The plaintiff appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court which dismissed, on its own motion, his appeal from a decision of the Windsor Locks
The facts are not in dispute. The plaintiff is the father and the defendant
The plaintiff filed an application in the Probate Court pursuant to General Statutes § 45-322, seeking to be named guardian of his daughter's estate.
The plaintiff's appeal was dismissed by the court for lack of jurisdiction. In dismissing the appeal, the trial court held that the plaintiff was not aggrieved within the meaning of § 45-288, and therefore had no right to appeal from the Probate Court's decree. That statute grants a right of appeal to "[a]ny person aggrieved by any order, denial or decree of a court of probate in any matter, unless otherwise specifically provided by law...."
The jurisdictional requirement of aggrievement serves both practical and functional purposes to assure that only those parties with genuine and legitimate interests are afforded an opportunity to appeal. Merrimac Associates, Inc. v. DiSesa, 180 Conn. 511, 516, 429 A.2d 967 (1980). If an appellant is a mere stranger or interloper to the proceedings with no direct interest in the outcome, the court is without jurisdiction to hear the appeal. See Graham v. Estate of Graham, 2 Conn.App. 251, 254, 477 A.2d 158, cert. denied, 194 Conn. 805, 482 A.2d 710 (1984); Urrata v. Izzillo, 1 Conn.App. 17, 19, 467 A.2d 943 (1983). Aggrievement falls within two broad categories, classical and statutory. The factors involved in whether classical aggrievement exists are tempered by the subject matter of the litigation. Classical aggrievement usually requires that the party claiming aggrievement has a direct pecuniary interest in the outcome of the litigation. Cannavo Enterprises, Inc. v. Burns, 194 Conn. 43, 47, 478 A.2d 601 (1984). Because of the types of issues often presented in probate appeals, however, the concept of aggrievement in such cases has evolved into a broader standard than that requiring a showing of a direct pecuniary interest. Merrimac Associates, Inc. v. DiSesa, supra; Hartford Kosher Caterers, Inc. v. Gazda, 165 Conn. 478, 484,
A two-prong analysis is used in probate appeals to determine whether a party is classically aggrieved by a denial, decree or order of a court of probate as provided by General Statutes § 45-288. Hartford Kosher Caterers, Inc. v. Gazda, supra. That analysis includes a consideration of "(1) the nature of the appellant's interest, and (2) the adverse effect, if any, of the Probate Court's decision on that interest." Id.
The nature of the interest claimed by the plaintiff is that he is the natural father of Trudy Buchholz, and was the parent with whom she resided for two years prior to the filing of the application for guardianship. The plaintiff alleges that a natural bond exists between a parent and his child, and that, because of this relationship, the parent has a legally cognizable interest sufficient for a finding of aggrievement within the meaning of § 45-288. The defendant alleges that because Trudy Buchholz is not a minor, the father has no continuing legal rights or duties relating to her welfare or care, and thus has no direct interest in the case. The trial court held that the assertion of the relationship of a father and his child does not constitute a sufficient interest to entitle the father to standing within the meaning of the statute.
These cases have all involved an appeal of a blood relative from a probate decree affecting alleged pecuniary interests in an estate. The general rule which has emerged from this scant body of caselaw regarding standing to appeal from a probate decree based upon such familial relationships is that the connection by blood to a person's estate is not necessarily a legally protected status. This case, however, is unique in that it does not involve the appeal of a decree affecting alleged pecuniary interests, but rather involves the standing of a parent to appeal from a probate decree affecting his rights to the companionship, care, and control over the welfare of his child. The status of a parent in relation to his child is different and distinguishable from any other type of familial relationship. Moreover, the nature of the parent and child relationship involves parental rights and duties which entail significantly different considerations than those involved in the resolution of claims alleging a person's pecuniary interests in an estate. Foremost among these considerations is the fact that the special bond between parent and child poses a unique relationship in which the natural rights and status of a parent are recognized in law. For this reason, it is undisputed that a parent has a personal stake and interest in the outcome of a controversy regarding his minor child. See Maloney v. Taplin, supra; White v. Strong, 75 Conn. 308, 53 A. 654 (1902); Weisne's Appeal, 39 Conn. 537 (1873); Mongillo v. Jacobs, 31 Conn.Sup. 158, 325 A.2d 531
The trial court based its conclusion that the plaintiff has no direct interest in this case sufficient to constitute standing on the fact that his daughter has reached the age of majority. The court emphasized that because she was not a minor, the father had no continuing legal duty or right regarding the welfare of his child. This case, however, does not merely involve the interest of a father in the welfare of his adult daughter. Rather, this case deals with the specific issue of the nature of the interest of a father in the welfare of his daughter who has reached the age of majority, but who will always remain incompetent to manage her own affairs. She will always remain the mental equivalent of a minor child. In such a case, we hold that the father maintains both a legal interest and special status sufficient to constitute standing to appeal from an adverse decision of the Probate Court which denied him guardianship.
