Officially released May 7, 2019.
In Short: A lot of little issues, not much to see here.
The Facts: The parties were divorced in 2008 by separation agreement. At time of divorce they had two children, ages eighteen and fifteen. Husband was ordered to pay alimony, medical insurance premium, and certain expenses and maintain life insurance.
In 2015 Wife filed a motion for contempt regarding these obligations for violations going back to 2010. Husband filed three defenses including laches, equitable estoppel and waiver. Husband filed a motion for contempt regarding tax emptions.
The trial court rejected Husband’s defenses, granted Wife’s motion as to alimony and life insurance, and entered remedial orders as to certain reimbursements. The trial court granted Husband’s motion for contempt regarding the tax exemptions.
The First Issue on Appeal was the defenses of laches, equitable estoppel and waiver. Ordinarily such claims are questions of fact governed by the clearly erroneous standard of review. The Appellate Court Held that the trial court relied on the legal effect of the nonwaiver clause of the separation agreement. Given that the clause was unambiguous, the plenary standard of review was applied. The trial court correctly interpreted the clause and rejected Husband’s defenses.
The Second Issue on Appeal was whether the trial court improperly took judicial notice of certain facts related to educational expenses. The trial court had determined that Husband was responsible for reasonable clothing costs and took judicial notice as to that reasonable amount without providing notice of its intention to take such notice. The Appellate Court held that judicial notice is an evidentiary ruling and thus governed by the abuse of discretion standard and a showing of harm. The reasonableness of such clothing costs is not “within the knowledge of people generally in the ordinary course of human experience” nor “generally accepted as true and capable of ready and unquestionable demonstration” as required by Conn. Code Evid. § 2-1(c). The trial court also took judicial notice of the cost of a meal plan, but the Appellate Court determined that there was no harm or prejudice as it did not impact the order.
The Third Issue on Appeal was whether the trial court erred in rejecting Husband’s argument for a credit for the one half of the cost of the daughter’s wedding that he had paid. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to reject the credit under the clearly erroneous standard. There had been conflicting testimony as to whether Wife had offered to credit such payments and the trial court found Wife more credible.
The Fourth Issue on Appeal was whether the trial court abused its discretion in finding Husband in contempt for failure to maintain life insurance. Wife testified that Husband admitted he had not maintained insurance and so she obtained it at her own cost and was not reimbursed. The Appellate Court Held that where the trial court found “it is not entirely clear” regarding whether Husband maintained sufficient coverage, a finding of contempt by clear and convincing evidence was abuse of discretion.
Additional claims on appeal were inadequately briefed. The judgment was reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings.