CRAIG E. TUCKMAN v. KAREN R. TUCKMAN, SC 18786

Judicial District of Fairfield

 

Dissolution of Marriage; Child Support; Whether Trial Court's Child Support Order Contravened Child Support Guidelines; Whether Trial Court's Alleged Failure to Follow Child Support Guidelines Necessitated a New Trial on all Financial Issues. In dissolving the parties' marriage, the trial court entered various orders concerning alimony, child support and the distribution of property. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court improperly awarded her only $500 per week in child support for the parties' two children. The Appellate Court (127 Conn. App. 417) agreed, finding that the trial court failed to follow the child support guidelines and that, more importantly, it failed to even refer to the guidelines in its memorandum of decision. It therefore determined that the trial court either simply disregarded the guidelines or chose to deviate from them without explaining how applying them would have been inequitable or inappropriate as required by General Statutes 46b-215b. The court added that, although the plaintiff's significant income clearly placed this case outside of the child support guidelines schedule, the trial court was not relieved of its statutory obligation to either apply the principles on which the guidelines are based or make specific findings as to why a deviation from those principles was appropriate. In light of the foregoing, the Appellate Court concluded that the trial court's child support order constituted an abuse of its discretion. As to the appropriate remedy, the Appellate Court decided that, because the child support order was ambiguous, it was impossible to determine whether the order was interwoven with, or severable from, the other financial orders. Accordingly, it concluded that a new trial on all of the financial issues was required. In this appeal, the plaintiff argues, among other things, that the defendant induced the alleged error by seeking an award of unallocated alimony and child support and by failing to file the required child support guidelines worksheet. He further claims that a new trial on all of the financial issues was not required given that the child support award was severable from the other financial orders, as evidenced by the Appellate Court's failure to consider the defendant's challenges to the trial court's alimony award and property distribution.