Officially released January 21, 2020.
In Short: This continues the long string of § 46b-59 cases wherein the petitioners fail to satisfy the Roth requirements, due to the near impossibility of doing so. See also Romeo v. Bazow, 195 Conn. App. 378 (2020). Boisvert v. Gavis, 332 Conn. 115 (2019) remains the exception to the rule.
Background Facts: Self-represented Petitioners filed a third-party visitation petition pursuant to § 46b-59 and Practice Book § 25-4. The Petitioners alleged a parent-like relationship, indicating they had been primary caregivers for the child for three years. The Petitioners further alleged that denial of visitation causing real and significant harm, claiming that denial of visitation would cut off ties with the maternal side of the family, that mother had abandoned the child when the child was one year old, that The Petitioners had been the consistent parent-like caregivers ever since, and that denial of visitation would leave the child feeling abandoned by The Petitioners. In an attached supplement, The Petitioners alleged that they had provided financial and emotional support to the child’s parents, the child has lived with them for several days each week and they had continuously supported and assisted in the child’s educational and spiritual growth.
The trial court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that The Petitioners had failed to set forth the specific, good faith allegations required by Roth v. Weston, 259 Conn. 202 (2002) as to a parent-like relationship and that “denial of visitation will cause real and significant harm.” The Petitioners appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in determining that the petition failed to satisfy the jurisdictional pleading requirements set forth in Roth.
Applying plenary review to the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, the Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the trial court based on the second prong of the Roth test, regarding real and significant harm.
The standard set forth in Roth v. Weston, 259 Conn. 202, 234-35 is as follows:
First, the petition must contain specific, good faith allegations that the petitioner has a relationship with the child that is similar in nature to a parent-child relationship. The petition must also contain specific, good faith allegations that denial of the visitation will cause real and significant harm to the child. As we have stated, that degree of harm requires more than a determination that visitation would be in the child’s best interest. It must be a degree of harm analogous to the kind of harm contemplated by §§ 46b-120 and 46b-129, namely, that the child is ‘neglected, uncared-for or dependent.’ The degree of specificity of the allegations must be sufficient to justify requiring the fit parent to subject his or her parental judgment to unwanted litigation. Only if these specific, good faith allegations are made will a court have jurisdiction over the petition.’’
Cutting off a maternal side of the family and feelings of abandonment may not be in the child’s best interests, but they do not rise to the level of harm required to provide subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Fuller v. Baldino, 176 Conn. App. 451 (2017).