JONATHAN TANZMAN v. MARGARET MEURER, SC 18812
Judicial District of Fairfield
Dissolution of Marriage; Whether Trial Court must Specify Earning Capacity Amount on Which it Relies in Making Support Orders. In 2006, the trial court rendered a judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage and ordered, among other things, that the plaintiff pay the defendant unallocated alimony and child support in the amount of $16,000 per month. The court based its orders in part on its evaluation of the plaintiff’s average historical income as a day trader and on the plaintiff's earning capacity, but it did not assign a specific monetary value to that earning capacity. The court noted, however, that the plaintiff's earning capacity far exceeded his current earned income of $789,266. In 2008, the plaintiff filed a motion for a downward modification of his support obligation on the ground that his acquisition of a new job with an annual earned income of $100,000 constituted a substantial change in his financial circumstances. The trial court denied the motion, noting that, notwithstanding the change in the plaintiff's earned income, his current total income, which the plaintiff conceded was in excess of $800,000 for the year, was nearly identical to the income that he disclosed at the time of the divorce. The court reiterated that its original support order was based on the plaintiff's earning capacity and found that his earning capacity, although unspecified monetarily, remained unchanged. The trial court also denied the plaintiff's requests that it specify the earning capacity it had attributed to him at the time of the divorce. The plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate Court (128 Conn. App. 405) affirmed the decision denying the motion for modification. The Appellate Court noted that it was undisputed that the plaintiff's support obligation was based on earning capacity and not on earned income and found that the trial court properly determined that the plaintiff's earning capacity was unchanged. The Appellate Court rejected the plaintiff's claim that the trial court was required to specify an exact earning capacity when calculating the support award and found that the trial court, by emphasizing the nearly identical monetary values of the plaintiff's total income at the time of the parties' divorce and at the time he sought a modification, adequately articulated its finding that there was no substantial change in circumstances. The Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that, in a family case, the trial court is not required to specify the earning capacity amount on which it relied in determining alimony and child support, even where a party has moved that the trial court provide that information.