Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Waterbury, Waterbury
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE PLAINTIFF'S 1/16/15 POSTJUDGMENT MOTION FOR CONTEMPT #162, PLAINTIFF'S 1/16/15 POSTJUDGMENT MOTION FOR MODIFICATION #163, DEFENDANT'S 8/4/13 MOTION FOR MODIFICATION #146
Irene P. Jacobs, J.
The parties married on July 24, 2004 in New Haven, Connecticut. One minor child, Alexa Brooke, born October 21, 2010, is issue of the marriage. Judgment of dissolution of the parties' marriage, incorporating a May 14, 2013 Custody and Parenting Plan, was entered on May 16, 2013. The parties' numerous motions and court appearances reflect an extremely contentious relationship and the defendant's ongoing problem with obtaining employment.
Currently before the court are the following motions:
Plaintiff's 1/16/15 Postjudgment Motion for Contempt #162;
Plaintiff's 1/16/15 Postjudgment Motion for Modification #163;
Defendant's 8/4/13 Motion for Modification #146.
The plaintiff seeks sole custody of the minor child, an increase in the defendant's child support, and orders regarding the payments of the child care costs, arrearage and school expenses. The defendant requests that the court order modification of primary residence of minor child to be with defendant and modification of visitation [to give the plaintiff every other weekend and one to two midweek visits]. The defendant also requests an order of child support.
Trial was held before the court on June 17, 18, and 19, 2015. Both parties represented themselves. The minor child's interests were represented by a guardian ad litem. Witnesses included both parties, the plaintiff's mother, the plaintiff's girlfriend, the guardian ad litem, and a Family Relations Officer. Numerous documents were entered into evidence.
Pursuant to the judgment of dissolution, the parties have joint custody of the minor child, and she resides primarily with the plaintiff, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's child in Southbury, Connecticut. The plaintiff has final decision-making authority over the minor child. The defendant resides in Bristol with her son.
The plaintiff testified as to ongoing conflict with the defendant in several areas. He testified that the defendant is frequently late delivering the minor child to preschool, that she is frequently late delivering the minor child to agreed exchange locations, that she refuses to discuss routines and schedules with him, that she fails to respond to his Our Family Wizard messages for as long as 49 days, and that she fails to inform him of the minor child's medical conditions. He testified that the defendant uses vulgar and abusive language in front of the minor child. He testified that the minor child is exhausted and hungry when she returns after visiting with the defendant. He testified that the defendant refuses to sign the passport papers necessary for the plaintiff to take the minor child to Canada for a family event.
The plaintiff's mother testified that she has witnessed the defendant's use of profanity in front of the minor child. She testified as to an occasion when she had been frightened by the defendant appearing uninvited at the plaintiff's home. Both the plaintiff's mother and the plaintiff's girlfriend testified that they have seen the minor child's exhaustion after the minor child has returned from parenting time with the defendant.
The defendant did not dispute the plaintiff's testimony as to her delivering the minor child to school late. She testified that school personnel advised her that any child could be dropped off at any time. She also testified that she disagreed with the need for the minor child to attend preschool. She did not dispute that she has used profanity in front of the minor child, but said that it occurred at the time of the parties' divorce. The defendant testified, and this court's review of the evidence indicated, that she is under stress as a result of the demands of the schedule and handicap of her son.
The Family Relations officer testified that she did a comprehensive evaluation at court's October 2014 request. Her evaluation included meeting with the parties, reviewing the minor child's preschool and medical records, the defendant's medical records, and DCF records.
The Family Relations Officer noted that the minor child's pediatrician's records contained several recommendations that the minor child attend therapy, and that the plaintiff opposed therapy. The Family Relations Officer also reviewed letters written by the minor child's maternal aunt, maternal grandmother, and maternal uncle; and the defendant's fiancé . All of the letters indicated that the defendant was an excellent mother. A letter from the paternal grandmother indicated that the plaintiff was an excellent father.
The Family Relations Officer also testified that based on her conversation with the preschool director, she ascertained that minor child was doing well in preschool and that each party appeared to have a warm, loving relationship with the minor child. She noted that there were no incidents of inappropriate conduct by either party at preschool.
The Family Relations Officer testified that the plaintiff's style of parenting was more structured and organized than the defendant's looser style. The Family Relations Officer observed that the minor child had appeared happy and relaxed in each of their households. However, the Family Relations Officer considered the defendant's practice of allowing the two children to sleep in bed with her to be inconsistent with the minor child getting a good night's sleep. The Family Relations Officer also expressed concern over the defendant's engaging the minor child in discussions about missing her brother while she was away from the defendant.
The Family Relations Officer observed that the plaintiff makes more of an effort to co-parent with the defendant by attempting to involve her in the decision-making process, whereas the defendant, who states that the plaintiff is controlling, repeatedly refuses to respond to the plaintiff's attempts. The Family Relations Officer noted that both parties are responsible for the fact that calm, productive communication between them is rare. However, the Family Relations Officer has observed that on occasion the plaintiff has compromised in order to accommodate the defendant's requests, and the defendant never does. The Family Relations Officer recommended maintaining the current custody arrangement.
The Guardian Ad Litem testified that his investigation of this case began when he was appointed by the court in November 2014. He testified that his investigation included contacting and/or meeting with the minor child, the parties, extended family members, and the minor child's school. As part of his investigation, he reviewed numerous Our Family Wizard transcripts of communications between the parties; the minor child's pediatrician's records; the minor child's school attendance records; the divorce judgment; the Family Services Officer's reports, and letters of reference concerning the defendant. He also determined the distances between the parties' residences and the minor child's school.
The Guardian Ad Litem identified several areas of conflict between the parties, among them: the visitation schedule of the noncustodial parent, the exchange of the minor child and communication between the parties. He testified that although the court order specified that communication between the parties was to be exclusively via Our Family Wizard, the parties repeatedly used text messages and e-mails. The parties' text and/or email communications often rapidly deteriorated from advising and informing each other to accusations. At other times, the response time for the communications was poor. The Guardian Ad Litem expressed concern about the defendant's chronic tardiness in delivering the minor child for the exchange with the plaintiff, and the repeated occurrence of negative comments and gestures between the parties at the time of the exchanges and in the presence of the minor child. He expressed concern about the minor child's level of stress as evidenced by her nail-biting and as noted by the minor child's pediatrician. Also of concern to him was the minor child's level of exhaustion. Finally, the Guardian Ad Litem expressed concern about the defendant's involving the minor child in matters of parenting decision.
The Guardian Ad Litem recommended that the defendant retain physical custody of the minor child. He also recommended that the defendant have weekday parenting time in Southbury and alternate weekends at her home in Bristol. Finally, he recommended that specific consequences be in place if the ...