Styrcula v. Styrcula
In keeping with the principles of due process, the Appellate Court has reversed modifications of support orders where the issue of modification was not before the trial court, or where the court did not give adequate notice that it intended to address a modification issue. The plaintiff, Jamie Styrcula, appealed from the orders of the trial court granting a post-judgment motion for modification of the parties' dissolution judgment in favor of the defendant, Keith Styrcula, concerning his unallocated alimony and child support obligation and denying the plaintiff's motion to reargue. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment agreeing with the plaintiff that the trial court improperly decided the motion for modification without providing appropriate notice to the parties, thereby depriving the plaintiff of her due process rights to notice and the opportunity to participate fully in an evidentiary hearing concerning modification. The trial court gave no indication to the parties that it planned to consider the defendant's motion for modification before, during or after a hearing held on the plaintiff's motion for contempt. To the contrary, the court told the parties the exact oppositethat it planned to use the hearing to resolve "unfinished business" and finish up the plaintiff's contempt motion, in what the court described more than once as a "willfulness hearing" concerning "bona fides" and the defendant's "abilities." After hearing argument from both sides on what motions the court should consider, the court specifically informed the parties that it would not be considering the modification motion unless "lightning struck" and both parties agreed to put the modification issue before the court. The parties never reached such an agreement. Rather, both parties explicitly limited their arguments to the issue of willfulness in the context of the contempt motion and the defendant's counsel even recognized in his closing argument that the court would not be considering modification until another hearing was held. Given the clear statements of the parties and court, it could not be concluded that the parties had adequate notice that the court intended to decide the motion for modification after the contempt hearing.