It is necessary that a court of law have personal jurisdiction over a party in order to make and enforce orders against that person. When both parties to a divorce action reside in the same jurisdiction, this is a non-issue. However, when one party reside elsewhere, the court must follow guidelines in enforcing personal jurisdiction.
The Connecticut Appellate Court has stated, “Our inquiry with respect to [personal] jurisdiction is twofold. First the requirements of Section 46b-46 must be satisfied. Second, the exercise of personal jurisdiction must comport with the well-established principles of due process.” Panganiban v. Panganiban , 54 Conn. App. 634, 638, 736 A.2d 190 (1999).
Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-46(b) provides as follows: “The court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the nonresident party as to all matters concerning temporary or permanent alimony or support of children, only if: (1) The nonresident party has received actual notice under subsection (a) of this action; and (2) The party requesting the alimony meets the residency requirement of Section 46b-44.” The defendant concedes that he received actual notice of the pending dissolution action pursuant to Conn. General Statutes Section 46b-46(a). Assuming, therefore, that a plaintiff does meet the residency requirements, then the issue at hand to determine whether or not the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant rests with the second requirement, namely whether federal constitutional due process principles have been met.
In Panganiban v Panganiban , 54 Conn. App. 634, 736 A.2d 190 (1999), the parties were married in Connecticut in 1979 and the defendant continuously resided in Connecticut until March, 1985. When the plaintiff commenced this action in 1996, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss based upon a lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court concluded that the defendant had sufficient contacts with Connecticut to justify Connecticut exercising jurisdiction over the defendant. “The due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution operates as a limitation on the jurisdiction of state courts to enter judgments affecting the rights or interests of nonresident defendants. Id. At 638. “The United States Supreme Court has held that the test to be applied in considering the reach of personal jurisdiction is whether (1) the nonresident party has created a substantial connection to the foreign state by action purposely directed toward the foreign state or otherwise invoking the benefits and protections of the laws of the state, and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction based on those minimum contacts would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id. at 639. “The due process test for personal jurisdiction has two related components: the ‘minimum contacts’ inquiry and the ‘reasonableness’ inquiry. Id. Accordingly, the court must first evaluate whether or not the defendant has sufficient contacts with the State of Connecticut in order to justify exercising personal jurisdiction over him.
“The second stage of the due process inquiry asks whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice – that is, whether it is reasonable under the circumstances of the particular case. . . . The Supreme Court has held that the court must evaluate the following factors as part of this reasonableness analysis: (1) the burden that the exercise of jurisdiction will impose on the defendant; (2) the interest of the form state in adjudicating the case; (3) the plaintiff’s interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief; (4) the interstate judicial systems interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of the controversy; (5) the shared interests of the states in furthering substantive social policies.” Id. at 640
In Pinder v. Pinder , 42 Conn. App. 254, 679 A.2d 973 (1973) the Connecticut Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s order dissolving the parties’ marriage, but reversed the financial orders where the plaintiff was a resident of the State of Connecticut, but there was no personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Pinder involved a 1954 marriage of Springfield, Massachusetts residents. The parties resided together until 1986, when the defendant was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and moved into a Massachusetts hospital, where she continued to reside at the time of the dissolution. In 1988, the plaintiff sold the Springfield, Massachusetts home and moved to Mystic, Connecticut, where he resided when the dissolution judgment was entered. The trial court found the defendant received actual notice, dissolved the marriage, and made financial orders. Three (3) years later the defendant filed a motion to open, challenging both the dissolution and the financial orders. In upholding the decree of dissolution, but reversing the financial orders, the Appellate Court stated, “We conclude that the absence of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant in this case, under both the federal constitution and § 46b-46(b), invalidates the provision of the dissolution decree that ‘[n]o alimony is awarded to either party.’ The nullification of that portion of that decree, however, has no impact on its remaining provisions that terminate the marriage.” Id. at 260. It should be noted that the reason the court found that there was no personal jurisdiction present; Connecticut General Statutes 46b-46(b) was due to the third paragraph of the statute, that “the state was the domicile of both parties immediately prior to or at the time of their separation;” which was removed from the statute in 1996.
In Jepson v. Jepson , 1998 WL 214665 (Conn. Super. 1998), the court found that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant. In Jepson the plaintiff husband was a resident of Connecticut and filed for a dissolution of marriage. His wife, however, lived in Rochester, NY with the parties’ minor children. The parties were not married in Connecticut, and neither the defendant nor the minor children had ever lived in Connecticut. The Court found that the husband had met the requirements to file a divorce action in Connecticut, and that, “[h]e is married and he brings the marriage with him. The marital res can be terminated in the state of Connecticut.” Id. at 4. “The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution operates as a limitation on the jurisdiction of state courts to enter judgments affecting rights and interests of non-resident defendants. . . The existence of personal jurisdiction depends upon the presence of reasonable notice to the defendant that an action has been brought and sufficient client connection between the defendant and the action in the form state.” Id. at 2. “Even though there may be adequate notice to a party, the lack of sufficient connection between the defendant and the form state is sufficient to establish a due process violation. . . .’A defendant to be bound by a judgment against him must have certain minimal contacts with the form state such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Id. (citations omitted). “The twin touchstones of due process analysis under the minimum contacts doctrine are foreseeability and fairness. The foreseeability that is critical to due process analysis. . .is that the defendant’s conduct and connection with the form state are such that he should reasonably anticipate that he should be hailed into court there. . . .It is the totality of the defendant’s conduct in connection with the state that must be considered, on a case by case basis to determine whether the defendant could reasonably have anticipated being hailed into court here.” Id. at 5
In Seamans v. Seamans , 2007 WL 622517 (Conn. Super. 2007), the parties were married in Connecticut and lived the first thirteen years of their marriage in this state. They then moved to Maryland, and have had no contact with Connecticut since their move. The trial court stated, “foreseeability that is critical to due process analysis…is the defendant’s conduct and connection with the forum state are such that he should reasonably anticipate being hailed into court there…” Id. at 3 The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s contacts with Connecticut, which included “the wife’s continued Connecticut residency through her social trips to the state” and the fact that “the wife resided in Connecticut for 13 years, the husband sends her money to Maryland, and that she continually communicated with the plaintiff in Connecticut.” Id. were insufficient to assert personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The Connecticut court, based upon lack of jurisdiction over the defendant, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
In Barone v. Barone (2005 WL 3623847 (Conn. Super. 2005), the trial court found it lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant. In Barone , the trial court referenced the defendant’s affidavit, which included that, “(1) she is a resident of Massachusetts; (2) she has never resided nor has she ever been domiciled in Connecticut; (3) she has never been employed in Connecticut nor has she ever been employed by an employer located in Connecticut; and (4) she has ever owned real or personal property located or registered in Connecticut;…” Id. at 3. Based upon these facts, the court found it unreasonable that the defendant could reasonably anticipate being hailed into court in Connecticut. Id. at 4