TURI ROSTAD v. LEON HIRSCH, SC 19315

Judicial District of Litchfield

 

      Paternity; Whether Trial Court Properly Awarded Past Due Child Support Without Crediting Defendant for Voluntary Support Payments; Whether Court Properly Awarded General Statutes § 37-3a Interest for Time that Attorney’s Fees Award was on Appeal.  The plaintiff brought this paternity action, seeking an order of child support.  In its final judgment, the trial court (1) granted the plaintiff’s request for past due child support for the period of May 1, 2008, to June 1, 2009; (2) awarded the plaintiff ten percent interest under General Statutes § 37-3a for the period of time that a previous order of pendente lite attorney’s fees was on appeal; (3) awarded the plaintiff additional attorney’s fees; and (4) denied the plaintiff’s request for past due child support for the period of May 15, 2005, to April 30, 2008.  The defendant appealed, challenging the court’s awards of interest, additional attorney’s fees, and past due child support.  The plaintiff cross appealed, challenging the court’s denial of past due child support.  The Appellate Court (148 Conn. App. 441) rejected the parties’ claims, determining first that interest may be awarded under § 37-3a where money is wrongfully detained and that the requirement of wrongful detention is met once a plaintiff obtains a judgment in his or her favor.  It further decided that the fact that a defendant has a legal right to withhold payment during the pendency of an appeal is irrelevant to the question of whether the plaintiff is entitled to interest.  It then concluded that the trial court’s award of interest was reasonable in light of the fact that the plaintiff received an award of attorney’s fees that was largely affirmed on appeal and that the defendant failed to promptly pay the award.  The Appellate Court also rejected the defendant’s claim that the award of additional attorney’s fees in the amount of $127,552.58 was excessive, concluding that the award was proper in light of the trial court’s familiarity with the complex procedural history of the case and its reliance on detailed invoices and trial testimony provided by the plaintiff’s counsel.  The court went on to reject the defendant’s claim that, in awarding the plaintiff past due child support for the period of May 1, 2008, to June 1, 2009, the trial court improperly declined to credit him for voluntary child support payments that he previously had made to the plaintiff.  It reasoned that there was no authority supporting the defendant’s claim that the trial court was required to credit him for his voluntary payments and that the court did, in fact, consider those payments when it denied the plaintiff’s request for past due child support for the period of May 15, 2005, to April 30, 2008.  The Appellate Court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that, pursuant to Maturo v. Maturo, 296 Conn. 80 (2010), the trial court should have applied the child support guidelines when it considered her request for past due child support for the period of May 15, 2005, to April 30, 2008.  It opined that the trial court was not required to apply the guidelines because the defendant satisfied his obligations during that period by paying $90,000 in child support in accordance with an agreement with the plaintiff.  The Supreme Court granted both the plaintiff and the defendant certification to appeal, and it will decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court’s rulings regarding past due child support, interest, and attorney’s fees.