Case Caption: Chrystalia Etienne v. Ashley EtienneCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2010-0100Date: 05/16/2012Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

The Superior Court did not err in denying a former wife's motion to vacate the divorce decree that legally ended her marriage. After the husband filed a suit for divorce while the wife was incarcerated, lengthy proceedings ensued. After court-ordered mediation a settlement agreement was reached, but the wife then filed a motion for hearing on additional issues. The Superior Court entered judgment incorporating the agreement and granting a final divorce. The following month, the former wife moved by counsel for an order vacating the divorce decree because of the Superior Court's failure to consider the three unresolved property disputes. The motion to vacate was denied. On appeal the former wife argues that the Superior Court violated her due process rights by failing to afford her sufficient time to retain counsel, but this argument was not raised in the proceedings below, and all arguments made for the first time on appeal in civil cases are waived unless the party presents exceptional circumstances, which are not shown here. Even if the merits of the argument were reached, her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment for an opportunity to retain counsel before entry of a final order were not violated. In civil matters the trial court needs only to provide a reasonable opportunity to retain counsel to satisfy due process. This case was pending for two years prior to the mediation and thereafter appellant had over 10 months before the Superior Court entered the divorce decree. Since she had numerous opportunities to retain counsel and failed to take advantage of them, her due process rights were not violated. The Superior Court's October 18, 2010 divorce decree is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion