SHARON DENUNZIO v. PETER DENUNZIO et al., SC 19388

Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk

 

†††† †Conservators; Whether Probate Courtís Decision Appointing Father his Sonís Conservator Properly Based on Best Interest of Conservatee Standard; Whether Probate Court Properly Considered Guardian Ad Litemís Report.† In 2011, the defendant father filed an application in the Probate Court, requesting that he be appointed as the conservator of his adult sonís person and estate.† The plaintiff mother of the adult child, who is the fatherís former wife, objected to the fatherís application and filed her own application, seeking to be appointed as her sonís conservator.† The Probate Court appointed the father conservator, and the mother appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed the Probate Courtís decision.† On appeal to the Appellate Court, the mother argued that the Probate Courtís decision was improper because it was based on the ďbest interest of the conservateeĒ standard even though General Statutes ß 45a-650 (h), which sets forth the factors to be considered in selecting a conservator, does not refer to that standard.† She also contended that her substantive rights were prejudiced by the Probate Courtís consideration of the report of the guardian ad litem, Richard Margenot, because the report contained inadmissible hearsay evidence as well as inadmissible opinion evidence regarding the ultimate issue of who should be appointed as the conservator.† The Appellate Court (151 Conn. App. 403) rejected the motherís claims.† It concluded that, because a conservator is appointed for the specific purpose of serving the best interests of the conservatee, those interests must always be considered when examining the statutory factors enumerated in ß 45a-650 (h).† With regard to Margenotís report, the court determined that nothing in the record indicated that the Probate Court explicitly relied on any specific part of the report in reaching its decision, including certain hearsay statements that Margenot considered in formulating his opinion. †The Appellate Court therefore presumed that the Probate Court did not improperly consider inadmissible hearsay as substantive evidence when it evaluated the report.† It also held that the Probate Court properly considered Margenotís opinion that the father should be appointed as his sonís conservator.† It reasoned that pursuant to ß 7-3 (a) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, an expert may provide an opinion as to the ultimate issue where, as here, expert assistance is required in deciding the issue.† It also emphasized that although the factors set forth in ß 45a-650 (h) present factual inquiries for the court to consider, they do not preclude the admission of opinion evidence.† It then concluded that the Probate Court properly considered Margenotís opinion because he was specifically appointed to provide a recommendation, based on his specialized knowledge, as to who would be the most appropriate person to serve as the conservator in furtherance of the conservateeís best interests.† In this appeal, the mother argues that the Probate Court improperly relied on the best interest of the conservatee standard because the legislature removed that standard from ß 45a-650 in 2007.† She also argues that her substantive rights were prejudiced by the Probate Courtís consideration of Margenotís report.