Post-majority support for disabled child per § 46b-84(c): Gainty v. Infantino, 222 Conn. App. 785 (2023)

Post-majority support for disabled child per § 46b-84(c): Gainty v. Infantino, 222 Conn. App. 785 (2023)

Gainty v. Infantino, 222 Conn. App. 785 (2023) (post-majority support for disabled child per § 46b-84(c))

 

Officially released December 12, 2023

 

In Short: The trial court’s decision to award post-majority support pursuant to § 46b-84(c), not based on the child support guidelines, and including residential educational facilities, was upheld.  Father was a very unsympathetic litigant and did a terrible job preserving his arguments for appeal.

 

A Judgment of paternity entered in 2001 for the parties’ two minor children in concert with an order of $250/week child support.  Fifteen years of post-judgment litigation followed over Father’s non-payment of support.  Father had been found in contempt five times, purges had been established, and four capiases issued for failure to appear.

 

In 2019, Mother filed a motion for “child support, education support, medical, dependent care” through age twenty-one based on a qualifying disability.  Mother filed an additional motion seeking modification of support through age twenty-one.

 

The Trial Court (Hon. Epstein presiding) held a hearing in 2022 at which the Court understood that Father contested the existence of a disability and whether the child had resided with Mother during the time period at issue.

 

Mother presented expert testimony of a clinical psychologist who had treated the child since 2006 and testified about several mental disabilities which impeded the child’s ability to live independently or obtain a full-time job.  Mother also presented the expert testimony of a neuropsychologist regarding two evaluations.  The evidence of disability was essentially uncontroverted and compelling.  Mother testified that she was employed as a special education teacher earning $75k/year.  Mother testified about expenses incurred including a residential educational and treatment facility and, briefly, a special education college.  Father testified that he was self-employed in landscape construction earning $165k/year.

 

The trial court then ordered that Father comply with standing discovery requests and that both parties file updated financial affidavits.  Mother was ordered to submit proposed orders with specific monetary amounts and Father with whether he agrees or disagrees with each amount.  Mother submitted proposed orders of $300/week child support for the three year period in question.  Father did not comply with the discovery orders and filed no post-trial documents prior to the decision issuing.

 

The trial court found that the child was disabled within C.G.S. § 46b-84(c).  The trial court found that Father had essentially no involvement with the child for many years and was in arrears on premajority support.  The trial court found that the child had attended Franklin Academy in East Haddam and, for a short time, Landmark College in Putney, VT.  Both are residential facilities, but the court found that the child had always resided with Mother.  The trial court adopted Mother’s proposed orders, amounting to $31,200 for post-majority support, and $44,651 for Father’s share of certain medical and special schooling expenses.

 

Father appealed arguing that the trial court (1) improperly ordered him to reimburse 50% of medical and special schooling expenditures, and (2) exceeded its authority in issuing its support order.  Mother filed a motion for appellate counsel fees which was granted in the amount of $10,000.  Father amended his appeal to allege that the trial court (3) abused its discretion in awarding appellate attorney’s fees.

 

The Appellate Court first addressed Father’s claim that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering reimbursement of expenses twice denied by the court, specifically that reimbursement for Landmark College and Franklin Academy was barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel.  Father alleged that a prior court had determined that Landmark College’s costs were outside the scope of the statute because the initiation of this case predates the effective date of enactment of § 46b-56c.  The Appellate Court determined that this claim was not preserved for appeal.  Father failed to raise these arguments at any point during the proceeding.  Further, the prior order denying Landmark College as beyond the scope of the statute pertained to § 46b-56c, not § 46b-84(c).

 

Father’s second claim was that the trial court modified the child support orders without considering the child support guidelines or statutory criteria.  § 46b-84(c) specifically states that the child support guidelines do not apply.  Father failed to raise the claim that the post-majority order exceeded the premajority order and did not preserve it for appeal.  Father further argued that the trial court failed to consider his “other qualified dependents.” The Appellate Court noted that Father failed to provide any evidence of the needs of his other children, that he failed to file an updated financial affidavit when ordered to do so, and found nothing clearly erroneous about the order in light of the findings made by the trial court as to Father’s finances.

 

Father’s final claim on appeal related to the award of counsel fees to defend the appeal pursuant to § 46b-62.  The trial court stated that it considered all the relevant statutory criteria and that such fee award was necessary not to undermine the court’s decision.  The Appellate Court made short work of Father’s arguments, finding no abuse of discretion in light of the trial court’s factual and credibility findings.

 

The Judgment was affirmed.

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