Officially released June 19, 2018.
Short version: (1) a child may enforce rights established in family court on his or her behalf in civil court. (2) standing is required for subject matter jurisdiction and may be raised any time.
This appeal stemmed from post-judgment orders of a foreign dissolution judgment. The underlying factual dispute related to Defendant-Husband’s misappropriation of funds that, per post-judgment stipulation of the parties, were to be used for the benefit of the parties’ children.
The parties had two children and were divorced in Georgia in 2002 by separation agreement. That separation agreement provided that certain funds would be placed for the children’s education in certain accounts. The Georgia judgment was registered in Connecticut in 2005 pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-71. During a hearing on post-judgment motions in 2009, Defendant-Husband testified that he had taken the children’s education funds for his own use. In subsequent hearings, Husband invoked his right to remain silent with regard to questioning as to the children’s education funds. Husband was found in contempt on multiple occasions and periodic compliance dates were ordered. In 2010, Husband appeared in Court and Wife did not. She was later found, murdered. The temporary administrator of Wife’s estate filed a motion to be substituted as plaintiff, to which Husband did not object, and which motion was granted.
Many contempt findings and court appearances later, the Substitute-Plaintiff filed an application for order to show cause as to, among other things, why Husband should not have to repay the children the monies owed to their education funds. Husband filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that Substitute Plaintiff lacked standing and therefore the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over that portion of the case. The trial court rejected that claim. A motion to intervene was filed on one of the children’s behalf for the limited purpose of enforcement of orders related to the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. The trial court granted the motion to intervene.
On appeal Husband claims (1) that Substitute-Plaintiff lacks standing to prosecute the money he owes his children, and (2) the child lacked a substantial interest in the case, and therefore also lacks standing. The crux of both claims was standing, which is a procedural issue and therefore governed by Connecticut law, not the state of origin of the judgment. The standard of review as to findings of facts is whether the findings were clearly erroneous. As to the ultimate legal issue the standard of review is de novo.
Without standing, the court is without subject matter jurisdiction. Property Asset Management, Inc. v. Lazarte, 163 Conn. App 737, 745-46, 138 A.3d 290 (2016). Standing is properly raised by motion to dismiss. Id. A determination regarding subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law and review is plenary. Id. Standing is a practical concept to make certain that courts address justiciable interests. Emerick v. Glastonbury, 145 Conn. App. 122, 127-28, 74 A.3d 512 (2013), cert. denied, 311 Conn. 901, 83 A.3d 348 (2014). There must be direct connection between injuries claimed and conduct alleged with “focus on whether plaintiff is the proper party to assert the claim at issue.” Ganim v. Smith & Wesson Corp., 258 Conn. 313, 347, 780 A.2d 98 (2001). Plaintiff bears the burden to prove subject matter jurisdiction. Emerick v. Glastonbury, supra, 145 Conn. App. 128. Subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time. Manning v. Feltman, 149 Conn. App. 224, 231, 91 A.3d 466 (2014). It may not be waived may be raised sua sponte. O’Reilly v. Valletta, 139 Conn. App. 208, 212-13, 55 A.3d 583 (2012), cert. denied, 308 Conn. 914, 61 A.3d 1101 (2013).
Substitute-Plaintiff failed to provide any evidence of a personal or direct interest in the education funds owed the children and did not claim any fiduciary relationship with them. The trial court made no finding of direct and personal interest on behalf of Substitute-Plaintiff. Thus, the trial court improperly denied Husband’s motion to dismiss the application for order to show cause.
The motion to intervene on behalf of the child was based on Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-107, Practice Book §§ 25-6 and 9-18. It was filed in light of Husband’s claim that Substitute Plaintiff lacked standing. A motion to intervene as matter of right requires (1) timeliness, (2) direct and substantial interest in the subject matter, (3) interest that would be impaired without movant’s involvement, and (4) the interest must not already be adequately represented by another party. BNY Western Trust v. Roman, 295 Conn. 194, 205, 990 A.2d 853 (2010). The record supported the children’s direct and substantial financial interest, something no other party could assert on their behalf. The Appellate Court determined that the motion to intervene was properly granted.
The Appellate Court agreed with Husband that Substitute-Plaintiff did lack standing and reversed as to that issue. The Appellate Court determined, however, that the child had a direct interest in repayment of education funds, but that she must assert her right against Husband in civil court, not family court. The judgment granting the motion to intervene was affirmed.