Officially released April 26, 2019.
In Short: The trial court cannot rule on issues not before it; the trial court cannot it rely on a stale family relations report where the family relations officer testified that the report should not be relied upon and it would be a disservice to the child for the court to do so.
The Facts: A foreign judgment was registered in Connecticut and numerous motions were filed.
Both parties and the court confirmed during a short calendar hearing that the only motion to be heard was one to modify the parental access plan. Over Mother’s objection, the court entered a stale family relations report that Mother’s attorney had not previously reviewed for which family relations was present but not under subpoena. Family relations testified that the report was stale and should not be relied upon. The trial court modified the parenting plan and custody.
Mother claimed on appeal that (1) her procedural due process rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were violated, and that (2) the trial court abused its discretion by relying on a stale family relations report in modifying custody and parenting.
The Appellate Court Held that Mother was denied a meaningful opportunity to be heard as to custody where both parties agreed the issue was not before the court. Under plenary review this was a violation of Mother’s due process rights.
The Appellate Court Held that it was abuse of discretion to rely on a stale report, “the trial court is bound to consider the [children’s] present best interests and not what would have been in [their] best interests as some previous time.” Collins v., Collins, 117 Conn. App. 380, 391-92 (2009).