Officially released January 28, 2020.
In Short: you must serve a post-judgment motion for contempt.
The parties were divorced in 2015. In 2016, Wife filed five multiple post-judgment motions for contempt citing non-compliance with the Judgment. In 2017, the trial court granted three of Wife’s motions for contempt.
In 2018 Wife filed an additional motion for contempt alleging Husband failed to comply with the 2017 orders made upon the prior contempt findings. Wife certified that the 2018 contempt motion was mailed to Husband’s address in Georgia and emailed the email address on file for Husband.
The trial court held a hearing in June of 2018. Husband did not file an appearance and was not present at the hearing. The trial court found Husband had notice of the hearing and the motion. No finding was made as to whether the out-of-state Husband was served with process in accordance with the applicable long arm statutes. The trial court issued a memorandum granting Wife’s motion for contempt. Husband appealed.
Husband argued on appeal that emailing and mailing the motion to the address on file was insufficient service of process. The issue of personal jurisdiction was raised for the first time on appeal. A personal jurisdiction challenge is generally waived if not raised in a motion to dismiss within thirty days of filing an appearance. However, that rule is inapplicable where there has been no service of process or attempt of service. The court cannot render a judgment without personal jurisdiction. The Appellate Court noted that Husband could have filed a motion to open the judgment, but nevertheless did not waive his right to challenge personal jurisdiction.
The Appellate Court also noted in a footnote that the Golding rule would allow review under these circumstances even if the Constitutional due process claim was raised for the first time on appeal. The Golding rule allows review of a claim that was not preserved where “(1) the record is adequate to review the alleged claim of error; (2) the claim is of constitutional magnitude alleging the violation of a fundamental right; (3) the alleged constitutional violation . . . exists and . . . deprived the defendant of a fair trial; and (4) if subject to harmless error analysis, the state has failed to demonstrate harmlessness of the alleged constitutional violation beyond a reasonable doubt.” State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233, 239-40 (1989).
A challenge to jurisdiction of the court is subject to plenary review. Due process of law requires that the individual charged with contempt be advised of the charges against him and have reasonable opportunity to make defense or explanation.
Service of process in post-judgment motions requires service of the contempt complaint and summons. A post-judgment contempt proceeding must be initiated by way of an Application for Order to Show Cause and for Contempt Citation. In a post-judgment contempt proceeding, knowledge of the proceedings is insufficient to confer personal jurisdiction over a party that has not been served. When the method of serving process is set forth by statute, it must be followed, and if it is not, the court does not acquire jurisdiction.
Judgment was reversed and remanded with direction to dismiss the 2018 motion for contempt.