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Morgan v. Morgan

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Middlesex, Middletown, Regional Family Trial Docket

September 10, 2015

Greg Morgan
v.
Leann C. Morgan

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Barbara M. Quinn, Judge Trial Referee.

The plaintiff, Greg A. Morgan, was married to the defendant, Leann C. Morgan in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 9, 2008. There is one child issue of the marriage: Krisalyn H. Morgan, born February 1, 2009. The jurisdictional requirements are satisfied. Mrs. Morgan was receiving state aid early on in this matter, but the involvement of the Attorney General has now ended. This matter has had a tortuous legal history, [1] including a neglect petition filed on behalf of the Department of Children and Families, hereafter " DCF, " in September 2014, which stayed these proceedings, until the petition was withdrawn. The dissolution trial then continued on various dates until it concluded on August 5, 2015. Equally tortuous has been the parties' seven-year marital history as it will be described below.

The major issue in this case is who is to have custody of Krisalyn. The parties were unable to reach an agreement on a custodial arrangement for her or any of their financial issues. The court listened to and observed the witnesses, and reviewed the voluminous exhibits, which included material received in the juvenile proceedings, [2] over the course of a total of ten trial days. The witnesses included the lengthy testimony of the parties, their acquaintances, neighbors and relatives, a DCF social worker, Dr. James Connolly, Ph.D., who performed a psychological examination of the parties and the child in the context of the juvenile proceedings, as well as the testimony of the Guardian ad litem, Attorney Gregory Allen. In addition, the court carefully considered the criteria set forth in the relevant General Statutes and case law in reaching the decisions reflected in the orders below.

1. FACTS

A. Marital History

The basic facts are as follows. This is the plaintiff's second marriage and the defendant's third marriage. The plaintiff is fifty-five (55) years old and the defendant is forty-six (46) years old. Both parties are in good health. Neither has a college degree, although Mrs. Morgan is only a few credits shy of being able to receive one. Each has been employed during much of the marriage and Mr. Morgan, given his present job, is currently seasonally unemployed and will again begin work as a truck driver in September.[3] The plaintiff, when working, earns a weekly gross of $920 and had a net of $809 per week. Mrs. Morgan is employed as an administrative assistant and earns $1, 000 a week and has a net of $811 after her last promotion and exclusive of overtime and child support. The plaintiff has two grown children from his first marriage. The defendant has two grown children from her first marriage and two older minor daughters residing with her in Connecticut from her second marriage.

The parties met on the internet in 2008 and were married after only three months of dating. At the time of the marriage, the parties resided in California and the plaintiff was employed as a paralegal and the defendant as an administrative assistant. Mr. Morgan had previously been employed as an air traffic controller. In 2009, the parties moved to Connecticut so that Mr. Morgan could again pursue such work at Tweed New Haven Airport, where he was employed as an air traffic controller until 2013.

After the birth of Krisalyn in 2009, the plaintiff continued to work full-time while the defendant stayed at home. Around the time the family moved to Connecticut, the defendant received an inheritance of $150, 000 from her mother's estate. The parties agree that $60, 000 of her inheritance was used to purchase the home in Meriden, Connecticut, which is titled in both names. The home required a great deal of repair and renovation, which is not yet completed. It is admitted that the plaintiff, during the time the couple continued to live together, performed renovations to the house, although at least another $40, 000 of the defendant's inheritance was expended on materials, supplies and equipment for such renovation. No permits were sought for the work and many walls are still open with visible studs. Much work remains to be completed. The balance of the inheritance was expended during the course of the marriage.

The parties were never able to form a close reciprocal and caring relationship with each other. Centuries ago, Samuel Johnson stated that marriages such as theirs are the " triumph of hope over experience." [4] In this relationship, hope evaporated very quickly as the relationship matured. The many emotional disputes and misunderstandings the Morgans had became exacerbated with the birth of their child and during their first year in Connecticut, where they had no family or other supportive connections. They joined a church based on their fundamentalist Christian beliefs. At that time, they began what was the beginning of a number of abortive and unfruitful attempts at pastoral counseling. Mr. Morgan testified on several occasions during the trial that Mrs. Morgan had serious mental difficulties and if only those difficulties could be " fixed, " their marriage could be restored. At no time was Mr. Morgan able to acknowledge his own significant contributions to the breakdown of the marriage. As Mrs. Morgan testified, by October of 2011, they were living separate and apart. While there were some attempts at reconciliation, none were successful and the parties have been at a complete impasse since that time about all aspects of their joint life, with their primary fight being centered on their daughter, Krisalyn, and her care and custody.

The parties have engaged in some physical altercations. Mrs. Morgan sought medical treatment after being punched by Mr. Morgan in 2010, which brought about a DCF referral. From time to time, police were called to the home. The parties fought about having an additional child. There was a lot of disagreement about their finances right from the beginning of their relationship as Mr. Morgan did not want to pay the bills, a pattern of conduct which has continued throughout this action after the separation, despite orders of support.

