In a post judgment divorce action originating in the Superior Court for the Judicial District of Hartford, Judge Prestley denied a mother’s request to relocate to France with the parties’ children. The parties were married in 1981 and after twenty-six years, sought and obtained a divorce in 2008. During their marriage, the parties had three children, born in 1988, 1992 and 1998. The youngest child was the only minor at the time of the post judgment action.
In August, 2009, after reconnecting with a high school friend who was living in France, the mother informed the father that she was going to make two-month-trips overseas, returning home for two weeks in between. Sometime later, she informed the father that she was engaged to the high school friend, and planned to move to France with the children permanently. The father initially agreed to the plan, but then changed his mind. In June, 2010, the mother filed a Motion to Modify Visitation requesting permission to relocate with the children. In October, 2010, the father agreed to the move, but only for the 2010-2011 school year. As the parties were unable to reach an agreement, a full hearing was held in January, 2011.
Demonstrating Legitimate Relocation
In its decision the Court noted that, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §46b-56d(a), the party wishing to relocate must demonstrate that the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, and that the proposed relocation is reasonable in light of such purpose. In this particular case the Court found the plaintiff had no legitimate reason to justify the proposed move. The mother testified that although she could not work legally in France, she would continue to work with her clients and structure workshops in her field.
The plaintiff testified she was going to teach one seminar in March 2011 in the state of Florida (while temporarily living in France), and that she taught another workshop for which she earned $500.00. The Court found that although the plaintiff expressed her opinion that there were more opportunities for her in France, she provided no details to support that claim, and, thus, could not demonstrate that furthering her career opportunities was a legitimate reason for the move.
The plaintiff also contended that relocating to France would provide a cultural opportunity to the parties’ minor child. She testified that the child was a speed-skater, that he had a new coach in France and that skating was more important for him than spending time with the father, from whom he needed to heal. She further suggested that the child had been unhappy and stressed since the divorce, and that contact between the son and his father was not healthy for the child.
The Court’s Decision
With respect to the child’s needs, the Court found that although there was credible evidence that verbal altercations occurred between the mother and the father in the presence of the children, and that the child was upset about his father’s objections to his moving to France, the evidence also established that the defendant participated in his children’s lives to the extent that he was able given his work schedule. The Court further found that the father’s relationship with his son was good until the pending issues arose, that the child was involved in speed-skating in Connecticut prior to the move to France, and that skating opportunities were still available to him here.
The Court ultimately held that it could not find any legitimate purpose, financial or otherwise, to justify the proposed relocation. It noted that although time spent in a foreign country may provide some cultural advantages, those potential advantages were overshadowed by the irreparable harm the child would likely suffer as his relationship with his father was continuing to deteriorate with distance. The Court essentially held that repairing and fostering the child’s relationship with his father was more important than any cultural advantages he may have gained by moving.
Should you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut or minor relocation cases within Divorce Court, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.