Netter v. Netter, 220 Conn. App. 491 (2023) (mootness; contempt)
Officially released July 18, 2023
In Short: this case contains (1) a review of the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” doctrine pertaining to mootness on appeal and (2) a failed attempt to find ambiguity and excuses where none existed as to contempt.
Husband appealed the trial court’s decision on two pendente lite motions filed by Wife. Husband appealed the trial court’s decision (1) permitting Wife to return to the marital residence to retrieve personal property and (2) holding him in contempt for violation of the pendente lite parenting plan.
During the pendency of Husband’s appeal, the court held a fifty-seven-day trial over seventeen months and issued a memorandum of decision dissolving the parties’ marriage.
The Appellate Court determined that the first portion of Husband’s appeal was mooted by the final judgment. The final judgment’s order as to personal property largely mirrored the pendente lite order permitting Wife to retrieve her personal property from the marital residence, except that it permitted Husband to be present. The Appellate Court conducted an analysis of the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” exception and concluded that any likelihood of the issue being repeated was purely speculative.
As to the second issue on appeal, Husband argued that the 2019 summer vacation provision of the pendente lite parenting plan did not clearly and unambiguously require him to propose his dates before April 15, 2019, and even if it did, his failure to do so was not willful. The Appellate Court applied de novo review to whether the underlying order was sufficiently clear and unambiguous and the abuse of discretion standard as to willfulness.
The pendente lite parenting plan explicitly required that “[t]he parties shall exchange proposed vacation dates in writing no later than April 15, 2019.” Husband did not propose his dates until May 27, and then he changed his proposed dates on August 6 to claim the week immediately abutting the children’s return to school. The trial court found that there had been a clear and unambiguous court order and that Husband provided no excuse for his violation thereof. Husband’s excuses pertained to needing consent or agreement to travel to his chosen location, which were unrelated to the requirement that he provide notice for his choice of dates by April 15. The Appellate Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision.
The portion of the appeal pertaining to access to the residence was dismissed as moot and the judgment pertaining to contempt was affirmed.