ROBERT A. GERSHUNY v. KIM ELAINE GERSHUNY, SC 19647

Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford

 

      Dissolution of Marriage; Whether Trial Court Properly Dismissed Divorce Action for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Because Marriage Solemnized by Unauthorized Person; Whether Connecticut Must Give Full Faith and Credit to New York Act Validating Parties’ Marriage.  In 2001, the parties’ marriage was solemnized in New York by Jerry Heller, who falsely held himself out to be a rabbi.  In 2002, the New York legislature passed a special act to validate marriages ostensibly solemnized by Heller.  The plaintiff filed this Connecticut dissolution action in 2014, and the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that the parties’ marriage was void because it had been solemnized by a person who was not authorized to solemnize marriages under General Statutes § 46b-22 (a), which lists those authorized to solemnize marriages in Connecticut and provides that “[a]ll marriages attempted to be celebrated by any other person are void.”  In objection to the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff cited General Statutes § 46b-28, which provides that “[a] marriage . . . between two persons entered into in another state . . . and recognized as valid by such other state . . . shall be recognized as a valid marriage in this state, provided such marriage . . . is not expressly prohibited by statute in this state.”  The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, determining that New York was the proper forum for the dissolution action because, under Connecticut law, the marriage did not exist.  The plaintiff moved to open and set aside the dismissal, arguing that the New York special act validating the marriage was entitled to full faith and credit in Connecticut under the federal constitution.  The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, noting that the special act validated marriages solemnized by Heller “provided [they were] not otherwise prohibited by any other law” and concluding that § 46b-22 (a) was “other law” that prohibited the parties’ marriage.  The plaintiff appeals, and the Supreme Court will decide whether the trial court properly dismissed the dissolution action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the parties’ marriage was void under § 46b-22 where the plaintiff argues that that statute does not apply to marriages solemnized outside of Connecticut and that § 46b-28 required the trial court to recognize the marriage.  The Supreme Court will also determine whether the trial court properly declined to open and set aside the judgment of dismissal where the plaintiff argues that the New York special act is entitled to full faith and credit in a Connecticut court.