Hibbard v. Hibbard
There is support in our case law for transferring custody of a minor child when the custodial parent has engaged in conduct designed to alienate the child from the noncustodial parent. The plaintiff, Lori Hibbard, appealed from the trial court's judgment granting the post-dissolution motions of the defendant, Tony Hibbard, to modify the joint custody order and to find the plaintiff in contempt. The plaintiff argued, first, that the court improperly admitted the report of a family relations counselor. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff unsuccessfully contended that the family relations report contained numerous prejudicial hearsay statements that should have been redacted prior to its consideration by the court. Because the trial court requested the comprehensive evaluation report from the family services division, the report was admissible pursuant to Practice Book §25-60, provided that the family relations counselor who authored it was available for cross examination, as occurred here. Secondly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding the plaintiff in contempt. The plaintiff argued that the court should have concluded that her noncompliance with the court's visitation orders was justified under the circumstances. The plaintiff testified that she refused to permit a visit with the defendant because their daughter told her a man at the defendant's home previously had touched her inappropriately. Following investigation, the allegation was unsubstantiated. The trial court found that the plaintiff's stated concern did not justify her unilateral suspension of visitation. Its reasons included that the plaintiff had made prior unsubstantiated allegations and had not been candid and truthful in her reporting on the defendant and his relationship with their daughter. The findings were supported by evidence in the record. The trial court also did not abuse its discretion by modifying the custody order and awarding sole custody to the defendant. Although the court did not expressly state that the modification was warranted by changed circumstances, it did state that the original joint custody order was unworkable and that it made its determinations pursuant to the standard in C.G.S. §46b-56(c). The record supported the trial court's findings that the plaintiff's activities were designed to alienate their daughter from her father and that they were having an adverse impact on the child.