Posts tagged with "declaratory judgment"

State Supreme Court Creates Fourth Way to Confer Legal Parental Status: Intended Parents of Gestational Agreements

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Connecticut considered whether Connecticut law allows an intended parent, who is neither the biological nor adoptive parent of a child, to become the child’s legal parent pursuant to a valid gestational agreement.

In this case, the plaintiffs were domestic partners who entered into a written gestational agreement (hereinafter agreement) with the defendant, who would act as a gestational carrier using one of the plaintiff’s sperm and a third-party donor egg. This meant that the defendant would have no biological relationship to the child or children to whom she gave birth. According to the agreement, the defendant’s parental rights would be terminated when the child or children were born, and she would assist the plaintiffs in receiving replacement birth certificates naming the plaintiffs as the parents.

Prior to the expected delivery date, the plaintiffs brought an action seeking declaratory judgment that: 1) the agreement was valid; 2) the plaintiffs were the legal parents of the children; and 3) that the Department of Health (hereinafter Department) would issue replacement birth certificates listing them as the parents. The Department opposed this motion, stating the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the matter on multiple grounds. The trial court found that the agreement was valid, the plaintiffs were the legal fathers of the children, and the defendant was not the biological or legal mother. It further ordered a replacement birth certificate naming both plaintiffs as the parents, and the Department appealed.

Historically under Connecticut law, a person can acquire parental status through conception, adoption, or pursuant to the artificial insemination (A.I.D.) statutes. With respect to the third avenue, a child born as a result of A.I.D. is the child of the husband and wife who requested and consented to the use of this method. Our statutes and case law have established that gestational carriers who are not biologically related to the child being carried have no parental rights to that child. In this case, the Department argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claim, in part, because termination of the defendant’s parental rights was required before the non-biological plaintiff could be given parental status. However, the Supreme Court found that the defendant did not acquire parental status through any of the three avenues, and as such termination was not necessary.

Substantively, the Department claimed that General Statutes § 7-48a, which dictates the issuance of replacement birth certificates, allows only intended parents who are also the genetic parents of the children to gain legal status without first adopting. They argued that the non-biological parent plaintiff could not automatically obtain legal parental status without first adopting the children. To establish whether or not intended parentage was a valid fourth avenue to obtain parental rights, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court underwent an exhaustive analysis of the legislative intent. Ultimately, the majority determined that the legislative history of § 7-48a “effected a substantive change in the law and has created a new way by which persons may become legal parents.” Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that the legislature meant “to confer parental status on an intended parent who is a party to a valid gestational agreement irrespective of that intended parent’s genetic relationship to the children.” Therefore, the trial court did not err when it ordered the Department to issue a replacement birth certificate with both plaintiffs listed as parents.

Whether advancing or defending a motion involving a surrogacy or gestational agreement, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Accepting Funds from a Charitable Trust may Create a Contract that Cannot be Unilaterally Modified

Accepting Funds from a Charitable Trust may Create a Contract that Cannot be Unilaterally Modified

Blumenthal v. Getraer, CV106007120S, 2011 WL 4953727 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 4, 2011)

In a case before the Superior Court of Connecticut, the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut brought a declaratory judgment action to represent the public interest in protecting gifts intended for charitable purposes, pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 3-125. The action posed four specific questions to the court regarding a charitable trust that was intended to honor a respected synagogue member and provide funds for capital improvements to the synagogue to which he belonged.

In 2002, a respected member of the synagogue passed away, and was survived by his wife and son. The following year, a charitable foundation in New York City gave the synagogue he attended a gift of $40,000 which was contingent upon the synagogue’s agreement to name its sanctuary after the deceased. The gift and additional donations of over $100,000 were placed in a memorial fund, which was controlled by the widow and her son. After receiving the gift, the synagogue erected a plaque over the entrance to the sanctuary declaring that it was named in honor of the deceased. At the synagogue’s next board of directors meeting, the widow offered, on behalf of the memorial fund, to give the money in the fund to the synagogue with the restriction that it be used only for capital improvements and not ordinary expenses. The widow and the son would act as the trustees of the fund and disburse monies for capital improvements at their absolute discretion. The board of directors approved the arrangement.

A dispute later arose between the widow and her son, and the board of directors. The widow and her son were dissatisfied because the memorial plaque was covered on several occasions so that it was not visible to people in the synagogue. For example, during the 110th anniversary celebration of the synagogue, a sign announcing the name of the synagogue was placed over the memorial plaque. During one Chanukah celebration, decorations were placed over the plaque and left there until July of the following year. The board of directors was dissatisfied because the widow and her son stopped paying for capital improvements. The board of directors that approved the arrangement with the widow and her son was dismissed and replaced with a new board. This new board of directors voted to request the widow and her son to turn control of the fund over to the synagogue.

