R.H. v. M.S., 220 Conn. App. 212 (2023) (§46b-15 & stalking; §46b-15 & children)
Officially released June 27, 2023
In Short: The trial court must have some evidence connecting the violative behavior to the children in order to extend protection under CGS § 46b-15 to the children; the definition of stalking is broader than statute and includes common usage and the absence of a benign explanation for the respondent being present over a period of time at the applicant’s residence was sufficient in this instance.
The parties were married, had children, and divorced. Plaintiff ex-husband filed an application for relief from abuse pursuant to CGS § 46b-15 against Defendant. Plaintiff did not check the box seeking that it apply to their children. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant had stalked him.
The trial court granted ex parte relief and extended the order to the parties’ children. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing at which several witnesses testified, but Defendant did not testify or call any witnesses. The trial court extended the restraining order for one year. Defendant appealed, and Plaintiff did not participate in the appeal.
Defendant’s first claim on appeal was that the trial court improperly extended the ex parte order of protection to the parties’ children. The Appellate Court reviewed this claim under the abuse of discretion standard.
Plaintiff did not present any evidence regarding any conduct related to the parties’ children nor seek such protection. The trial court was permitted to continue relevant court records, but it erred in relying solely on such records pertaining to the divorce in extending the protection to the children in the absence of any evidence that any conduct related to the restraining order related to the children. The Appellate Court vacated the ex parte restraining order to the extent that it extended protection to the children, noting that restraining orders are not moot for purposes of appeal even after expiration.
Defendant’s second claim on appeal was that the trial court improperly found that Defendant had stalked Plaintiff. Evidence had been presented that, inter alia, Defendant had surveilled Plaintiff over a period of forty-five minutes from two different locations on his street from her car.
The Appellate Court noted that the definition of stalking in CGS § 46b-1 is broader than that defined in the criminal statute and can include commonly defined usage of the term. The Appellate Court highlighted the fact that Defendant offered no testimony or evidence to provide a benign explanation for her presence on his street. The Appellate Court did not find abuse of discretion.
The issuing of the one-year restraining order was affirmed; the ex parte restraining order, to the extent that it extended protection to the parties’ children, was vacated.