Morrone v. Morrone
As determined in the 1991 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Yontef v. Yontef, the trial court is not bound to accept the expert opinion of a family relations officer. The court dissolved the marriage of the plaintiff, Apryl Morrone, and the defendant, Gary Morrone, entered into in 1994 that produced two children. The court entered financial orders, including that the plaintiff was to receive 65 percent and the defendant 35 percent of the marital assets and that the defendant was to pay $197 per week in child support. The court awarded sole physical and legal custody of the children to the plaintiff. The defendant appealed claiming that the court abused its discretion by making financial and custody determinations against the weight of the evidence. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The record clearly contradicted the defendant's first argument that there was no evidence to justify the court's finding that $22,000 from the defendant's parents toward the couple's first home was a gift, but $41,000 from the plaintiff's parents for the purchase of a lot was a loan. The court had before it uncontroverted testimony and documentary evidence that the $22,000 was a gift. In contrast, the plaintiff and her mother's testimony was uncontroverted that the $41,000 was a loan. The court did not abuse its discretion by awarding sole physical and legal custody to the plaintiff. The court based its findings on testimony from the parties, family relations officer and guardian ad litem regarding the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, each parent's role in the upbringing and care of the children and specific aspects of the defendant's behavior it considered relevant to the custody decision. The court noted that it considered the criteria for making custody orders in C.G.S. §46b-56(c) and the reasons for its decision to reject the family relations officer's recommendation that the parents share joint custody. The report and testimony of the family relations officer and the guardian ad litem's testimony provided abundant evidencespecifically with respect to the defendant's conductalong with the guardian ad litem's specific recommendation of sole custody, for the court's finding that sole custody to the plaintiff was in the children's best interests.