Dempsey v. Vincent Cappuccino, 100620 CTCA, AC 42751

Docket Nº:AC 42751
Opinion Judge:DEVLIN, J.
Attorney:Steven R. Dembo, with whom were Caitlin E. Kozloski and, on the brief, P. Jo Anne Burgh, for the appellant (plaintiff). Adam J. Teller, for the guardian ad litem.
Judge Panel:Prescott, Elgo and Devlin, Js.
Case Date:October 06, 2020
Court:Appellate Court of Connecticut




No. AC 42751

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 6, 2020

Argued May 22, 2020

Procedural History

Application for custody of the parties' minor child, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the court, Klatt, J.; judgment granting, inter alia, joint legal custody to the parties and visitation rights to the defendant, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court; there-after, the court, M. Murphy, J., granted in part the plaintiff's motion to modify custody and access and denied the plaintiff's motion for contempt. Appeal dismissed .

Steven R. Dembo, with whom were Caitlin E. Kozloski and, on the brief, P. Jo Anne Burgh, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Adam J. Teller, for the guardian ad litem.

Prescott, Elgo and Devlin, Js.



The plaintiff, Shauna Dempsey, appeals from the February 21, 2019 judgment of the trial court awarding the defendant, Vincent Cappuccino, unsupervised visitation rights with their minor child. On appeal, she claims that the court erred by allowing the defendant unsupervised visits without requiring any testing for marijuana use, finding that the defendant does not have a substance abuse problem, and denying her motion for reargument and reconsideration. On February 20, 2020, the court issued subsequent orders that superseded the visitation orders that are challenged on appeal. We therefore dismiss the appeal as moot.1

The following undisputed facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The parties met in 2014, and had a romantic relationship that lasted approximately four years but were never married. In September, 2015, the plaintiff gave birth to the parties' only child (minor child). Since the minor's child's birth, the plaintiff has lived with the minor child in her parents' home in Avon. Although the defendant previously lived in Connecticut, he has lived with his parents in Norfolk, Massachusetts since March, 2016. On January 17, 2018, the plaintiff filed a custody application requesting, inter alia, sole legal custody of the minor child. In response, the defendant moved for joint legal custody of the minor child with the minor child's primary residence with the plaintiff and an appropriate parenting schedule. On June 7, 2018, by agreement of the parties, the court appointed Attorney Rhonda Morra to serve as the guardian ad litem for the minor child.

Trial commenced on February 20, 2019. During trial, the guardian ad litem and the parties testified to the defendant's struggles with chemical dependency. In 2016, he was convicted of driving under the influence and later, in 2018, an ignition interlock device was installed in his vehicle, which requires the driver to test negative for the presence of alcohol before the engine will start. In March, 2016, he overdosed on heroin and Xanax, which prompted his move to Norfolk, Massachusetts. In 2017, he overdosed once more. According to the defendant, since 2017, he has not used heroin and has not abused prescription medication. He further testified, though, that he routinely self-administers medicinal marijuana every evening to treat his anxiety. On March 24, 2018, following the commencement of this proceeding, he obtained a prescription for marijuana to treat his anxiety, insomnia, and back pain.2 Despite numerous requests to do so, he did not provide any record of his drug treatment history after 2014 to either the guardian ad litem or to the court. The defendant also failed to complete two hair follicle tests and a random urinalysis test sought in advance of trial.

On February 21, 2019, the trial concluded and the court, Klatt, J., entered orders that, inter alia, the parties would have joint legal custody of the minor child with primary residence with the plaintiff; the defendant would have one hour of unsupervised visitation with the minor child in a public location every week, which would increase incrementally at later scheduled dates; the defendant would continue to be routinely tested for alcohol and his visitation rights would be terminated upon any test showing a blood alcohol content of greater than 0.01; and the defendant would not use marijuana within forty-eight hours of visiting the minor child. Judge Klatt did not order any further testing of the defendant for marijuana. Judge Klatt also found that ‘‘[b]oth [parties] currently are . . . clean and sober . . . that is substance abuse free, and have been since mid-2017.'' On March 29, 2019, the plaintiff filed the present appeal raising challenges to these orders.

Following the entry of the...

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