Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law

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In 2011, the trial court dissolved the marriage of Father and Mother. The judgment incorporated the parties’ separation agreement, which incorporated a parenting plan in which the parties agreed to share custody of the children. The agreement also provided for unallocated alimony and child support. In 2012, the parties entered into a postjudgment parenting plan pursuant to which the children would primarily reside with Father. Father subsequently filed a motion for modification of child support. Thereafter, without permission from the court, Father unilaterally decreased his unallocated support payments to Mother. In response, Mother filed a motion for contempt, which the trial court denied. The court granted Father’s postjudgment motion for modification of child support and also reduced Father's alimony payments. The Appellate Court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Appellate Court erred in concluding that the trial court improperly denied Mother’s motion for contempt; and (2) the Appellate Court did not err in concluding that the trial court improperly granted Husband’s motion for modification of unallocated alimony and child support. View "Gabriel v. Gabriel" on Justia Law
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The Commissioner of Children and Families filed a petition for termination of Mother’s parental rights to her minor child. The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mother failed to demonstrate that her right to procedural due process was violated by the trial court’s consideration of the prior voluntarily termination of Mother’s parental rights with respect to another child when Mother was a minor; and (2) the trial court did not err in finding that the Department of Children and Families had made reasonable efforts toward reunification, that Mother was unable or unwilling to benefit from those reasonable efforts, and that Mother had failed to rehabilitate. View "In re Jayce O." on Justia Law
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The trial court terminated the parental rights of Father to his child. The trial court filed the memorandum of decision terminating Father’s parental rights approximately two weeks after publication of the Supreme Court’s decision in In re Yasiel R. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the trial court’s failure to canvass Father prior to the commencement of the trial in accordance with the rule promulgated pursuant to the exercise of the Supreme Court’s supervisory authority in In re Yasiel R. applies retroactively to the present case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that applying the canvass rule announced in In re Yasiel R. to the instant case would exceed the scope of the exercise of the Court’s supervisory authority in that case. View "In re Daniel N." on Justia Law
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Incident to the dissolution of his marriage to Plaintiff, Defendant was ordered to pay lump sum alimony in the amount of $7.5 million and attorney’s fees in the amount of $140,000. Defendant appealed, arguing that the lump sum alimony award constituted a functional property distribution in violation of the parties’ prenuptial agreement and that the award of attorney’s fees was an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the lump sum alimony award did not constitute a functional property distribution in contravention of the parties’ agreement; and (2) the trial court erred in awarding attorney’s fees to Plaintiff because Plaintiff received ample liquid funds as a result of the judgment. View "Hornung v. Hornung" on Justia Law
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Before they were married, Wife and Husband entered a prenuptial agreement. Approximately ten years later, Wife brought a marital dissolution action against Husband. In accordance with an agreement to arbitrate in the prenuptial agreement, the trial court ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration on the matter of the sale of the parties’ residence. The arbitrator issued a partial award and then a final award. The trial court confirmed the partial award and confirmed in part, modified in part, and vacated in part the final arbitration award. Defendant appealed. The trial court subsequently entered judgment dissolving the marriage, allocating property, interpreting the prenuptial agreement, and deciding all pending motions. Defendant filed a second appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly applied Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-66(c) to the agreement to arbitrate contained within the prenuptial agreement; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant’s motion for leave to file an amended answer and cross complaint; and (3) the arbitrator did not exceed her authority by issuing orders in contravention of the express terms of the prenuptial agreement. View "LaFrance v. Lodmell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appeals, upon the court's grant of his petition for certification, from the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court denying a motion of defendant to vacate a prior judgment by Judge Resha which "modified, by stipulation, a portion of the judgment of dissolution that ordered that the plaintiff’s pension benefits be divided equally between the parties." The court concluded that: (1) given a conflict in the case law on point and the Superior Court’s plenary jurisdiction over family relations matters, the Appellate Court improperly determined that it was ‘"entirely obvious" that Judge Resha lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify the property distribution in the judgment of dissolution; and (2) considerations of finality of judgments, as set forth in section 12 of the Restatement (Second) of Judgments, do not support permitting defendant to mount a collateral attack on the modified judgment. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court. View "Sousa v. Sousa" on Justia Law
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The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights as to her two minor children and appointed the Commissioner of Children and Families as the children's statutory parent. The Appellate Court affirmed. Mother appealed, arguing that the trial court made an improper comparison between the parenting abilities of Mother and those of the therapeutic foster mother of the children to support the court’s conclusion that Mother had failed to reach a sufficient level of personal rehabilitation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not improperly compare the abilities of Mother and the therapeutic foster mother of the children during the court’s adjudicative phase of its judgment in finding that Mother failed to achieve a reasonable degree of rehabilitation. View "In re James O." on Justia Law
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The Commissioner of Children and Families (Petitioner) filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father (together, Respondents) to their two minor children. The trial court granted the petitions. Respondents appealed, claiming that the trial court erred in finding that Petitioner made reasonable efforts to reunify Respondents with their children and that Respondents were unable to unwilling to benefit from reunification efforts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a finding that no reunification efforts were required is an independent basis upon which the trial court could have terminated the parental rights of Respondents; and (2) Respondents’ appeals would be moot because they did not timely appeal from that finding, but such a result would violate Respondents’ due process rights under the circumstances of this case. Remanded for a new trial. View "In re Egypt E." on Justia Law

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In 2001, in New York, Jerry Heller, impersonating a rabbi, presided over the marriage of Robert Gershuny and Kim Gershuny. Heller had fraudulently performed hundreds of marriages in the state. In 2002, the New York legislature passed legislation providing that any ceremony performed by Heller shall be deemed valid and legal from the date the ceremony took place. In 2014, Robert filed an action seeking dissolution of the parties’ marriage. The trial court granted Kim’s motion to dismiss, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to dissolve the marriage because, under Connecticut law, no marriage existed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court failed to give full faith and credit to the 2002 New York legislation, which rendered the marriage valid under the laws of Connecticut. Remanded. View "Gershuny v. Gershuny" on Justia Law
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The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating the parental rights of father as to his minor son. Father and mother currently live in Nigeria. Father appealed and argued that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that the department had made reasonable efforts to reunify the son with father pursuant to General Statutes 17a-112 (j) (1). Without updated medical information regarding the son's ability to travel and medical needs, the court concluded that the commissioner did not meet the burden of demonstrating that the department did ‘‘everything reasonable’’ under the circumstances to reunite father with his son. Therefore, the court concluded that the Appellate Court improperly determined that there was adequate evidentiary support for the trial court’s finding that the department made reasonable efforts to reunify father with his son. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "In re Oreoluwa O." on Justia Law
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