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Michaels v. Michaels

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 22, 2016

GINA MICHAELS
v.
THOMAS MICHAELS

Argued December 7, 2015

Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Emons, J.

Todd R. Bainer, for the appellant (defendant).

Richard W. Callahan, for the appellee (plaintiff).

Beach, Sheldon and Harper, Js.

OPINION

SHELDON, J.

In this post judgment dissolution of marriage matter, the defendant, Thomas Michaels, appeals from the trial court’s finding of contempt against him and its modification of his visitation rights with his minor daughter. He claims that the court erred: (1) in denying his motion for ‘‘either recusal/disqualification, the motion for mistrial or the motion to vacate . . . [which were] all based on [the court’s] alleged bias and partiality’’; and (2) in modifying his visitation rights after an evidentiary hearing, of which he allegedly had no notice, on what he claims to have been a ‘‘nonexistent recent motion to modify, or on a motion that was fifteen months old . . . .’’[1] We affirm the judgment of the trial court.[2]

The marriage of the defendant and the plaintiff, Gina Michaels, was dissolved on March 17, 2011. The dissolution judgment provided that the parties would share joint legal custody of the minor child, with the child’s primary physical residence to be with the plaintiff, and the defendant to have the right to visitation. The dissolution judgment also provided, inter alia, that the defendant would pay child support to the plaintiff and that the parties would share several listed expenses for the minor child.

On May 13, 2013, the plaintiff filed a motion for contempt, in which she alleged that the defendant had failed to pay certain expenses for the minor child in accordance with the dissolution judgment. On April 1, 2014, the parties reached a compromise with respect to the contempt motion, under which the defendant agreed to file his 2013 tax return no later than April 15, 2014, and to pay the plaintiff the sum of $1500, upon receipt of his tax refund, as his portion of the expenses for which the plaintiff sought reimbursement in her motion for contempt. The defendant further agreed that if, through no fault of his own, he did not receive the anticipated tax refund, he would satisfy that $1500 payment obligation by making monthly payments to the plaintiff, in the amount of $100 per month, commencing on May 15, 2014. The defendant finally agreed to provide the plaintiff with a receipt or other proof that he had timely filed his tax return. The parties’ agreement was made an order of the court.

Also, on May 15, 2013, the plaintiff filed a motion to open the judgment and to modify the parenting plan, alleging, [3] inter alia, that: ‘‘The inconsistency of the defendant’s work schedule and the resulting constant flux of the child’s parenting schedule with the defendant; the defendant’s inability to comply with the existing parenting orders, whether intentional or otherwise; the age of the minor child and her need for consistency, especially during the school year; and the parties’ continued inability to communicate, renders the current parenting schedule contrary to the best interests of the minor child.’’ In addition to a modification of the visitation schedule, the plaintiff requested, in her motion to modify, that she be vested with final decision making authority over all matters regarding the minor child. She also filed a motion requesting that a guardian ad litem be appointed to represent the best interests of the minor child.

On July 31, 2013, the parties appeared in court and entered into an agreement for a modified temporary parenting plan and the court appointed a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the minor child. The parties agreed to report back to the court on September 25, 2013. When the parties appeared in court on September 25, 2013, they again agreed to modify the parenting schedule. They further agreed to ‘‘report back [to the court] on October 15, 2013 . . . to file a more detailed stipulation resolving all outstanding issues.’’[4] On February 11, 2014, the parties again appeared before the court and agreed to a modified parenting schedule.

In the spring of2014, the marital home in Woodbridge, in which the plaintiff and the minor child had been residing, was sold and the plaintiff, along with the child, relocated to Madison.[5] On April 9, 2014, the defendant filed ‘‘Defendant Father’s Memorandum re: Parenting Time (postjudgment).’’ In that document, the defendant represented that he ‘‘maintains an apartment in West Haven but spends most of his time at the Woodbridge residence of his girlfriend.’’ On the basis of the plaintiff’s relocation to Madison, and his residing in Woodbridge, the defendant proposed a modified parenting schedule. The defendant suggested in the proposed schedule that the parties report back to court on June 2, 2014, to meet with a family relations officer to work out the parenting schedule for the summer and the upcoming school year.

On April 15, 2014, the court, Hon James G. Kenefick, judge trial referee, issued orders again modifying the parenting plan in contemplation of the new Madison residence of the plaintiff and the minor child. On June 18, 2014, the parties entered into an agreement for a modified parenting schedule for the summer of 2014, and agreed to meet with family relations on August 13, 2014 to ‘‘discuss the school schedule for 2014–2015.’’

On June 24, 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion for contempt, alleging both that the defendant had not yet given her proof that he had filed his 2013 tax return on or before April 15, 2014, and that he had neither paid her the sum of $1500 upon receipt of his tax refund, nor made monthly $100 payments to her toward his $1500 payment ...


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