MARY LOU DAN v. MICHAEL T. DAN, SC 19054

Judicial District of Fairfield

 

      Dissolution of Marriage; Whether Trial Court Properly Modified Alimony Obligation Based on Change in Circumstances; Whether Trial Court Properly Considered Anew Statutory Criteria in General Statutes § 46b-82.  The parties’ twenty-nine year marriage was dissolved in 2000.  Pursuant to a stipulation incorporated into the dissolution judgment, the defendant was obligated to pay $15,000 in monthly alimony.  In 2010, the plaintiff, pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86 (a), sought an upward modification of the defendant’s alimony obligation on the ground that there had been a substantial change in circumstances since the dissolution judgment.  Specifically, she claimed that both her medical costs and the defendant’s income had increased.  Although the trial court found that the plaintiff’s medical expenses had not increased, it nonetheless determined that there had been a substantial change in circumstances based on the five-fold increase in the defendant’s income.  After considering the factors for setting alimony provided in General Statutes § 46b-82 (a), and giving significant weight to the length of the marriage, the amount and sources of income, and the health and vocational skills of the parties, the court increased the defendant’s monthly alimony obligation to $40,000.  The Appellate Court (137 Conn. App. 728) affirmed the judgment.  The court rejected the defendant’s contention that, as a matter of law, his alimony obligation was improperly increased when the only factor weighing in favor of the increase was an increase in his salary and when there was no showing of any increased need by the plaintiff.  The court pointed out that the trial court had made its finding on the basis of several statutory factors.  It also determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in eliminating the durational limits on the defendant’s alimony obligation and in increasing the amount of the monthly payments from $15,000 to $40,000.  Finally, the court determined that, once the trial court found a substantial change in circumstances under § 46b-86 (a), it properly considered all the statutory factors of § 46b-82 (a) rather than only those that had changed since the dissolution judgment.  The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the granting of the motion for modification based upon a change in circumstances and, if so, whether it properly rejected the defendant’s claim that the trial court abused its discretion by considering anew the statutory criteria in § 46b-82, rather than limiting its decision to those factors that had changed since the dissolution date.