One major area of financial disagreement concerns the real estate taxes on the Meriden residence, which prior to the parties' separation Mr. Morgan was supposed to pay. At the start of the trial, in 2014, the taxes totaled some'$22, 000. Mr. Morgan claims the previous payments have been mis-credited by the City and no funds are due. Mrs. Morgan retained counsel to investigate these allegations, and after a determination that they were due, ultimately filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and is paying the taxes at the rate of $83 a week. At some point, at the end of her five year obligation pursuant to the bankruptcy, the taxes will be discharged.

Another area of conflict concerned the custody of Mrs. Morgan's two older minor daughters from her previous marriage. In 2011 and 2012, this matter was litigated in California and Mrs. Morgan flew out to California several times. Mr. Morgan assisted her in paying for these trips and helped her with her legal strategy. Their strategy ultimately secured the children living with Mrs. Morgan in Connecticut for the bulk of each year, despite a negative psychological evaluation recommending custody to her former husband.

During one such trip, Mrs. Morgan determined she wished to remain in California, as there was nothing holding her to Connecticut except the partially finished home in Meriden. Mr. Morgan then filed a dissolution action. Mrs. Morgan returned to Connecticut after a court order entered for return of their daughter, Krisalyn. Upon her return, Mrs. Morgan then entered a women's shelter. She subsequently secured exclusive use and possession of the home. Shortly thereafter, the parties attempted to reconcile.

There was no change in their marital circumstances with the reconciliation and they separated again. During this time, there were consistent conflicts over visitation exchanges, despite the fact that they were supervised by others, including members of their church. Ultimately in 2013, Mr. Morgan's air traffic controller position in New Haven came to an end. He decided to take a job in Afghanistan for a year as an air traffic controller. The purpose of taking the position, according to his testimony, was to save considerable money, reconcile with Leann, then move to Texas and purchase a home there. During the summer of 2013 while Mr. Morgan was in Afghanistan and despite an outstanding court order, Mr. Morgan made no child support payments. He claims the back due support caused him to lose his security clearance and his job in Afghanistan. His lengthy testimony about these events begs the question as to why he did not pay his child support, when he was being paid a significant salary and there was an outstanding court order. No explanation was ever provided as to his failure to support his family.

Almost immediately after his return from Afghanistan in September 2013, the parties had an altercation in a drive-through car wash. Mrs. Morgan was anxious to leave for the lengthy conversation was making her late for work. Mr. Morgan was holding the car door open and refused to move away from the car. He was holding Krisalyn. Mrs. Morgan started to drive away and the car door banged into him while he was holding Krisalyn. Mrs. Morgan was arrested for this incident. Ultimately, after the completion of the required court ordered programs, the case was dismissed. Mr. Morgan makes much of this incident as a sign of Mrs. Morgan's poor parenting and mental illness. Unfortunately, it is one of a number of such conflicts in which each of the parents has placed their child in the middle of their intense marital strife.

In the meantime, Mr. Morgan remained unemployed and received unemployment compensation through February 21, 2014. At some point, due to his age and his abilities, he decided to seek retraining as a truck driver. He received schooling for this and completed his training in June of 2014. After February 2014 and through June 2014, he survived by receiving handouts from friends and living from his accumulated savings. Starting in September 2014, he began to be employed as a truck driver for City Oil. At the time of the commencement of the resumed trial proceedings in May 2015, he was employed by City Oil.

B. Pending Motions at the Time of Trial

During the course of this dissolution trial in 2015, Mr. Morgan claimed there were many motions he had filed that required resolution. There were a total of ten substantive motions which are listed below.[5] Some motions sought relief regarding temporary orders entered by Judge Fischer in 2012. Others were claims for excess child support paid due to his change in circumstances and his unemployment after the modified child support order was entered in March 2013.

In an abundance and excess of caution, the court permitted Mr. Morgan to present testimony on these claims. In the meantime and after a very close review of the pleadings and orders in this matter, the court has reconsidered its position. Each of the parties, through counsel, was asked to file a list of pending motions and matters they wished addressed at trial as part of the trial management of the case when it was referred to the Regional Family Trial Docket. At the time in question in the spring of 2014, Mr. Morgan was represented by the fourth and last of his attorneys, Attorney Keisha Gatison. On March 23, 2014, she filed an appearance in this case in lieu of Mr. Morgan's appearance also in the file. Three motions filed were by Attorney Gatison during the relevant time and two have been now superseded by various actions and events since that time. The last still pending motion is motion #172 seeking return of excess child support payments claimed to have been paid by Mr. Morgan to Mrs. Morgan and alleged to have been wrongfully and fraudulently claimed to have been due her.

As a result and as a consequence of the trial management orders, the court finds that the filing of these motions by Attorney Gatison, without claiming the others that Mr. Morgan now seeks to address so long after the fact, ends his right to do so by making those claims moot and untimely. They are therefore legally considered ...


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