In an action seeking declaratory judgment, the sole function of the trial court is to ascertain the rights of the parties under existing law. Ginsberg v. Post, 177 Conn. 610, 616 (1979). Four specific questions were posed to the court to determine the rights of the trustees and the rights of the synagogue. Prior to addressing these questions, the court found that a contract had been formed between the fund and the synagogue based on the synagogue’s acceptance of monies from the fund and other actions taken by the synagogue board of directors. Therefore, the court found that the vote by the new board of directors had no legal significance because they could not unilaterally change the terms of the previous contract with the widow and her son.

Based on finding the existence of a contract, the court determined that the widow and her son were entitled to continue to control the fund and act as its trustees. However, the court also found that equity required them, in their capacity as trustees, to reimburse the synagogue for the capital expenditures made in reasonable reliance on the agreement that the fund would pay for capital improvements. The trustees had discretion to determine what constituted a capital improvement. The fund was also required to continue to pay for capital improvements, on the condition that the memorial plaque was visible to all who would be able to see it. The court ordered that the memorial plaque not be covered and, if it was, that would constitute a breach of contract on the part of the synagogue. In that event, the widow and son would be free to terminate the trust and the fund, and either return the money to the donors or use it for other charitable purposes at their discretion. Finally, the court suggested that the fund cease soliciting further donations and allow the remaining monies to be depleted to that the relationship between the parties could be terminated.

Should you have any questions relating to charitable trusts or other personal asset protection issues, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Susan Maya, at SMaya@Mayalaw.com or 203-221-3100, and Attorney Russell Sweeting, at RSweeting@Mayalaw.com or 203-221-3100, in the Maya Murphy office in Westport, Fairfield County, Connecticut.

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Court Denies DUI Convict’s Request for Declaratory Judgment; License Suspensions Complied with Applicable Statutes

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut found in favor of the defendant Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after the plaintiff unsuccessfully asserted his claims of equal protection and due process violations following his license suspensions.

In this case, the plaintiff was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-227a. Police notified the DMV of the arrest, who held an administrative license suspension hearing. The hearing officer found that the plaintiff refused to submit to a chemical alcohol test, among three other considerations, and pursuant to CGS § 14-227b(i), ordered that the plaintiff’s driver’s license be suspended for six months.

The plaintiff fully served this administrative suspension before pleading guilty to OMVUI. In connection with this criminal conviction, the DMV ordered that the plaintiff’s driver’s license be suspended for twelve months in accordance with CGS § 14-227a(g). Plaintiff’s counsel requested a “credit” of six months in light of the administrative suspension, but the DMV denied this request. DMV practice allows administrative and criminal suspensions to run concurrently for whatever period of overlap exists, as long as they arose from the same incident. However, it is not DMV policy to issue credits against new suspensions when prior ones have already been fully served.

The plaintiff sought declaratory judgment, arguing that the DMV’s actions were unconstitutional. He first alleged that the DMV policy violated equal protection because it “confers a benefit on those able to serve some or all of their suspensions concurrently, while denying that benefit to those who must serve them consecutively.” The plaintiff further contended that his procedural due process rights were violated because the DMV did not advise him of the practice, thus depriving him of being able to make an informed decision regarding when to plead guilty.

Equal protection directs that similarly situated people be treated alike. This clause is implicated when a statute “either on its face or in practice, treats persons standing in the same relation to it differently.” The threshold inquiry for a reviewing court is whether a petitioner is “similarly situated for purposes of the challenged government action.” However, the equal protection clause does not prohibit a government entity from treating those who are not similar in a dissimilar manner. In this case the Superior Court found that the plaintiff was similarly situated to drivers who have completed one suspension when the other is imposed, not drivers who were serving one suspension when subject to a second. Because the plaintiff failed to meet his burden proving dissimilar treatment, his equal protection claim failed.

To establish a due process violation, a plaintiff must prove “1) that he has been deprived of a property interest cognizable under the due process clause; and 2) that deprivation occurred without due process of law.” In this case, the Court readily agreed that deprivation of a driver’s license clearly satisfies the first prong, but the plaintiff’s claim failed with respect to the second element. The suspensions were imposed in accordance to guidelines set forth in CGS §§ 14-227a and 14-227b, and the plaintiff did not provide any support for “for the proposition that the [DMV] was obligated to give him notice of the [DMV’s] practice.” Therefore, the plaintiff’s due process claim also failed, and his request for declaratory judgment was denied.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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