V.V. v. V.V., 218 Conn. App. 157 (2023) (restraining order on behalf of child by one parent against the other, subject matter jurisdiction & next friend)
Officially released March 14, 2023
In Short: Father had standing to obtain a restraining order against Mother on behalf of the child as next friend, as his interests were not adverse to the child’s interests.
The parties were married in 2013, had a child the same year, were divorced in 2015 in New York by settlement agreement which provided joint legal custody and shared parenting time. Then everyone relocated to New Haven. In 2019 Father registered the foreign Judgment and each party filed several motions regarding custody and visitation, resulting in Father having sole physical custody and very limited supervised access to Mother. In 2020, Father filed a prior application for relief from abuse, which was granted after a hearing through 12/23/21 and was subsequently modified to allow therapeutic visitation sessions. The prior record indicates that Mother suffers from serious mental health issues which impacted her ability to parent.
Father filed the instant application for restraining order pursuant to C.G.S. § 46b-15 on 1/27/22 alleging, inter alia, that upon the expiration of the prior restraining order Mother began appearing uninvited at the child’s home, private school and gymnastics classes and her behavior was escalating in concerning ways, resulting in fear and anxiety by the child that Mother was trying to take her and which threatened the child’s continued enrollment in school.
The trial court granted the application for relief from abuse after a hearing and issued the restraining order finding that the child was at risk of psychological harm if the requested relief were not granted.
Mother appealed the trial court’s decision granting a restraining order. Mother made numerous claims on appeal that the Appellate Court summarily rejected without further analysis. The claim made by Mother on appeal that is the subject of this decision (and also rejected) is that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Father lacked standing to bring the application on behalf of the child as next friend as Father’s interests were adverse to the child’s.
The Appellate Court noted that plenary review applies to issues of subject matter jurisdiction. The Appellate Court noted that Mother did not challenge the concept of next friend as applied to a parent-child relationship, nor did she argue that exceptional circumstances did not exist to allow Father to make such application despite the appointment of a GAL. “The test for determining whether a person is the proper party to bring an action on behalf of a minor child as a guardian or next friend is whether that person’s interests are adverse to those of the child …” (citing Carrubba v. Moskowitz, 274 Conn. 533 (2005). The Appellate Court concluded that Father had standing to pursue the restraining order as next friend on behalf of the child because his interests were not only not adverse, but actually aligned with the child’s, based on the prior orders of sole physical custody and authority to determine whether or not to permit supervised access to Mother, as well as the GAL’s testimony that the restraining order was in the child’s best interests.
The Judgment was affirmed.