Case Caption: Stephen Evans-Freke v. Valerie Evans-FrekeCase Number: SCT-CIV-2019-0046Date: 12/30/2021Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: 2021 V.I. 25Summary: In a divorce proceeding, the non-resident wife’s personal jurisdiction defense is rejected. The Virgin Islands Long-Arm Statute authorizes the Superior Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a person based on “a claim for relief arising from the person’s (1) transacting any business in this territory,” 5 V.I.C. § 4903(a), and this does not require participation in business or commercial activities but only that a defendant engage in some type of purposeful activity within the territory. Because the wife’s actions were purposeful and directed to the Virgin Islands, and sufficiently related to the claims to be litigated as part of the husband’s divorce action, the exercise of personal jurisdiction under the Virgin Islands Long Arm Statute comports with due process, and the Superior Court erred in concluding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the wife. It was also error to dismiss the husband’s petition on forum non conveniens grounds, since 5 V.I.C. § 4905 mandated that the Superior Court accept jurisdiction over the husband’s divorce petition unless “substantial justice” required otherwise. The Superior Court actively contributed to the denial of substantial justice by unnecessarily prolonging the underlying divorce proceedings by declining to hear a case within its jurisdiction and instead referring it to another state which had already declined to exercise jurisdiction under its own laws. Finally, the Superior Court committed error when it denied the husband’s motion for partial summary judgment. The husband submitted overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence with his partial summary judgment motion, and the wife never contended in her opposition that he had failed to establish his entitlement to a divorce. Her answer admitted that there has been an irreconcilable breakdown of the marriage to the extent that the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. Thus the Superior Court erred when it denied the husband’s motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of divorce. Accordingly, the April 16, 2019 opinion and order granting the wife’s motion to dismiss and the July 24, 2018 order denying the husband’s motion for partial summary judgment are reversed. It is further ordered that, upon remand, the Superior Court shall immediately enter a decree of divorce and exercise jurisdiction over all outstanding issues that remain between the parties.Attachment: Open Document or Opinion