Officially released May 26, 2020.
David McGrath represented the Guardian Ad Litem in the appeal only.
In Short: Subject matter jurisdiction must be addressed immediately when raised and the jurisdictional requirements of § 46b-59(b) are very difficult to meet.
Grandmother, as a self-represented party, served a verified petition for visitation on the Defendant Mother. Grandmother’s petition checked the form boxes for parent-like relationship and real and significant harm. The factual claims made fell short of the statutorily prescribed jurisdictional requirement.
A hearing was held on the petition, at which Defendant Mother orally moved to dismiss the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on insufficient allegations. The trial court continued the matter for three weeks instead of ruling. Grandmother hired counsel and then filed an amendment to the petition which was not verified. A Guardian Ad Litem was appointed for the minor child and a prolonged many-day hearing was held on numerous motions. The trial court thereafter issued a memorandum of decision granting Grandmother’s petition.
Defendant Mother appealed, making a number of claims of error. The Appellate Court determined that all of Defendant Mother’s claims on appeal were inadequately briefed and declined to review them.
The Guardian Ad Litem was represented by counsel and filed a brief in the appeal pursuant to Conn. Practice Book § 67-13, arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the petition (and two other claims which the Appellate Court did not reach). The Appellate Court applied de novo review to the issue of subject matter jurisdiction.
The Appellate Court determined that subject matter jurisdiction must be decided immediately whenever it is raised. After it was raised by Defendant’s counsel, it should have been addressed and all other issues halted. As the initial verified petition did not contain the required specific, good faith allegations of real and significant harm, the matter should have been dismissed at that time for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-59(b).
The Judgment was reversed and remanded with direction to dismiss the petition.