Modification limited to pleading; credibility determination within purview of trial court: L.K. v. K.K., 226 Conn. App. 279 (2024)

Modification limited to pleading; credibility determination within purview of trial court: L.K. v. K.K., 226 Conn. App. 279 (2024)

L.K. v. K.K., 226 Conn. App. 279 (2024) (modification limited to pleading; credibility determination within purview of trial court)

 

Officially released June 18, 2024

 

In Short: (1) you must plead the bases for your modification, including a child reaching age of majority, (2) the trial court has discretion to find testimony and evidence to be not credible and the Appellate Court almost never second guesses such findings.

 

The parties were married in 1997, had three children, and were divorced in 2016.

 

The original judgment provided that Father would pay unallocated support in the amount of $12,500 per month until death, remarriage or November 2025, with the term and amount to be non-modifiable. Such award constituted a deviation based on the “extraordinary disparity in income and the provision of alimony.” That original judgment was overturned in prior appeal.

 

The parties thereafter proceeded to judgment via separation agreement in 2019.  The separation agreement provided for $12,500 monthly unallocated support for three years and then unallocated support of $7,500 monthly until the youngest child was 18.

 

Thereafter, post-judgment, Mother motions for contempt motion and Father filed a motion to modify the unallocated support, citing numerous aspects of his own financial circumstances and business.  After a three-day hearing, Mother’s motions for contempt were granted in part and Father’s motion to modify was denied.

 

Father appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to modify the amount of unallocated child support and alimony he was obligated to pay to Mother.  The Appellate Court addressed the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court improperly failed to address Father’s claim that a modification of the child support component was warranted due to one of the three children reaching the age of majority; and (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion by ignoring tax returns and financial documents submitted into evidence. The Appellate Court set forth the abuse of discretion and clearly erroneous standards of review.

 

The Appellate Court first addressed a third issue, raised at oral argument, that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter support orders regarding an adult child.  The Appellate Court made short work of this argument by noting that the trial court did not enter any such orders, it simply denied a motion to modify an unallocated award that had previously been entered and had subject matter jurisdiction over family matters pursuant to § 46b-1.

 

As to the issue of a child reaching age of majority, Father failed to raise that issue in his motion to modify.  He filed an amended motion three days prior to the hearing, but the court indicated it would not be hearing that motion in this hearing due to the belated filing.  Neither party testified regarding a child reaching age of majority at any point during the hearing and no further request was made by Father regarding arguing the amended motion at the subsequent hearing dates, despite the large gap of time in between.  The Appellate Court set forth general principles including the requirement of the rules of practice as to what must be included in each motion, citing P.B. § 25-26 (e), and the law limiting parties to the pled allegations.  The Appellate Court also rejected the argument that a child reaching age of majority automatically entitles a party to a reduction, indicating that it merely provides a basis to seek a modification. Father failed to plead the issue of a child reaching age of majority in the motion that was heard, and the trial court was therefore not wrong to refuse to consider it (particularly in the absence of evidence).

 

As to the issue of abuse of discretion, the Appellate Court was also not persuaded.  The trial court had found that Father was not credible as to the finances, that he engaged in self-help predating his claimed financial hardships, and that he continued to live a luxurious lifestyle which belied his claims of financial hardship.  The Appellate Court found that the trial court did not ignore evidence, but rather did not credit certain aspects of it.

 

The Judgment was affirmed.

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest