarding equitable distribution of assets and
debts and an award of attorney's fees and costs and to
review the status of the sale of the marital residence
located [in Seaford, Virginia].
party appealed the decree of divorce. The parties appeared on
April 19, 2017, and presented evidence and argument regarding
equitable distribution of the parties' assets. The court
entered an order on May 1, 2017, nunc pro tunc to
April 19, 2017, "upon consideration of the evidence
presented and argument of counsel" "pending the
final determination of equitable distribution of property and
debt." The order described the procedure for maintenance
and sale of the marital residence, including the use of funds
from husband's individual retirement account, which was
"an account subject to equitable distribution," to
pay expenses on the marital residence. Further, the order
required that any withdrawal in excess of $2, 000 from the
individual retirement account had to be approved by former
wife and accompanied by a distribution to her of "the
exact sum of money as the excess withdrawal."
Additionally, the order set closing arguments regarding
equitable distribution for August 2, 2017.
husband died on April 24, 2017. On August 9, 2017, the trial
court granted former wife's motion to add Megan K. Brown
(daughter) as a substitute party defendant, individually and
as co-administrator c.t.a. of former husband's estate,
and to add Joshua K. Brown (son) as a substitute party
defendant as co-administrator c.t.a. of former husband's
estate.The trial court additionally ordered that
the prior order to preserve marital assets, including the
individual retirement account, would remain in effect.
Daughter was the beneficiary named on that account.
August 29, 2017, daughter, individually and on behalf of the
estate, filed a motion to dismiss the equitable distribution
case. She argued that former husband's death abated that
case. She further argued that while the divorce itself was
final, the circuit court lost jurisdiction to distribute the
marital assets due to the death of a party. She argued that,
as beneficiary, she was now sole owner of former
husband's individual retirement account, which had once
been marital property. On March 8, 2018, the trial court
granted daughter's motion and dismissed the case,
concluding that it lost jurisdiction when former husband
died. This appeal followed.
trial court's jurisdiction is a question of law that is
reviewed de novo on appeal." Reaves v.
Tucker, 67 Va.App. 719, 727, 800 S.E.2d 188, 192 (2017).
Additionally, "[s]tatutory interpretation is a question
of law which we review de novo." Friedman