Ricketts v. Ricketts, 203 Conn. App. 1 (2021) (Interlocutory Orders, GAL & RFTD)
Officially released March 2, 2021
In Short: Referral to the Regional Family Trial Docket (“RFTD”) and appointment of a guardian ad litem are interlocutory orders and not immediately appealable.
The parties were divorced by separation agreement in 2018. The judgment provided that the parties share joint legal custody of their two minor children and that primary residence would be with Husband. The Agreement provided in a handwritten addendum that “the [RFTD] shall retain jurisdiction over the custody and parenting issues … that may arise and need judicial resolution in the future.”
Several post-judgment and emergency motions were filed. Emergency and ex parte relief were denied, but final orders were not entered on the underlying motions. Husband filed a motion to transfer the motions to the RFTD “in accordance with the [parties’] divorce decree.” The Trial Court denied Husband’s motion to transfer to RFTD and appointed a guardian ad litem for the minor children. Husband appealed the denial of transfer to RFTD and the appointment of guardian.
The Appellate Court set forth the standard for an interlocutory appeal. “The jurisdiction of the appellate courts is restricted to appeals from judgments that are final.” Conn. Gen. Stat. 51-197 and 52-263; Practice Book § 61-1. “An otherwise interlocutory order is appealable in two circumstances: (1) where the order or action terminates a separate and distinct proceeding, or (2) where the order or action so concludes the rights of the parties that further proceedings cannot affect them.” (quoting Khan v. Hillyer, 306 Conn. 205, 209–10, 49 A.3d 996 (2012) and State v. Curcio, 191 Conn. 27, 31, 463 A.2d 566 (1983)). The fact that the litigation was post-judgment has no bearing on the Curcio test.
Husband claimed that the divorce decree itself permitted immediate appeal. The Appellate Court held that the first prong of the Curcio test could not be satisfied where the underlying motions were still pending, and no proceeding had been terminated. The right which Husband sought to vindicate was neither statutory nor constitutional, and therefore could not satisfy the second prong of the Curcio test. The Appellate Court held that the appointment of a GAL is interlocutory as it is a step toward final resolution but does not terminate any proceeding.
The Appeal was dismissed as interlocutory.