April 23, 2018
for visitation of the defendant's minor child, brought to
the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, and
tried to the court, Klatt, J.; judgment denying the petition,
from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Jeffrey D. Brownstein, for the appellant (plaintiff).
N. Zullo, guardian ad litem for the minor child.
Sheldon, Prescott and Elgo, Js.
plaintiff, James Taylor, appeals from the judgment of the
trial court denying his petition for visitation filed
pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-59. Although the
plaintiff raises multiple claims on appeal, only one merits
discussion-namely, his contention that the court improperly
determined that he had not satisfied his burden of proving,
by clear and convincing evidence, that the denial of
visitation would cause real and substantial harm to the minor
child. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
relevant facts are not disputed. In 2012, the plaintiff filed
a petition for visitation with the minor child of his niece,
Tanya Taylor. While that matter was pending, a family
services mediation report was prepared in May, 2013 (2013
report). That report was ‘‘an issue focused
evaluation'' based, inter alia, on interviews with
the minor child's therapist and school officials. The
plaintiff subsequently withdrew that petition for visitation.
3, 2015, the plaintiff commenced the present action by filing
a verified petition for visitation with the minor
child. In that petition, the plaintiff alleged
that he had a parent-like relationship with the minor child,
stating: ‘‘From 2002 [when the minor child was
born, he] lived with me for around [nine] years [until]
January 20, 2012, when [the defendant] came to visit and
never returned [the minor child]. Have not seen nor talked to
him since that time. I cared for him like a son. I scheduled
and brought him to his [doctor's] appointments and was
[the] contact person regarding his schooling and
education.'' With respect to the harm that would
result from the denial of visitation, the plaintiff alleged
that the minor child ‘‘was emotionally attached
to the plaintiff and [the] denial of visitation has resulted
and/or will continue to result in the child doing poorly in
school and have behavior issues which will continue if
custody and/or visitation is denied. The minor child has no
contact whatsoever with [his] biological father and needs a
father like figure in his life. Child is neglected. The
plaintiff requests custody and/or visitation with the minor
child. The plaintiff seeks specific but only liberal
visitation with the minor child. In addition to the above, as
to real and significant harm, the plaintiff alleges that the
minor child is being denied proper care and attention
physically, educationally, emotionally and/or morally. . . .
[T]he plaintiff alleges that during [the] time periods when
the minor child was living with him, the [defendant] received
and continued to receive welfare checks from the state of
[Connecticut]. The plaintiff seeks custody and alleges that
it would be detrimental to the child's best interest if
it is not granted.'' On July 6, 2015, the plaintiff
filed an ‘‘amended verified petition/affidavit
for custody/visitation, '' which reiterated the
salient allegations of his June 3, 2015 petition. That
amended petition further detailed the plaintiff's
allegedly parent-like relationship with the minor child from
2002 to 2012.
August 5, 2015, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the
petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming
that it lacked the requisite allegations of a parent-like
relationship and substantial harm to the minor child pursuant
to Roth v. Weston, 259 Conn. 202, 234-35,
789 A.2d 431 (2002). The court disagreed and denied that
motion on August 24, 2015.
court thereafter entered an order, with the agreement of the
parties, appointing Attorney Laura Zullo as guardian ad litem
for the minor child. The court then held a hearing on the
merits of the plaintiff's petition on October 13, 2015.
At that hearing, Zullo testified that she recently had
visited the minor child at his home. The child at that time
was thirteen years old and in eighth grade. As Zullo stated,
‘‘[h]e tells me he's doing well in school, he
tells me his favorite subject is science. And [his home] . .
. it's appropriate. You know, his bedroom was fine.
He's got all his Legos. It was very appropriate. I
didn't see any sort of problem there.''
Significantly, Zullo testified that the minor child told her
that ‘‘he didn't want to have any
contact'' with the plaintiff. As she explained, the
minor child indicated that ‘‘his life is happy,
he's fine, there's no reason for him to have contact
with [the plaintiff]. He remembers a time where it was
Christmas Eve and [the plaintiff] wouldn't let him see
his mother, and he remembers that in his mind. And he wants
no contact with [the plaintiff]. That's what he told
me.'' Zullo also testified that, on the basis of her
investigation, she did not believe that the minor child would
suffer any real and substantial harm if visitation with the
plaintiff was denied.
Zullo's testimony concluded, the plaintiff submitted no
further documentary or testimonial evidence. The defendant
offered a copy of the 2013 report, to which the plaintiff
objected but was overruled by the court. The court then
issued its ruling from the bench, stating in relevant part:
‘‘[E]ven if the first prong of plaintiff's
complaint [alleging a parent-like relationship] was met, the
second prong [alleging real and substantial harm] clearly is
not. . . . I've heard testimony that the child is happy,
that he's healthy, and that's a present day
observation of the child. There's no need to look beyond
that. The guardian ad litem is an experienced attorney [who
has] done this particular type of evaluation many times over
the years. And clearly she noted no indication of any
problems within the child. I don't see the need to look
I reviewed the [2013 report]. And I'll indicate that,
quite frankly . . . I believe . . . [that] if I allowed
visitation . . . it could harm the child. The  report,
in particular, noted an inappropriate relationship that had
existed between the child and [the plaintiff] that caused
enormous levels of anxiety with the child. And, in fact, the
school even noted the anxiety level was rising in the child
[at] the thought of having contact with [the plaintiff]. . .
. So [the plaintiff's ...