Officially released August 27, 2019.
In Short: the trial court has substantial discretion in fashioning property and alimony awards; the trial court may secure a property award with a modifiable nominal alimony award.
Facts: The parties were married in 1999 and had two children born in 2000 and 2004. Wife was employed as an assistant attorney general throughout the marriage. Husband retired from accounting by 2003 both due to lack of advancement and to care for the parties’ children. He took an early retirement package and irrevocably elected a 50% option for Wife’s benefit.
Wife commenced a dissolution action in 2016. The parties reached an agreement as to joint legal custody and shared parenting. Wife was fifty-seven and Husband seventy at time of dissolution. The trial court found Husband’s net income totaled $842 per week, which was exceeded by the $1,270 weekly expenses listed on his financial affidavit. The trial court did not impute income to Husband for withdrawals from retirement accounts but considered the availability of such funds. Wife’s net income from her financial affidavit was $1,966 per week and her expenses $1,178. The court noted that Wife could not elect a survivor beneficiary for her pension until retirement and that, if she remarried, the new spouse would have to consent to a designation of Husband as survivor beneficiary.
The trial court dissolved the marriage and entered orders equalizing the parties’ marital assets and awarded only nominal alimony specifically to enforce Husband’s rights as to Plaintiff’s retirement election. Husband appealed.
The first issue on appeal was whether the trial court abused discretion by failing to award Husband more than nominal alimony despite the substantial disparity in the parties’ income and ability to afford expenses. The Appellate Court found no abuse of discretion under the facts of this case.
The second issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred by making a property award enforceable by a modifiable alimony award. This too was reviewed for abuse of discretion. Husband argued that using alimony to enforce a property award conflates the non-modifiable nature of a property division with the modifiable nature of an alimony award. The Appellate Court held that there was no abuse of discretion, noting a similar order was upheld in Utz v. Utz, 112 Conn. App. 631, cert. denied 291 Conn. 908 (2009). This order was not the same as creating a modifiable property award.
The Judgment was affirmed.