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Tittle v. Skipp-Tittle

Appellate Court of Connecticut

December 1, 2015

SHAWN TITTLE
v.
SUSAN SKIPP-TITTLE

Argued September 17, 2015.

Action for the dissolution of a marriage, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Waterbury, where the court, Hon. Lloyd Cutsumpas, judge trial referee, rendered judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief in accordance with the parties' agreement; thereafter, the court, Resha, J., granted the plaintiff's motions for contempt and to modify alimony and child support; subsequently, the matter was referred to the Regional Family Trial Docket at Middletown, where the court, Munro, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to modify custody, and the defendant appealed to this court; thereafter, the court, Hon. Lloyd Cutsumpas, judge trial referee, denied the defendant's motion for clarification, motion for an order regarding certain legal fees, and motion to modify custody, and the defendant filed an amended appeal in this court, which affirmed the judgment of the trial court; subsequently, the court, Hon. Lloyd Cutsumpas, judge trial referee, denied the defendant's motion for reinstatement of alimony, and the defendant appealed to this court, which dismissed the appeal in part.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

The defendant, whose marriage to the plaintiff previously had been dissolved, appealed to this court from the October 8, 2013 judgment of the trial court denying her motion for reinstatement of alimony. In the original dissolution judgment in March, 2011, the defendant had been awarded alimony and child support and the parties were awarded joint legal custody of their minor children, with the defendant's home to serve as the children's primary residence. Thereafter, on December 28, 2011, the trial court granted the plaintiff's motion to modify the financial orders, ordering that his obligation to pay alimony and child support was suspended until further order of the court. The custody orders also were modified, awarding sole legal custody of the parties' minor children to the plaintiff. Held :

1. To the extent that the defendant's motion for reinstatement of alimony sought to open the December 28, 2011 judgment reducing alimony to $0 per week, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion, as the time to challenge any defect in that 2011 judgment other than subject matter jurisdiction had long since passed, and the court had subject matter jurisdiction; the Superior Court has subject matter jurisdiction over legal disputes in family relations matters, including alimony, pursuant to statute (§ 46b-1 [4]), and pursuant to statute (§ 46b-86 [a]) has continuing subject matter jurisdiction to modify alimony orders, and none of the procedural defects alleged by the defendant, even if true, deprived the court of that jurisdiction, as the provision in the dissolution judgment stating that the duration of the alimony shall be nonmodifiable implicated the court's authority, not its subject matter jurisdiction.

2. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant's motion for reinstatement of alimony to the extent that the motion sought to modify alimony, the defendant having failed to meet her burden of proving a substantial change in circumstances that warranted a modification; to qualify as a substantial change in circumstances pursuant to statute (§ 46b-86), the change must not be brought about by the defendant's own fault, and although the record contained one arguably substantial change that occurred after the December 28, 2011 judgment, namely, the defendant's loss of her job, the trial court expressly found that the defendant lost her job as a result of her own actions.

Susan Skipp-Tittle, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

Joseph T. Brady, with whom, on the brief, was Rosemary E. Giuliano, for the appellee (plaintiff).

Gruendel, Lavine and Mullins, Js. GRUENDEL, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

OPINION

Page 591

[161 Conn.App. 544] GRUENDEL, J.

The self-represented defendant, Susan Skipp,[1] appeals from various orders entered over four years of litigation following her uncontested divorce from the plaintiff, Shawn Tittle, on March 28, 2011. This court previously dismissed the appeal in part. As to the remaining claim on appeal--i.e., that the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion to reinstate alimony on October 8, 2013--we now affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts, as found by the court, are relevant here. When the court dissolved the parties' marriage on March 28, 2011, pursuant to their separation agreement, it awarded the defendant $1803 per week in alimony and $534 per week in child support. Alimony was to end on the earliest of: (1) death; (2) remarriage; or (3) January 1, 2018. The judgment stated both that " [t]he duration of the alimony shall be non-modifiable" ; (emphasis added); and that each party's annual income could increase by up to ...


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