What Power Does a Matrimonial Refree Have ?
In Briggs v. Briggs (181 Misc 2d 197), the Matrimonial Referee who handled the court proceedings was vested only with the power to hear and report.
He had no power to make ultimate determinations and his report would then be advisory only, and could not bind the court to its findings and conclusions.
As the court pointed out in Briggs (at 200):
"execution of a proposed divorce judgment upon the Referee's findings and conclusions would clearly not be a mere ministerial act. Rather, it would require the exercise of independent review and final determination by the court as to all matters encompassed within the proposed judgement."
Likewise, in Lynch v. Lynch (178 Misc 2d 1066), the judgment of divorce was made conditional upon the recommendation of a guardian ad litem and court approval.
Since the guardian ad litem's recommendation and court approval were not obtained before death, the entry of a judgment of divorce could not be considered a mere ministerial act.
In both cases cited there existed conditions not satisfied prior to the decedent's death.
Therefore, those proceedings were not pending finalization awaiting the mere ministerial act of signing the judgment.