Third Parties Are Not Bound to Automatic Orders Pursuant to a Dissolution Action

Superior Court of Connecticut: Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk 

Earlier this year, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford considered a case of first impression regarding whether third parties are bound to automatic orders pursuant to a dissolution action. In this case, the plaintiff’s former wife commenced a dissolution action, and automatic orders were attached to the complaint, including one which prohibits the encumbrance of property without consent of the other party or by judicial order.

However, in direct violation of the orders, the plaintiff’s wife executed and delivered two mortgages on the marital home to the defendant. Four years later, the plaintiff entered into a written contract to sell the home. When the plaintiff demanded that the defendant release the mortgages, the defendant refused and this lawsuit commenced.

Connecticut Practice Book Rule 25-5

The Superior Court stated that mortgages clearly constituted “encumbrances” under the Connecticut Practice Book Rule 25-5 (hereinafter Rule), but the Rule and the General Statutes were silent as to whether or not the law imposed a duty on third parties to follow the requirements of the Rule. After considering the intent of the legislature, the Court stated that nothing expressly imposed a duty on third parties to take notice of or abide by the prohibitions contained in the Rule.

By extension, it was fair to infer that automatic orders were designed to control the conduct of the parties involved, not third parties. The Court noted that a mortgagee’s due process rights could be violated if his or her interests were invalidated by an automatic order pursuant to a dissolution action, and the mortgagee, without power to intervene, was nonetheless bound by the final ruling.

Additional Grounds

The Court stated an additional ground for why the Rule did not invalidate the defendant’s mortgages. On multiple occasions, the plaintiff acknowledged the mortgages and reiterated his recognition of his wife’s obligation to pay. Despite having an opportunity to respond to the defendant’s special defenses alleging waiver, the plaintiff failed to do so. The plaintiff’s prior conduct amounted to a waiver, or an intentional relinquishment of a known right.

Therefore, the Superior Court ruled that the automatic orders did not invalidate the defendant’s mortgages. Furthermore, it held that the plaintiff waived his right to assert invalidity of the mortgages, and his additional claims of tortuous interference with his contract to sell the home and slander of title were unsupported.

Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, 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.