Bonito v. Bonito
For purposes of the 120-day time limit in Connecticut General Statutes §51-183b, for a judge to render a binding judgment, "the completion date of the trial" has consistently been interpreted, as explained in the 2002 Appellate Court case of Cowles v. Cowles, to run from "the date that the parties file posttrial briefs or other material that the court finds necessary for a well reasoned decision." On Jan. 18, 2011, the court issued its decision dissolving the marriage of the plaintiff, Susan Bonito, and the defendant, Dominick Bonito, finding the defendant solely at fault for the breakdown and entering various financial orders and custody orders for the parties' minor children. The defendant appealed, challenging the fairness of the financial orders and claiming that the court was without jurisdiction to render judgment because it failed to render its decision within 120 days following the completion date of trial on Aug. 23, 2010. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The parties made closing arguments in lieu of filing written memoranda on Aug. 23, 2010. On Sept. 1, 2010 the plaintiff filed an ex parte emergency motion for a hearing to open the evidence regarding an event during the defendant's visitation with the youngest child, R, an 11 year old with special needs. An affidavit from the children's guardian ad litem, Thomas Esposito, relayed that the defendant compelled R to call the plaintiff and say he was locked outside the family home alone. Concerned for his welfare, the plaintiff called police and returned home. R relayed that the defendant told him to lie so the plaintiff would return home quickly. The court held an evidentiary hearing on Sept. 29, 2010, made findings and terminated visitation. The court issued its final decision in the dissolution action 111 days later on Jan. 18, 2011. In that decision, the court made further findings on the incident and granted sole legal and physical custody of the children to the plaintiff with no visitation rights to the defendant. While the defendant seasonably objected, the Appellate Court found it clear that the court heard additional evidence based on an incident it deemed necessary for a well reasoned decision. As the court rendered judgment within 120 days of that hearing, the jurisdictional argument failed.