THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LOUDOUN COUNTY Jeanette A. Irby, Judge
L. Fox (Faisal Moghul; Fox & Moghul, on brief), for
A. Harvill (Daniel A. Harvill, PLLC, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Petty, Malveaux and Senior Judge Annunziata
Argued at Alexandria, Virginia
WILLIAM G. PETTY, JUDGE
not being present in court for a scheduled hearing, husband
asserts, in nine assignments of error, that the trial court
erred in denying his request to continue the case, in not
allowing further argument regarding the language of the
decree, and in entering wife's proposed divorce decree.
Finding no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court.
reviewing a trial court's decision on appeal, we view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party,
granting it the benefit of any reasonable inferences."
Congdon v. Congdon, 40 Va.App. 255, 258 (2003).
Husband and wife were married in January of 2014. In February
of 2017, wife filed a complaint for divorce. In June of 2017,
husband filed a separate complaint for fraud, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment
against wife (marriage fraud case). In July of 2017, the
trial court stayed the divorce case pending the results of
the marriage fraud case. In February of 2018, the trial court
partially lifted the stay in the divorce case so that wife
could pursue her grounds for divorce and obtain a divorce.
The court continued the stay as to equitable distribution to
avoid any prejudice to the property rights of husband should
he be successful in the marriage fraud case. Following the
ore tenus hearing on October 22, 2018, the trial
court granted wife's request for divorce based on
continuous separation for one year, pursuant to Code §
20-91(A)(9). The trial court scheduled a hearing on November
9, 2018 for the purpose of considering and entering a final
to husband, sometime before the hearing, wife sent husband a
draft of the divorce decree. Husband had objections to the
proposed decree and suggested they continue the matter to
determine whether an agreement could be reached. Neither
husband nor husband's counsel appeared for the November
9, 2018 hearing. Husband alleges that both parties agreed
that wife's counsel would appear and request a
continuance. At the appointed hearing time, the trial court
requested that both proposed divorce decrees be submitted.
Wife's counsel submitted a proposed decree; husband's
counsel was in another court and thus was not present to
offer husband's proposed decree. The trial court
adjourned the matter until 1:00 p.m. that same day and
directed wife's counsel to tell husband's counsel to
be present at that time. At the 1:00 p.m. hearing, with
counsel for both parties present, the trial court considered
the orders presented by both parties and ruled that it would
be signing wife's proposed final decree of divorce.
Husband argued that although he was seeking a divorce, entry
of wife's order, as written, would prejudice him in the
marriage fraud case. The trial court emphasized that if it
continued the matter for further argument on the orders, as
husband requested, it would be a year before the matter could
be back on the docket. The trial court directed husband's
counsel to note any objections to the ruling on the order and
then it would be entered. Husband filed a motion for
reconsideration, which was denied. This appeal followed.
Motion for a Continuance
asserts that the trial court "abused its discretion by
not granting a continuance for the entry of an agreed decree
even though counsel for both parties had agreed to continue
the hearing" and by entering the decree "despite
being aware that both parties were actively negotiating the
language" of the proposed decree.
decision of whether to grant a continuance is committed to
the discretion of the circuit court. Haugen v. Shenandoah
Valley Dep't of Soc. Servs., 274 Va. 27, 33-34
(2007). We will reverse "a circuit court's ruling on
a motion for a continuance . . . only upon a showing of abuse
of discretion and resulting prejudice to the movant."
Id. at 34.
evaluating whether the trial court has abused its discretion
we must recognize that the trial court has inherent authority
to administer cases on its docket and is not required to
continue a case because the parties mutually agreed to the
continuance. Singleton v. Commonwealth, 278 Va. 542,
551-52 (2009). In Singleton, the appellant's
defense counsel contacted the prosecutor regarding a
continuance of the criminal case set for trial. Id.
at 545. The parties agreed to continue the case to a set
future date. Id. The prosecutor prepared a
continuance order and informed his witnesses that they did
not have to appear for the original trial date. Id.
The parties both signed the order, and the defense counsel
informed appellant that he did not have to be present for the
original trial date. Id. On the originally-scheduled
trial date, the prosecutor appeared and presented the court
with the signed continuance order. Id. "[I]n
light of the fact that neither [the ...