B-123146, AUG. 1, 1955

B-123146: Aug 1, 1955

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LESSIE CRAVEN: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED FEBRUARY 8. YOUR CLAIM WAS DISALLOWED AND YOU WERE ADVISED THAT THE DECEDENT'S WIDOW. WAS ENTITLED TO THE PAYMENT OF THE GRATUITY. THERE IS ON FILE HERE A CERTIFIED TRUE COPY OF A DECREE DATED JUNE 9. GRANTING DEAN EARL CRAVEN A DIVORCE MENSA ET THORO FROM DOROTHEA MARIE GANGHAMMER CRAVEN AND PROVIDING THAT ALL MARITAL RIGHTS OF EACH OF THE PARTIES IN THE PROPERTY THEN OWNED OR SUBSEQUENTLY ACQUIRED BY THE OTHER WERE TERMINATED AND ANNULLED. THE SIX MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY WAS NOT PROPERTY ACQUIRED BY YOUR SON DURING HIS LIFETIME FOR DISTRIBUTION AS AN ASSET OF HIS ESTATE. IT IS A GRATUITY OF SIX MONTHS' PAY AUTHORIZED BY THE ACT OF JUNE 4.

B-123146, AUG. 1, 1955

TO MRS. LESSIE CRAVEN:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED FEBRUARY 8, 1955, CONCERNING YOUR CLAIM FOR THE SIX MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY AUTHORIZED UNDER THE ACT OF JUNE 4, 1920, 41 STAT. 824, AS AMENDED, 34 U.S.C. 943, IN THE CASE OF YOUR LATE SON, DEAN EARL CRAVEN, WHO DIED AUGUST 1, 1953, WHILE SERVING AS CHIEF BOATSWAIN'S MATE, UNITED STATES NAVY. ALSO, THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED A LETTER DATED JULY 13, 1955, WRITTEN IN YOUR BEHALF BY MR. JORDAN A. PUGH, III, ATTORNEY AT LAW, NORFOLK, VIRGINIA.

BY SETTLEMENT OF OUR CLAIMS DIVISION DATED JANUARY 14, 1955, YOUR CLAIM WAS DISALLOWED AND YOU WERE ADVISED THAT THE DECEDENT'S WIDOW, DOROTHEA MARIE CRAVEN, WAS ENTITLED TO THE PAYMENT OF THE GRATUITY. IN YOUR LETTER YOU CONTEND THAT A DIVORCE DECREE OBTAINED BY YOUR LATE SON FROM DOROTHEA MARIE CRAVEN ON JUNE 9, 1952, CONSTITUTES A BAR AND AN ESTOPPEL TO ANY CLAIM BY HER. THERE IS ON FILE HERE A CERTIFIED TRUE COPY OF A DECREE DATED JUNE 9, 1952, ISSUED BY THE COURT OF LAW AND CHANCERY OF THE CITY OF NORFOLK, STATE OF VIRGINIA, GRANTING DEAN EARL CRAVEN A DIVORCE MENSA ET THORO FROM DOROTHEA MARIE GANGHAMMER CRAVEN AND PROVIDING THAT ALL MARITAL RIGHTS OF EACH OF THE PARTIES IN THE PROPERTY THEN OWNED OR SUBSEQUENTLY ACQUIRED BY THE OTHER WERE TERMINATED AND ANNULLED. THE DECREE FURTHER PROVIDED THAT THE CASE "BE CONTINUED ON THE DOCKET FOR AN APPLICATION IN DUE TIME FOR A DECREE A VINCULO SHOULD THE COMPLAINANT BE SO ADVISED.'

SECTION 20-116 OF THE CODE OF VIRGINIA 1950, PROVIDES:

"EFFECT OF DIVORCE FROM BED AND BOARD AND WHAT COURT MAY DECREE.--- IN GRANTING A DIVORCE FROM BED AND BOARD, THE COURT MAY DECREE THAT THE PARTIES BE PERPETUALLY SEPARATED AND PROTECTED IN THEIR PERSONS AND PROPERTY. SUCH DECREE SHALL OPERATE UPON PROPERTY THEREAFTER ACQUIRED, AND UPON THE PERSONAL RIGHTS AND LEGAL CAPACITIES OF THE PARTIES, AS A DECREE FOR A DIVORCE FROM THE BOND OF MATRIMONY, EXCEPT THAT NEITHER PARTY SHALL MARRY AGAIN DURING THE LIFE OF THE OTHER.'

THE DECREE DID NOT PROVIDE THAT THE PARTIES TO THE DIVORCE BE PERPETUALLY SEPARATED, SO AS TO OPERATE UNDER THE ABOVE-QUOTED PROVISIONS AS A DIVORCE FROM THE BONDS OF MATRIMONY. WHILE THE DECREE TERMINATED THE RIGHTS OF EACH PARTY IN THE PROPERTY THEN OWNED OR SUBSEQUENTLY ACQUIRED BY THE OTHER, THE SIX MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY WAS NOT PROPERTY ACQUIRED BY YOUR SON DURING HIS LIFETIME FOR DISTRIBUTION AS AN ASSET OF HIS ESTATE. IT IS A GRATUITY OF SIX MONTHS' PAY AUTHORIZED BY THE ACT OF JUNE 4, 1920, 41 STAT. 824, AS AMENDED, 34 U.S.C. 943, TO BE PAID, UPON THE DEATH OF THE NAVY PERSONNEL SPECIFIED IN THE ACT,"TO THE WIDOW, AND IF THERE BE NO WIDOW, TO THE CHILD OR CHILDREN, AND IF THERE BE NO CHILD OR CHILDREN, TO ANY OTHER DEPENDENT RELATIVE" PREVIOUSLY DESIGNATED BY THE DECEDENT. UNDER SUCH PROVISIONS THE AMOUNT IS PAYABLE TO A SURVIVING WIDOW ON THE BASIS OF HER RELATIONSHIP ALONE.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DIVORCE A MENSA ET THORO AND A DIVORCE A VINCULO IN VIRGINIA IS DISCUSSED IN THE CASE OF GLOTH V. GLOTH, 154 VA. 511, 153 S.E. 879, 71 A.L.R. 700. THE COURT STATED THAT IN THE CASE OF A DIVORCE A VINCULO THE MARRIAGE BOND IS COMPLETELY SEVERED, AND THERE IS NO CONTINUATION OF THE MARITAL STATUS, BUT THAN WHEN A DIVORCE A MENSA ET THORO IS DECREED THERE IS NO SEVERENCE OF THE MARRIAGE BOND, THE PARTIES REMAINING HUSBAND AND WIFE, THOUGH ALSO AUTHORIZED TO LIVE IN SEPARATION. SEE, ALSO, CASILEAR V. CASILEAR, 168 VA. 46, 190 S.E. 314.

ACCORDINGLY, IT APPEARS THAT AT THE TIME OF THE DEATH OF YOUR SON HE WAS SURVIVED BY A WIDOW, WHO IS THE PREFERRED BENEFICIARY UNDER THE ACT OF JUNE 4, 1920, AS AMENDED, AND SHE IS ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF THE SIX MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY. HENCE, THERE IS NO BASIS FOR THE ALLOWANCE OF YOUR CLAIM.