Officially released, October 6, 2020.
In Short: If an order regarding custody and access is appealed, and that order is subsequently modified so that no practical relief can be granted by the appeal, the appeal is moot.
The parties were not married and had one child together. There were numerous indicia at trial that Father had substance abuse issues. The trial court awarded joint legal custody and permitted Father limited unsupervised access, finding that both parties were clean and sober and substance abuse free for the prior two years. Mother appealed, challenging the trial court’s finding that Father did not have a substance abuse issue and the order permitting Father unsupervised access.
Thereafter, Mother filed a motion to modify and a motion for contempt for violation of orders not to use substances during Father’s access. The trial court held three days of post-judgment hearing, found that Father had a substance abuse issue and ordered supervision and other parameters to address it.
The Appellate Court cited Kennedy v. Kennedy, 109 Conn. App. 591, 599 2008) for the principle that “When, during the pendency of an appeal, events have occurred that preclude an appellate court from granting any practical relief through its disposition of the merits, a case has become moot. . . . It is axiomatic that if the issues on appeal become moot, the reviewing court loses subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal. . . An actual controversy must exist not only at the time the appeal is taken, but also throughout the pendency of the appeal.”
The Appellate Court ordered supplemental briefs to address the mootness issue. Mother filed a brief and the GAL filed a brief adopting Mother’s position. Mother argued that the original order granted joint legal custody. The Appellate Court held that Mother’s original brief did not challenge the ruling of joint legal custody. Everything actually challenged by Mother’s appeal had been resolved by the subsequent order, and the appeal was moot. The appeal was dismissed.