Previously, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered, in part, whether the trial court improperly failed to apply relocation statutory provisions in an initial dissolution action. The judgment was affirmed in its entirety.
In this case, the plaintiff mother and defendant father were married for seven years, lived in Ridgefield, and had two minor children. The mother filed for divorce, and a pendente lite order was issued permitting her to relocate with their children to the Farmington area, finding this was in the children’s best interests. Approximately seven months later, the trial court dissolved the marriage, but then ordered that the children reside with the father. The court stated that the move to Farmington was not in the best interests of the children, and it was necessary for them to live in the Ridgefield area.
The mother first contended that it was improper for the court not to treat the pendente lite custody order as res judicata, or “a matter [already] judged.” However, the Appellate Court declined to review this claim. Appellate courts will not consider claimed errors unless the issue was raised at trial and ruled upon by the trial court adversely to the claimant’s position. Therefore, in this case, because the mother did not raise this claim in front of the trial court, she could not do so for the first time on appeal.
Motion for Relocation
When a court considers a motion seeking relocation, it turns the three-part inquiry under General Statutes § 46b-56d: whether the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, to a reasonable location, and in the best interests of the children. Subsection (b) lists five non-exclusive factors a court shall consider in weighing the children’s best interests. In this case, the mother argued that the trial court did not properly apply these factors when it found it was in the best interests to relocate the children back to Ridgefield.
The Appellate Court stated that § 46b-56d covers post-judgment motions to relocate, and neither case law nor legislative intent indicated that the factors also applied to relocation matters resolved at the time of the initial judgment for dissolution of the marriage. This case involved a relocation decision rendered when the marriage was dissolved, so consideration of the § 46b-56d factors was not mandatory or exclusive.
The Court’s Findings
The Appellate Court found ample evidence in support of the trial court’s determination that relocation back to Ridgefield was in the children’s best interests. This included the inordinate amount of time the children spent commuting to visit their father and the insincere claim by the mother that she was supporting a strong relationship between the father and their children.
Additional evidence included the mother’s unilateral actions regarding the move itself and changing the children’s pediatricians without consulting the father. The court noted that the children thrived in Ridgefield prior to the move. It was reasonable to determine that it was not in the children’s best interests to allow them to remain in Farmington. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
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