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Colby v. Colby

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 21, 2019


          Argued February 8, 2019

         Procedural History

         Action to enforce a foreign judgment of dissolution, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Nastri, J., denied the defendant's motion for relief from a certain stipulation of the parties that had been approved and adopted as an order by the foreign court; thereafter, the court, Nastri, J., granted the defendant's motion to reargue and modified the amount that the defendant owed to the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Patrick W. Boatman, with whom, on the brief, was Erin E. Boatman, for the appellant (defendant).

          Diane Frances Colby, self-represented, the appellee (plaintiff) filed a brief.

          Lavine, Prescott and Elgo, Js.


          LAVINE, J.

         The defendant, Arthur Colby, appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered after the plaintiff, Diane Colby, sought to enforce a California judgment pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-70 et seq.[1]On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly (1) denied him relief from the California judgment, (2) declined to order the plaintiff to produce receipts in support of child support expenditures, [2] and (3) calculated post judgment interest. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as found by the trial court, and procedural history underlie this appeal. The parties were married on February 23, 1980, and they have one child who was born in 1988. The marriage broke down, and they divorced. On April 19, 1996, the parties entered into a marital settlement agreement. On October4, 1996, this agreement, which required the defendant to pay child and spousal support, was approved by and incorporated into a dissolution judgment in the California Superior Court. According to the judgment, the defendant was to pay $1080 per month to the plaintiff for child support until their child reached age nineteen, died, or was emancipated; to pay one half of child care costs, education expenses, and medical expenses; to pay a percentage of additional income he earned; and to maintain a life insurance policy. Additionally, the defendant was to pay the plaintiff spousal support of $120 per month.

         The defendant sought a modification of the dissolution judgment due to a reduction in his income. On November 16, 2000, following a hearing, the dissolution judgment was modified by the California Superior Court. By the terms of the modification, the defendant was to pay child support of $531 per month until February, 2001, when child support was reduced to $497 per month; to pay $150 per month toward the child support arrearage; and to pay one half of the child's tutoring expenses with the plaintiff providing receipts.

         The defendant failed to abide by the terms of the modification, and, on April 25, 2007, the plaintiff filed an application in the California Superior Court for an assignment order and determination of arrearages, alleging that the defendant had not paid the full amount of child support; had not contributed to medical expenses, child care costs, or education costs; did not maintain a life insurance policy or reimburse the plaintiff for life insurance premiums that she paid on his behalf; and had not paid spousal support.

         On July 12, 2007, the parties entered into a stipulation that was approved and adopted as an order of the California Superior Court (2007 judgment). Pursuant to the 2007 judgment, the parties agreed that the defendant owed the plaintiff a total of $241, 416 in past due child support payments plus interest.[3] Included in the stipulation was an acknowledgement by the parties that the defendant was advised to seek legal counsel regarding the terms and execution of the stipulation, but that he ‘‘freely and voluntarily elected to represent himself . . . .'' There were no further proceedings in the matter subsequent to the 2007 judgment.

         In 2006, the plaintiff's dog bit the defendant's face, and he commenced a personal injury action against the plaintiff. The action was resolved by means of an August 27, 2009 settlement. Pursuant to the settlement, the defendant acknowledged the $241, 416 debt he owed to the plaintiff pursuant to the 2007 judgment. When he entered into the settlement and signed the release, the defendant was represented by counsel who stated that he ‘‘fully explained the terms and conditions of the foregoing [r]elease . . . to [the defendant], that [the defendant] acknowledged . . . that he understands said [r]elease and the legal effects thereof, [and that counsel] believe[d] that [the defendant] understands the [r]elease and the legal effect of the [r]elease . . . .'' Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the defendant received $48, 000 in the form of credit toward the satisfaction of the 2007 judgment.

         In March, 2016, the plaintiff filed the 2007 judgment in Connecticut pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-71. On April 7, 2016, she filed a motion for contempt, dated March 29, 2016, alleging various arrearages, and filed a motion to implead[4] on August 10, 2016. On August 15, 2016, the defendant filed a motion for relief from the 2007 judgment on the grounds of fraud and duress.[5]A hearing on the motions took place on December 9, 2016, and January 5, 6 and 31, 2017.

         On August 2, 2017, the court denied the motions for contempt, to implead, and for relief, and ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff $465, 498.29 in installments with interest accruing at a rate of 10 percent. In its memorandum of decision, the court detailed its application of California law, including California Code of Civil Procedure § 473[6] and California Family Code § 2122, [7]to the defendant's claims and found that, not only was there a ‘‘paucity of credible evidence that the defendant was under duress when he executed the stipulation, '' but that the defendant failed to apply for the relief or protections offered by the California provisions within the time limitations that California law provided.

         The defendant filed a motion to reargue on August 22, 2017, challenging the court's calculation of the arrearage amount. The court granted the defendant's motion and heard oral argument on October 26, 2017. On November 6, 2017, the court determined that the defendant was liable to the plaintiff in the amount of $397, 523.96. This total consisted of $241, 416 pursuant to the 2007 judgment, less a $48, 000 credit from the dog bite ...

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