Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that enforcement of the prenuptial agreement between the parties was not unconscionable, with one exception, holding that the trial court did not err in ruling that the occurrence of the unforeseen events did not render the enforcement of the entire agreement unconscionable at the time of the dissolution.In 2010, shortly before the parties' marriage they executed a prenuptial agreement. In 2016, Plaintiff brought this action seeking dissolution of the marriage and enforcement of the prenuptial agreement. Defendant filed a cross-claim, asserting that the agreement was unenforceable because it was unconscionable at the time of the dissolution under Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-36g(a)(2). The trial court dissolved the marriage and enforced the terms of the prenuptial agreement with the exception of an attorney's fees provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly allowed the parties the benefit of their agreed-upon, pre-marriage bargain. View "Grabe v. Hokin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the appellate court concluding that the trial court had abused its discretion in awarding Plaintiff $18,000 per month in permanent, nonmodifiable alimony, holding that the award constituted an abuse of discretion.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court's orders impermissibly double counted his income by considering it for business valuation purposes and further by awarding alimony on the basis of his income from those businesses. The appellate court agreed and reversed the judgment as to the trial court's financial orders and remanded the case for a new hearing on all financial issues. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the alimony award was an abuse of discretion; and (2) this Court's rule against double counting does not apply when, as in the instant case, the asset at issue is the value of a business. View "Oudheusden v. Oudheusden" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court granting Plaintiff's motion to vacate an arbitration award and denying Defendant's corresponding application to confirm the award, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed her authority or manifestly disregard the law, but the inclusion of issues related to child support in the award was improper.Before the parties were married they executed a premarital agreement. Years later, Plaintiff brought this action to dissolve the marriage, and the parties executed a binding agreement to arbitrate the dissolution action. At issue was the validity of the arbitrator's award dividing the equity in the parties' marital home and assigning responsibility for certain expenses related to child support. The trial court granted Plaintiff's motion to vacate the portion of the arbitration award. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court erred in ruling that the arbitrator's award exceed the scope of the parties' submission; (2) any error in distributing the equity in the marital home would not permit a court to vacate the arbitration award; and (3) because Connecticut law prohibits the inclusion of issues related to child support in arbitration awards, this portion of the award is reversed. View "Blondeau v. Baltierra" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a trial court has authority to issue a posttermination visitation order that is requested within the context of a termination proceeding.During the termination hearing in this case, counsel for Child asked the trial court to consider an order of posttermination or postadoption visitation between Child and Mother. The trial court terminated Mother's parental rights and then denied the request for posttermination visitation, concluding that it lacked authority to issue an order for post termination visitation. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a trial court has authority to issue an order for posttermiation visitation so long as the court finds it necessary or appropriate to the child's welfare. View "In re Ava W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's denial of Mother's motion for reinstatement of guardianship rights to a parent under Conn. Gen. Stat. 45a-611, holding that the trial court improperly denied Mother's motion for reinstatement of guardianship with respect to her minor son.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) under section 45a-611, once a parent demonstrates that the factors that resulted in the removal of the parent as guardian have been satisfactorily resolved, the parent is entitled to a presumption that reinstatement of his or her guardianship rights is in the best interests of the child; and (2) the party opposing reinstatement must rebut the presumption by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) because it was unclear whether the trial court applied this presumption and because the court did not determine whether Mother had rebutted the presumption by clear and convincing evidence, the trial court erred in denying Mother's motion for reinstatement of guardianship. View "In re Zakai F." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Father's motion to dismiss a petition to adjudicate a newborn child neglected on the basis of "predictive neglect" when the parents relocated to another state before the child's birth, holding that the Connecticut trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.After the Commissioner of Children and Families filed a petition seeking to terminate Respondents' parental rights, Respondents drove to Florida and signed a one-year lease for an apartment. Two days after the child's birth, the Florida Department of Children and Families took custody of the child. The Connecticut trial court then filed a petition seeking to adjudicate the child neglected. The motion was denied on the ground that the child was not in Connecticut. Thereafter, the Florida department filed a motion to transfer jurisdiction to the Connecticut trial court, which the magistrate granted. Thereafter, Father filed a motion to dismiss the pending neglect petition on the ground of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Connecticut trial court denied Father's motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a Connecticut trial court could not exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the neglect petition because any neglect of the child would never occur in Connecticut. View "In re Teagan K.-O." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court denying Plaintiff's motion to substitute the coexecutors of the estate of Defendant, her former husband, in his place, holding that the trial court erred in denying Plaintiff's motion to substitute as defendants the coexecutors of Defendant's estate.At issue was whether, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-599, a party to a dissolution of marriage action may substitute the executor of the estate of a deceased party in the place of the decedent when the pending civil proceeding seeks to open a judgment of dissolution on the basis of financial fraud. The trial court in this case determined that granting Plaintiff's motion to open would reinstate the parties' marriage and the reinstated marriage automatically would be dissolved due to Defendant's death, and therefore, the opened action for dissolution would abate, thereby prohibiting substitution under section 52-599(b). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that because Plaintiff sought the opening of the dissolution judgment for the limited purpose of reconsidering the financial orders only, the granting of the motion would not have reinstated the parties' marriage, and Defendant's death did not defeat and render useless the underlying civil proceeding. View "Foisie v. Foisie" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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In this dissolution of marriage action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment of civil contempt rendered against Plaintiff, holding that the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the trial court properly found Plaintiff in contempt of court and properly denied the parties' joint motion to open and vacate the judgment of contempt. One year after Plaintiff commenced a dissolution action Defendant filed a motion for contempt, arguing that Plaintiff committed a willful violation of a court order when he withdrew approximately $70,000 from the parties' joint account and placed it into a separate, personal account. The court granted the motion after a hearing. Plaintiff filed a motion seeking reconsideration of the decision, which the trial court denied. Later, the parties filed a joint motion to open and vacate the judgment of contempt in part. The trial court denied the motion. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court did not err in finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding Plaintiff in contempt and failing to open and vacate the judgment of contempt. View "Hall v. Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dissolving Plaintiff's marriage to Defendant, holding that the trial court did not err.After a dissolution trial, the trial court ordered Defendant to pay alimony to Plaintiff in the amount of $350,000 per year and awarded Plaintiff $1,326,849, which represented one-third of the parties' aggregate net worth. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) correctly concluded that the parties’ purported agreement to revoke the postnuptial agreement was unenforceable and that the parties' postnuptial agreement was enforceable; and (2) correctly awarded the parties joint legal and physical custody of their minor children with the defendant having final decision-making authority. View "Zhou v. Zhang" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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In this postdissolution matter the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the decision of the trial court granting Defendant's motion for sanctions and for contempt, holding that there was no basis to support the award of attorney's fees and costs.This matter stemmed from the parties' oral stipulation following a motion for modification of alimony and the trial court's adoption of that stipulation as a court order. Subsequent litigation efforts saw Defendant attempting to carry the order into effect and Plaintiff challenging the order. At issue was the court's decision to grant Defendant's postjudgment motion for sanctions and for contempt and awarding Defendant the litigation expenses he had incurred following the entry of the order adopting the stipulation. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court's judgment of contempt. The Supreme Court affirmed and further concluded that the sanction for litigation misconduct must be reversed, holding that, insofar as the award was based on contempt, it could not stand on any of the grounds articulated by the trial court, and insofar as the award was based on litigation misconduct, it lacked the requisite findings. View "Puff v. Puff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law