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St. Denis-Lima v. St. Denis

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 4, 2019

Thomas J. ST. DENIS

         Argued October 10, 2018

         Appeal from the Superior Court in the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, Hon. Michael E. Shay, judge trial referee,

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Brittany Bussola Paz, New Haven, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Heather M. Brown-Olsen, for the appellee (defendant).

         Alvord, Prescott and Flynn, Js.


         FLYNN, J.

         [190 Conn.App. 297] The plaintiff, Daelte St. Denis-Lima, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered following the court’s granting of the motion to dismiss that had been filed by the defendant, Thomas J. St. Denis. The plaintiff claims that (1) the court improperly [190 Conn.App. 298] denied her request for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of subject

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matter jurisdiction, (2) the court’s finding of a final judgment of dissolution in the country of Brazil was clearly erroneous, and, alternatively (3) even if Brazil issued a final judgment of dissolution, that judgment should not be recognized under the principle of comity. We disagree with the plaintiff’s claims and affirm the judgment of the court.

         The following facts are relevant on appeal. The parties were married on October 20, 2004, in Lenox, Massachusetts. They are parents of two minor children. A previous action for dissolution of marriage had been filed by the plaintiff in the judicial district of Fairfield, which was dismissed by the court on May 19, 2015, for want of subject matter jurisdiction because both the plaintiff and the defendant had testified that they were residents of Brazil; thus, neither party then satisfied the residency requirement of General Statutes § 46b-44 (a)[1] sufficient to confer jurisdiction on the Connecticut Superior Court. See Lima-St. Denis v. St. Denis, Docket No. FA- 14-4048088, 2015 WL 3652095, 2015 LEXIS 1174 (Conn. Super. May 19, 2015). The plaintiff commenced the operative dissolution of marriage action on December 30, 2015, claiming that "[o]ne of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of the state of Connecticut for at least twelve months next preceding the date of the filing of the complaint or next [preceding] the date of the decree, or one of the parties was domiciled in this state at the time of the marriage and returned to [this] state with the intention of permanently remaining before the filing [190 Conn.App. 299] of the complaint." On February 16, 2016, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s dissolution action on six grounds: (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) lack of personal jurisdiction; (3) improper venue; (4) insufficiency of process; (5) insufficiency of service of process; and (6) comity law precluding the action in Connecticut.

         On May 16, 2016, while the defendant’s motion to dismiss was pending in the present case, the marriage of the parties was dissolved by a decree of divorce entered by a court of competent jurisdiction in Brazil, as a prior dissolution proceeding had been pending there since February, 2015. This decree was registered in Brazil as a final decree on July 6, 2016. On April 10, 2017, the defendant in this case, Thomas J. St. Denis,[2] registered with the court[3] a copy of that same final decree from Brazil. The registered decree contained a decision issued by a Brazilian court on May 16, 2016, which concludes with a decree that "the divorce of the couple Thomas Joseph St. Denis and Daelte Lima St. Denis so it reach its full legal effects." A status conference was held before the court on March 6, 2017, in which the plaintiff and her trial counsel, Attorney Allen A. Currier, were present. At the status conference, the plaintiff’s counsel acknowledged that the defendant’s counsel had filed affidavits stating that the parties’ marriage already had been dissolved by a decree in Brazil.

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Despite not filing a counteraffidavit, the plaintiff’s counsel, nevertheless, represented to the court that the conclusions in the affidavit were in dispute. Neither party requested an evidentiary hearing at that time.

          On April 21, 2017, the court heard oral argument on the defendant’s motion to dismiss, but it declined the [190 Conn.App. 300] plaintiff’s request for an evidentiary hearing made on that day, wherein the plaintiff intended to proffer an expert witness, the plaintiff’s lawyer in the Brazilian dissolution proceedings, who would contest the validity of the documents submitted by the defendant and claim that the parties already were divorced in Brazil. The following ...

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