Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
In re Taijha H.-B.
The Supreme Court held that in case a case involving the termination of parental rights where an indigent parent has a constitutional right to appellate counsel, appointed counsel may not be permitted to withdraw without first demonstrating that the record has been thoroughly reviewed for potential meritorious issues and taking steps to facilitate review of the case for the purpose of determining whether the attorney accurately concluded that any appeal would be meritless. After Mother's parental rights were terminated, counsel was appointed for Mother, who was indigent, to review the matter for a possible appeal. Counsel filed motions to withdraw his appearances for lack of any nonfrivolous issue on which to proceed. The trial court granted counsel's motion to withdraw without requiring the filing of an Anders brief or conducting its own independent review to determine whether any appeal would be frivolous. The Appellate Court then dismissed the appeal, finding that the procedure set forth in Anders is not applicable to the withdrawal of an appellate review attorney in child protection proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the precise procedures discussed in Anders are not constitutionally mandated, but minimal procedural protections are required; and (2) the minimal procedural protections set forth in this opinion were not afforded to Mother. View "In re Taijha H.-B." on Justia Law
Lederle v. Spivey
In this dissolution of marriage action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court reversing the decision of the trial court awarding appellate attorney's fees to Plaintiff under the bad faith exception to the American rule, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in setting the amount of the fees. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the appellate court did not accord the proper level of deference in concluding that the trial court's findings lacked sufficient specificity. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the appellate court with direction to affirm the trial court's award of attorney's fees, holding that the trial court acted within its discretion in awarding Plaintiff $30,000 in attorney's fees. View "Lederle v. Spivey" on Justia Law
Boisvert v. Gavis
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Father's postjudgment motion for a no contact order between his minor child and the child's maternal aunt, holding that Father failed to meet his burden of demonstrating a violation of his fundamental parental right to make decisions regarding his child's associations. Father was granted custody of the child after Mother's death. Plaintiffs, the maternal grandparents, were involved in the child's life until Father terminated their contact. The trial court granted Plaintiffs' petition for visitation. Father filed a postjudgment motion for order asking the trial court to enter an order requiring Plaintiffs to allow no contact between the child and the child's maternal aunt. The trial court denied the motion on the grounds that Father failed to produce evidence to show the child's contact with the aunt was inappropriate or put the child in danger. Father appealed, arguing that the trial court's failure to direct Plaintiffs to abide by his parental decisions regarding the child's care violated Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-59 and the Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Father was not entitled to relief because he failed, as a threshold matter, to articulate a reason in support of the requested condition. View "Boisvert v. Gavis" on Justia Law
Hynes v. Jones
The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's decision affirming the trial court's judgment dismissing Plaintiff's appeal from the decree of the probate court monitoring use of a September 11th Victim Compensation Fund award that had been paid to Plaintiff, the surviving spouse, as a "representative payee" for the benefit of her minor child, holding that the probate court lacked jurisdiction over the fund award. Plaintiff's husband died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and died intestate. Plaintiff filed a claim for compensation from the fund. Plaintiff was awarded $1,153,381, and the couple's minor child was awarded $1,271,940, which Plaintiff was to be paid on behalf of the minor child. The probate court appointed a guardian ad litem for the minor child in the estate administration proceedings and directed that the minor child's share of the benefits from the fund be placed into a guardianship account. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the guardianship proceedings for lack of jurisdiction, and the trial court dismissed Plaintiff's probate appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the probate court lacked jurisdiction over the fund award paid to Plaintiff as a representative payee because that award was neither the property of the decedent's estate nor the property of the minor child. View "Hynes v. Jones" on Justia Law
In re Jacob W.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgments of the trial court denying the petitions filed by the maternal grandmother (Petitioner) for termination of Father's parental rights with respect to his three minor children, holding that the trial court applied an incorrect legal test to determine that Petitioner had failed to prove the lack of an ongoing parent-child relationship. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred in concluding that, under the facts of this case, it was required to depart from the usual test to determine whether a petitioner has established a lack of an ongoing parent-child relationship; and (2) the trial court’s finding that Petitioner failed to prove that allowing further time to develop a parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interests of the children was clearly erroneous. View "In re Jacob W." on Justia Law
Shirley P. v. Norman P.
