Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
State v. Kyle A.
The case involves a defendant who was convicted, after a jury trial, of burglary in the first degree, criminal mischief in the first degree, and threatening in the second degree, among other crimes. The defendant had unlawfully entered his brother's residence and caused significant damage within it. Upon appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court had committed plain error by not identifying the specific crime or crimes he allegedly intended to commit when he entered the residence during the jury instruction on first-degree burglary.However, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the trial court had not committed plain error. The trial court's instruction accurately recited the elements of the burglary charge and clarified that the intent to commit a crime within the building is a distinct element. Furthermore, the court noted that although it is the better practice for trial courts to name the crime or crimes and define such elements in its instructions, it has never been clearly held to be mandatory.Additionally, the court found that even if there was a patent error in the court’s instruction, the omission did not result in a manifest injustice. The evidence presented at trial established that the defendant had violently forced his way into the residence and caused extensive damage, which satisfied the intent element. View "State v. Kyle A." on Justia Law
Tilsen v. Benson
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dissolving Plaintiff's marriage to Defendant, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.At issue in this case was the extent to which a Connecticut court may enforce the terms of a "ketubah," a contract governing marriage under Jewish law. The trial court in this case denied Plaintiff's motion to enforce the terms of the parties' ketubah as a prenuptial agreement on the ground that doing so would be a violation of the First Amendment to the United States constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly denied Plaintiff's motion to enforce the ketubah; and (2) the trial court's alimony order, considered in light of Plaintiff's net earning capacity, was not an abuse of discretion. View "Tilsen v. Benson" on Justia Law
Schoenhorn v. Moss
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's action for a writ of mandamus ordering Defendant, the chief court reporter for the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, to produce transcripts that were sealed by another trial court in a separate proceeding involving unrelated parties, holding that the trial court correctly determined that Plaintiff's action was nonjusticiable.Jennifer Dulos commenced a marital dissolution against Fotis Dulos. Following a hearing relating to the custody of the parties' children the family court closed the courtroom to the public and sealed the hearing transcripts. Fotis subsequently died, and the family court dismissed the martial dissolution action. Plaintiff then commenced this action seeking an injunction compelling Defendant to produce the transcripts. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that to grant the requested relief would require the trial court to overturn the order sealing the transcripts. The trial court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's complaint did not present a justiciable claim. View "Schoenhorn v. Moss" on Justia Law
In re Paulo T.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the trial court granting Mother's motion to reinstate her guardianship rights with respect to Child, holding that the trial court correctly applied the proper best interest balancing test.After a hearing on Mother's motion for reinstatement of her guardianship rights, the trial court issued an oral decision stating that parents are entitled to a presumption that reinstatement of guardianship rights is in the child's best interests. Father appealed, arguing that this presumption does not apply in cases between two parents. The appellate court agreed but nevertheless affirmed because it discerned no indication that the trial court had actually applied the presumption. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate court correctly concluded that the trial court (1) did not apply a presumption in favor of Petitioner when it determined that reinstatement of her guardianship was in the best interests of Child; and (2) did not err in determining that reinstatement of guardianship was in the best interests of Child. View "In re Paulo T." on Justia Law
In re Gabriel S.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights as to his minor child (Child), holding that the trial court did not violate Father's right to adequate notice when it terminated Father's parental rights after the close of the evidence pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-112(j)(3)(B)(ii).At the close of the evidence in this case the Commissioner of Children and Families moved to amend the petition to allege a different ground for the termination of Father's rights. The trial court granted the motion pursuant to Practice Book section 34a-1(d). Thereafter, the Commissioner of Children and Families filed an amended summary of the facts in support of its petition claiming that grounds existed for termination of Father's parental rights pursuant to section 17a-112(j)(3)(B)(ii). At the conclusion of trial, the trial court granted the petition to terminate Father's parental rights on ground (B)(ii). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not violate Father's constitutional due process right to adequate notice by allowing the Commissioner to amend the petition after the close of the evidence and terminating Father's parental rights pursuant to ground (B)(ii). View "In re Gabriel S." on Justia Law
In re Amias I.
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
Birkhold v. Birkhold
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
In re Vada V.
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
In re Aisjaha N.
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
In re Annessa J.
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