Officially released July 28, 2020.
In Short: the scope of a remand is a matter of law; be careful when drafting language regarding co-habitation, as to whether you intend to terminate on co-habitation or for all statutory remedies to apply upon co-habitation.
The parties were divorced by separation agreement. Husband moved to terminate alimony. The trial court found co-habitation and terminated alimony. Wife appealed but did not challenge the finding the by the trial court as to co-habitation. A prior appellate decision had previously determined that the separation agreement was ambiguous and that the trial court should have considered extrinsic evidence as to whether the agreement required immediate termination of alimony upon a finding of co-habitation, or provided for other possible remedies.
On remand, the trial court terminated Husband’s alimony obligation again. After an evidentiary hearing about the intent of the separation agreement, the trial court held that the agreement required immediate termination of alimony upon a finding of co-habitation.
Wife appealed, claiming that the trial court erred by (1) holding it was bound to the prior finding of the trial court of co-habitation pursuant to § 46b-86(b), (2) failing to make a factual finding as to the parties’ intent regarding whether the separation agreement incorporated the remedial aspects of § 46b-86(b), and (3) exceeding the scope of remand order in prior appeal by making factual findings about a separate portion of the alimony provision.
Determining the scope of remand is a matter of law over which the Appellate Court exercises plenary review. The Appellate Court determined that Wife failed to raise the issue of co-habitation previously, that the remand instructions were clear, and that the case law doctrine was applicable in that the prior finding should hold.
The Appellate Court held that, although the trial court did not specifically state that the parties intended the remedial aspects of the statute would not apply, the trial court was not required to make that statement, and the trial court properly considered the intent of the parties in drafting the separation agreement and complied with the scope of remand.
The Appellate Court found no error in the trial court’s statements about a separation portion of the alimony provision, and found that that provision was not raised before the trial judge.
The Judgment was affirmed.