Officially released March 19, 2019.
In short: the trial court’s decision to enter reasonable remedial orders for non-compliance and counsel fees for contempt against a wildly non-credible and extremely unsympathetic party were not overturned for abuse of discretion by the Appellate Court, even where the other party does not file a brief or participate in the appeal.
Husband appealed the trial court’s orders on post-judgment motions granting an increase in Wife’s alimony and imposing sanctions and remedial orders on him for contempt and non-compliance with various prior orders. Wife did not participate in the appeal.
The parties had been divorced in 2004 after forty-seven years of marriage. The Appellate Court noted that there had been no cessation in post-judgment litigation since the date of Judgment. The underlying alimony order had been fashioned to equalize the incomes of the parties in light of the finding that Husband’s financial representations were not credible, and he might earn substantially more in the future, notwithstanding the ages of the parties at that time. Thus, the initial order equalized the parties’ incomes from Husband’s pension the parties’ Social Security and provided an additional dollar per year, among other things. The judgment required the exchange of certain documents in order to provide verification of income. The Judgment further provided for division of proceeds of a bond, which Husband was ordered to seek repaid and then equally divide.
Wife filed a post judgment motion to modify the alimony order and motions for contempt alleging failure to comply with numerous orders including seeking repayment of the bond, timely payment of alimony and production of documents. Husband filed a motion for counsel fees to defend against the pending motions and Wife filed a motion for counsel fees for pursuing her motions.
With regard to Wife’s contempt motions, the trial court found Husband had violated certain orders related to the release of the bond and other smaller issues, but that Wife had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that the violations were willful. It entered remedial orders to secure future compliance as to the bond including interest that would begin accruing after a specified period of time. It did not find Husband in contempt for paying alimony by wire transfer by informal agreement of the parties but entered remedial orders compensating Wife for the fees. The trial court did find Husband in contempt as to his failure to provide necessary disclosures and production and awarded Wife counsel fees and travel costs.
As to Wife’s motion for modification of alimony, the trial court found by preponderance of the evidence that Husband’s financial circumstances had improved due to financial support from his new wife, as well as in an increase in net worth and massive decrease in liabilities. Husband’s declared weekly income was $586, but since 2007 his assets had increased by over $400,000 and his liabilities decreased by nearly $3,000,000. The trial court did not credit Husband’s claims that his new wife’s contributions to his expenses were loans rather than gifts, nor did it find him generally credible. The trial court increased Husband’s alimony to $1,300 per month and ordered an additional $1,000 per month toward an arrearage due to retroactive application finding that Wife’s needs and expenses required greater support than the prior order provided (thus dodging the Dan issue, although Dan was not raised on appeal). The trial court denied both parties’ requests for fees as to the modification.
As to the alimony modification, the Appellate Court construed Husband’s claim as an assertion that the trial court erred in finding the increase in his income by wrongly construing his current wife’s contributions to his expenses as gifts instead of loans. The issue of whether money is a gift or a loan is a factual determination for the trial court. Zahringer v. Zahringer, 124 Conn. App. 672, 68-79, 6 A.3d 141 (2010). The Appellate Court found no error on the part of the trial court and nothing excessive about the order.
Husband’s second claim was that he was improperly sanctioned for his contempt and that the trial court improperly entered remedial orders as to other violations. The Appellate Court found proper exercise of the trial court’s inherent authority to effectuate its judgment. It noted, among other things, that remedial awards do not require findings of contempt. Clement v. Clement, 34 Conn. App. 641, 647, 643 A.2d 874 (1994). The trial court possesses continuing jurisdiction to effectuate prior judgments. Brody v. Brody, 153. Conn. App. 625, 103 A.3d 981 (2014). The trial court’s order that interest begin to accrue on the bond was reasonable in light of the conclusion that Husband’s compliance was lacking.
The Judgment was affirmed.