Officially released December 11, 2018.
In short: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In slightly less short: (1) the trial court has continuing subject matter jurisdiction over child support, (2) if you abandon claims, they will be moot on appeal, (3) the bad faith exception to the American Rule regarding counsel fees requires express findings of lack of colorability and bad faith with a high degree of specificity.
This matter has a convoluted fact pattern any many of the issues raised by the parties in this appeal were ultimately abandoned. The parties were married in 1993 had three minor children. In 2004 the agreement of the parties was incorporated into a judgment of dissolution. Pursuant to the agreement, the parties shared joint legal and physical custody of their children, Father paid $250 per week in child support, and Father was to transfer certain real property after certain zoning and subdivision events occurred. In 2005 an agreement was approved by the court providing that the children reside primarily with Father, with Mother to pay to Father $50 per week in child support.
In 2016 Mother filed a motion for accounting regarding Father’s real property obligations under the Judgment and a motion to modify child support as to the one child still eligible for support such that each party pay their respective share to the maternal aunt, with whom Mother alleged the child had been residing. Father filed a motion to dismiss the motion to modify support alleging lack of standing, an objection to the motion to modify support, a motion to quash a subpoena with which he had been served, and a motion for counsel fees. The maternal aunt filed and withdrew a motion to intervene. The trial court granted Father’s motion to dismiss, granted the motion to quash, and awarded Father $1,500 in counsel fees pursuant to the bad faith exception to the American Rule.
The Appellate Court held that the trial court erred in dismissing the motion to modify child support, finding that the trial court did not lack subject matter jurisdiction, citing Amodio v. Amodio, 247 Conn. 724, 727-28, 724 A.2d 1084 (1999) for the proposition that the superior court has “continuing jurisdiction to modify support orders.” The Appellate Court did not reach the merits of whether the underlying motion for modification of child support should be denied, citing mootness due to abandoned claims. The Appellate Court likewise did not reach the merits relating to claims as to the accounting and the subpoena due to mootness.
The Appellate Court reversed the award of $1,500 in counsel fees for abuse of discretion as the trial court had not set forth no express specific findings as to the colorability of the claims or bad faith on behalf of Mother as required for the bad faith exception. Maris v. McGrath, 269 Conn. 834, 850 A.3d 133 (2004).