PRACHI NARAYAN v. LALIT NARAYAN, SC 18673
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Dissolution of Marriage; Personal Jurisdiction; Whether Defendant's Appearance in a Support Action was Properly Treated as an Appearance in a Dissolution Action; Whether the Appellate Court Properly gave Retroactive Effect to a new Practice Book Rule Governing Appearances in Support Matters. In June, 2007, the plaintiff brought a marital dissolution action but, despite repeated attempts by state marshals, the defendant was never served process. In July of that year, the commissioner of social services filed a support petition against the defendant, seeking financial support for the parties' minor children and reimbursement for money already paid to the plaintiff. The support action was assigned the same docket number as the dissolution action. The defendant was served process for the support action and, prior to a hearing in that action, his attorney filed an appearance with the court. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the dissolution action, claiming the court lacked jurisdiction over him due to insufficiency of process. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Assuming that the appearance was entered for the dissolution action as well as the support action, it ruled that the defendant had waived his claim of lack of personal jurisdiction by failing to file the motion to dismiss within thirty days of the filing of the appearance as required by Practice Book § 10-30. After a trial in the dissolution action at which the defendant was not present, the court rendered a judgment of dissolution and awarded the plaintiff alimony and child support. The defendant appealed, claiming the court improperly found that he had waived his jurisdictional claim because his appearance in the support action did not constitute an appearance in the dissolution action as the actions were separate and distinct legal proceedings. The Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 206) reversed, noting that, following oral argument on the appeal, the judges of the Superior Court adopted a new rule—Practice Book § 25A-2 (f)—providing that "[a]ll appearances entered . . . for matters involving Title IV-D child support matters shall be deemed to be for those matters only." The court held that, as the new rule was procedural in nature, it would be presumed to apply retroactively to this case, and therefore the defendant's appearance in the support action could not be deemed an appearance in the dissolution action. The Appellate Court concluded that, absent any evidence that the defendant had filed an appearance in the dissolution action, the trial court wrongly concluded that the thirty day period for filing the motion to dismiss began to run as of the date of the filing of his appearance in the support action. Finally, the court held that, because the defendant was never served with the dissolution action, the dissolution court lacked jurisdiction over him and its judgment was therefore void. The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Appellate Court properly applied Practice Book § 25A-2 (f) retroactively without considering whether "considerations of good sense and justice" barred such retroactive application.