At issue in this divorce case was whether a property award based on a criminal conviction that was later reversed must also be reversed. Wife sought dissolution of her marriage to Husband after Husband allegedly assaulted her. While the dissolution action was pending, Husband was convicted of criminal offenses stemming from the alleged assault. While Husband’s appeal from the criminal conviction was pending, the dissolution trial began. During the trial, the court allowed Wife to present evidence of the criminal conviction. Based solely on the evidence of that conviction, the court ruled that Husband was exclusively responsible for the marital breakdown and entered a property division award heavily favoring Wife. Thereafter, the Appellate Court reversed the judgment of conviction in the criminal case. The Supreme Court held (1) the reversal of Husband’s criminal conviction deprived that judgment of any preclusive effect it may have had in the dissolution action; and (2) the property division award, which was premised exclusively on the fact of Defendant’s conviction, must also be reversed. View "Shirley P. v. Norman P." on Justia Law
Reinke v. Sing
The Appellate Court erred in concluding that, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-86(a), in the absence of a finding of fraud, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify the property distribution orders in a prior judgment dissolving Plaintiff’s marriage to Defendant. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the trial court, which modified its previous property distribution orders, ruling that, in the absence of a finding or concession of fraud, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to open the dissolution judgment at least as to the division of the parties’ marital assets, despite the parties’ agreement to permit the trial court to do so. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the parties submitted to the jurisdiction of the trial court by agreement, and in light of that agreement, the trial court acted within its authority under Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-212(a) in opening the dissolution judgment. View "Reinke v. Sing" on Justia Law
Valliere v. Commissioner of Social Services
At issue was the relationship between Conn. Gen. Stat. 45a-655(b) and (d) in determining whether a spousal support order previously rendered by the probate court was binding on the Commission of Social Services when calculating the allowance that may be diverted to the support of the community spouse of a Medicaid eligible institutionalized person pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1396r-5. The Commissioner decided to set a community spouse allowance for Paul Valliere in the amount of $0 with respect to the Medicaid benefit that paid for the long-term residential care of his wife, Majorie Valliere. The trial court sustained the administrative appeal brought by Plaintiffs, Paul and Ellen Shea, conservatrix and executrix of Majorie’s estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the probate court did not exceed its authority under section 45a-655 by ordering community spouse support in an amount that exceeded that which the Department of Social Services could order pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1396r-5. View "Valliere v. Commissioner of Social Services" on Justia Law
Cohen v. Cohen
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Ruth Cohen’s motion to modify a modification order modifying the alimony provision of the divorce decree dissolving the marriage of Franklin and Ruth Cohen. Franklin moved to modify the alimony provision on the ground that his income had declined significantly. Ruth later moved to modify the modification order on the ground that Franklin’s income had substantially increased. The trial court granted the motion. Franklin appealed, raising four allegations of error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Franklin’s allegations of error were unavailing. View "Cohen v. Cohen" on Justia Law
In re Egypt E.
Termination of parental rights pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 17a-112(j)(3)(C) may not be based upon predictive harm. Parents appealed from the judgments of the trial court terminating their parental rights as to their two daughters after finding acts of parental commission or omission that denied the children the care necessary for the children’s physical or emotional well-being under section 17a-112(j)(3)(C). On appeal, Parental argued that the trial court improperly terminated their parental rights based on a finding of a predictive harm. The Supreme Court agreed but held that the court properly found that the statute was proven on the basis that one of the daughters had been harmed by Parents’s postremoval acts of parental commission or omission. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "In re Egypt E." on Justia Law