Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights as to her three children, holding that any violation of the children's alleged constitutional right on the part to conflict-free counsel was harmless error.The trial court terminated Mother's parental rights due to her failure to achieve a sufficient degree of personal rehabilitation that would encourage the belief that Mother could assume a responsible role in the children's lives within a reasonable time. On appeal, Mother argued (1) her children had a procedural due process right to conflict-free counsel under the state and federal constitutions, and (2) the trial court violated this right by failing to inquire into whether the attorney appointed to represent them had a conflict of interest due to the children's conflicting goals concerning reunification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that even if the children had a constitutional right to conflict-free counsel, any violation of such a right was harmless error. View "In re Amias I." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court granting both Plaintiff's motion for modification of alimony and Defendant's postjudgment motion for contempt, which resulted in the trial court finding Plaintiff in contempt and awarding Defendant past due alimony and attorney's fees, holding that there was no error.After a hearing, the trial court awarded Defendant past due alimony in the amount of $249,570 and attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $80,000. The trial court also granted Plaintiff’s motion to modify his alimony obligation and found Plaintiff in contempt for willfully violating the parties' "clear and unambiguous" separation agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) correctly interpreted the parties' separation agreement, and its findings were not clearly erroneous; (2) did not abuse its discretion in awarding alimony; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in finding Defendant in contempt. View "Birkhold v. Birkhold" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 17a-112(j), holding that Parents were not entitled to relief on their three unpreserved constitutional claims relating to the virtual nature of the termination of parental rights trial.On appeal, Parents argued (1) the trial court violated their rights under Conn. Const. art. I, 10 and art. V, 1 by conducting the termination trial virtually rather than in person; (2) the trial court violated their constitutional right to due process by denying them the right to physically confront and cross-examine the witnesses against them at the virtual trial; and (3) the constitutional rights were violated when the trial court did not provide them with their own exclusive devices and internet connection to participate both visually and by audio in the trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Parents were not entitled to relief on their unpreserved claims of error. View "In re Vada V." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, which vested permanent legal guardianship of Mother's minor child in a relative pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-129(j)(6), holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.On appeal, Mother argued that the trial court denied her right to due process by failing to ensure that she appeared by two-way video technology at a virtual trial. Alternatively, Mother asked the Court to adopt a procedural rule requiring that a trial court ensure that the parties appear by two-way videoconferencing technology or waive the right to do so before the court conducts a virtual trial in a child protection case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record was inadequate to review Mother's first unpreserved claim; and (2) this Court declines Mother's invitation to invoke its supervisory authority to create such a rule. View "In re Aisjaha N." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court insofar as that court reversed the trial court's rulings on Parents' motions for posttermination visitation and affirmed the judgment insofar as the appellate court upheld the trial court's termination of Parent's parental rights, holding that the trial court correctly articulated the proper standard.The appellate court reversed the trial court's denial of Parents' posttermination visitation motions on the ground that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard in considering these motions. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the appellate court (1) correctly concluded that Mother failed to establish that there exists a fundamental right under the Connecticut Constitution to an in-person termination of parental rights trial; and (2) improperly reversed the trial court's rulings on Parents' motions for failing to comply with the standard set forth in In re Ava W., 248 A.3d 675 (Conn. 2020), for deciding motions for posttermination visitation. View "In re Annessa J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to open the judgment in this marital dissolution case on the basis of fraud, holding that the appellate court properly affirmed the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to open.Following a trial, the dissolution court issued a decision dissolving the parties' marriage and issuing certain financial orders. Defendant later filed this motion claiming that Plaintiff had committed fraud by denying the existence of a sexual relationship with another man during the course of the marriage and by testifying that Defendant had physically assaulted her. The trial court denied the motion, and the appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the denial of Defendant's motion to open. View "Conroy v. Idlibi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights, holding that Mother was not entitled to relief on any of her claims of error.The Commissioner of Children and Families filed these petitions to terminate Mother's parental rights with respect to her daughter and son after Mother admitted that she had sent explicitly sexual photographs of her daughter to several persons, including a registered sex offender. During the proceedings, Mother filed four motions for a continuance. The trial court granted the first three motions but denied the fourth. The court then rendered judgments terminating Mother's parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion or violate Mother's constitutional due process right to present a defense to the termination of her parental rights in denying the motion for a continuance. View "In re Ivory W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in this divorce proceeding, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff brought this divorce action, and the the trial court declared a mistrial. After a second trial Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court prejudiced Plaintiff's credibility and displayed judicial bias and improperly awarded Defendant $65,000 in legal fees and $5000 in sanctions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of plain error did not require reversal in this case; and (2) the trial court properly awarded Defendant attorney's fees and sanctions. View "Ponns Cohen v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the trial court's judgment dismissing Mother's post-termination motion to intervene in her biological daughter Riley's juvenile case to obtain an order for visitation, holding that Mother failed to establish the party status necessary to support this Court's jurisdiction to consider her appeal.After the juvenile court terminated Mother's parental rights she filed a motion for post-termination visitation with Riley, citing this Court's decision in In re Ava W., 248 A.3d 675 (Conn. 2020), as support for the trial court's authority to issue a post termination of parental rights visitation order. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court dismissed Mother's appeal, holding that, post termination, biological parents lack a legally cognizable interest to support a right to intervene in the juvenile case for the purpose of seeking visitation. View "In re Riley B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a spouse seeking pendente lite alimony, attorney’s fees, and expert fees during the pendency of a dissolution action must demonstrate that a postnuptial agreement that purportedly precludes such payments is invalid or otherwise unenforceable before the trial court may properly order the other spouse to make such payments. After their marriage, Plaintiff and Defendant executed a postnuptial agreement setting forth terms for the distribution of property and determining support awards in the event their marriage dissolved. Plaintiff later brought this action seeking dissolution of the marriage and temporary and permanent alimony. The trial court ordered Defendant to pay Plaintiff temporary alimony, current attorney's fees and a retainer for legal counsel, and a contribution toward specified future expert fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly determined that it need not determine the enforceability of the parties' postnuptial agreement before awarding Plaintiff alimony and litigation expenses. View "O.A. v. J.A." on Justia Law