The rationale for this conclusion is that "[a]ttainment of majority cannot, of course, destroy the natural relationship existing between the parent and his child, and such relationship sometimes gives rise to rights and obligations different from those arising where the parties
Our Supreme Court has also recognized the analogous status of an incompetent and a minor which necessitates that similar treatment be afforded to both. Cottrell v. Connecticut Bank & Trust Co., 175 Conn. 257, 264, 398 A.2d 834 (1978). The court recognized that the forerunner of the present guardianship statute
The plaintiff had a special and legally protected interest in the welfare of his adult mentally retarded child. That interest was adversely affected by the decision of the Probate Court. The denial of the plaintiff's application for guardianship of his daughter resulted in the loss of the general custody of Tracy as well as the loss of the opportunity to participate in and control her future welfare. As a parent who was denied the guardianship of his adult mentally retarded daughter, therefore, the plaintiff has established that he has specific personal and legal interests which were adversely affected by the Probate Court's decision. We find that classical aggrievement existed. See Maloney v. Pac, 183 Conn. 313, 320-21, 439 A.2d 349 (1981); Mystic Marinelife Aquarium, Inc. v. Gill, supra.
In reaching its conclusion, the trial court also determined that the legislature did not include in its enactment of § 45-322 a provision which made parents aggrieved persons.
The plaintiff's statutory aggrievement is based upon the statutory provision which enabled the plaintiff to file an application for guardianship. Section 45-322 specifically empowers "any adult person" to file such application. Because the right to file an application for guardianship was expressly given to any adult person, it naturally follows that an adult person who filed an application but was denied the guardianship should be afforded an opportunity to appeal from the Probate Court's decision. An adult person's statutory right to file an application for guardianship under § 45-322 implies a right to be appointed guardian, and this right
"The concept of aggrievement depends only on the existence of a cause of action upon which a party may rest his plea for relief. . . . If the plaintiff had a cognizable cause of action in the Probate Court, he would be aggrieved by an order of that court denying him relief." Baskin's Appeal from Probate, supra, 638. In Baskin's Appeal, a statute allowed the Probate Court, on petition of the kin of a deceased, to award custody and control of the remains of the deceased to the relative who seemed most fit. The court held that the plaintiff was statutorily aggrieved and could appeal from a decision of the Probate Court which had denied him custody and control of his father's remains.
Ordinarily an appellant must establish the interest and nature of his aggrievement, but as General Statutes § 45-288 makes clear, that is only the case "unless otherwise specifically provided by law." Weill v. Lieberman, supra, 127. Here, as in Weill, the legislature did otherwise specifically provide in General Statutes § 45-322 that the plaintiff could appeal from an adverse decision of the Probate Court even if he were not able to establish classical aggrievement.
We conclude that the plaintiff thus has standing to appeal from the Probate Court's decree based upon both his status as a parent and as an adult person who has filed an application for guardianship pursuant to General Statutes § 45-322.
There is error, the judgment of dismissal is set aside and the case is remanded for further proceedings.
In this opinion the other judges concurred.
"So that it would appear that based on the reasons of appeal and the motion for appeal, there does not appear to be any factual basis for aggrievement insofar as the appellant is concerned....
"[P]otential responsibility for the care and maintenance of a family member involves no real interest on his part in the matter in controversy. In other words, the mere possibility of future liability is not sufficient to give someone an interest. I would point out in this particular case, Mr. Buchholz's concern, of course, is not with respect to potential responsibility. He's— his interest is in assuming a responsibility which he feels that is a moral one on his part, if not a legal one."
This guardianship statute is distinct and separate from General Statutes § 45-322, and provides for the appointment of a guardian ad litem for various classes such as minors, incompetents, undetermined and unborn persons. Section 45-322, on the other hand, provides for the guardianship of the specific class of mentally retarded persons.
"Current law requires consent of the parents of the mentally retarded adult prior to institution of such proceedings. However, many parents are no longer available and no longer involved in the lives of their children and cannot be located. However, it should be noted that the proposed bill continues to recognize parental concern by requiring notice to them of any court proceedings." Conn. Joint Standing Committee Hearings, Judiciary, Pt. 2, 1982 Sess., p. 351.
As part of this amendment, § 45-322 now provides that "[t]he court shall direct notice [of the hearing on the application for guardianship] by certified mail to the following: (1) The parents of the respondent, provided the parents are not the applicants; (2) the spouse of the respondent, provided the spouse is not the applicant; (3) children of the respondent, if any."