MARIA F. MCKEON v. WILLIAM P. LENNON, SC 19470
Judicial District of Tolland
Dissolution of Marriage; Child Support; Whether Appellate Court Properly Determined that an Increase in Supporting Spouse’s Income, Standing Alone, Ordinarily will not Justify Upward Modification of Child Support Obligation. The parties divorced in 2007. In 2008 and 2010, the trial court denied the plaintiff’s motions seeking an upward modification of the defendant’s child support obligation on finding that the plaintiff had not established that there had been a substantial change in the parties’ circumstances as contemplated by General Statutes § 46b-86. The trial court found that the plaintiff’s earning capacity had remained the same since the divorce, that the plaintiff had failed to establish a significant increase in her expenses, and that, while the defendant’s base salary and bonus had increased since the dissolution judgment, the increase was not substantial. The Appellate Court (155 Conn. App. 423) affirmed the judgments denying the plaintiff’s motions for modification of child support. In upholding the trial court’s finding that the increase in the defendant’s income did not warrant modification of the child support award, the Appellate Court cited Dan v. Dan, 315 Conn. 1 (2014). In Dan v. Dan, a decision that issued after this case was argued before the Appellate Court, the Supreme Court ruled that an increase in a supporting spouse’s income, standing alone, ordinarily will not justify the granting of a motion to modify an alimony award. The Appellate Court noted that because alimony and child support orders are subject to the same modification requirements under § 46b-86, a party seeking modification of a child support order must also show additional circumstances beyond the supporting spouse’s increased income to establish a substantial change in circumstances warranting an upward modification of the supporting spouse’s child support obligation. The Supreme Court granted the plaintiff certification to appeal, and it will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined, based on Dan v. Dan, that the trial court correctly determined that the plaintiff had not established a substantial change in circumstances in support of her 2008 and 2010 motions for modification. The defendant claims that, while the Appellate Court’s citation to Dan v. Dan constitutes dictum that was not essential to the court’s resolution of the issue, the Appellate Court’s judgment should nonetheless be affirmed because the trial court acted well within its discretion in determining that the plaintiff had failed to establish a substantial change in circumstances.