Prioleau v. Agosta, 220 Conn. App. 248 (2023) (reargument; custody & abuse of discretion)
Officially released July 4, 2023
In Short: This case is a modest primer on reargument based on overlooked facts.
The parties were never married and had one child. They had informally exercised joint legal custody and a shared parenting plan in which Mother had the child every Monday to Friday and Father every Friday after school to Monday morning. Covid interrupted the schedule and resulted in an alternating weeks schedule. A comprehensive custody evaluation was conducted by family relations and the parties tried the matter before Judge Klau.
The trial court found that the child’s academic performance had recently struggled and that both parents were involved in her academics. The trial court awarded the parties joint legal custody with Mother having primary residence and Father having every weekend from Friday to Sunday.
Mother filed a motion “for clarification, articulation, and reargument, postjudgment.” She argued that the evidence presented at trial supported the fact that Father did not permit the child to attend social or educational activities on his weekends and that the every weekend order prevented Mother from having quality time with the child due to her work schedule. She sought at least one weekend per month with the child. Father objected, arguing that the proper remedy was modification and that Mother failed to establish that the court overlooked any controlling law or misconstrued any factual evidence.
The trial court issued an order denying any clarification or articulation, but treating the motion as a motion for reconsideration. The trial court found, upon reconsideration, that it was in the best interests of the child that Mother have the third weekend of each month but awarding Father afternoon visitation one day on the fourth week of each month. Father appealed.
Father’s First Claim on Appeal was that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to modify the judgment and, in the alternative, that it abused its discretion by doing so. The Appellate Court reviewed the jurisdictional claim under plenary review and the remainder for abuse of discretion.
The Appellate Court held that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction, the only issue was its authority to reconsider. The Appellate Court cited Practice Book § 11-11 for authority to reargue and found it applicable in this instance. Motions are not strictly construed by their titles. Mother’s motion was filed within the requisite time period and was based solely on evidence that was presented at trial. The requirements of a motion to modify were therefore not applicable. The trial court was not required to hold a new hearing as it based its decision solely on evidence that was already presented and on facts that it had overlooked.
Father’s Second Claim on Appeal was that the trial court abused its discretion in reducing the overnights he had with the child. His overnights were reduced from the prior schedule the parties had enjoyed, but there was indicia that this was abuse of discretion.
The Judgment was affirmed.