Carten v. Carten, 203 Conn. App. 598 (2021) (alimony & abuse of discretion)
Officially released March 30, 2021
In Short: The trial court has the discretion not to award alimony where the facts demonstrate that both parties can meet their expenses, even in a long marriage where one has a significantly larger earning capacity than the other.
The parties were married in 1999 and had two children. The trial court found Wife more at fault for the breakdown of the marriage and found Wife in contempt for violation of the automatic orders during the pendency of the action. The trial court did not award alimony to either party.
During the pendency of the appeal, Wife filed a motion for articulation of the failure to award alimony and a motion for review with the Appellate Court, which ordered that the trial court articulate the parties’ earnings and earning capacities as well as the factual and legal basis for its determination regarding alimony with reference to § 46b-82(a). The trial court articulated that it found Husband had annual gross earning capacity of $350,000 and current income of $41,184 based on severance and unemployment compensation. The trial court articulated that Wife had income of $150,000. It articulated that it considered the factors of § 46b-82 and credibility of the parties. The trial court concluded that the parties would be able to enjoy their accustomed standard of living, both were in good health and capable of significant earnings and that based on Wife’s conduct, alimony would be unfair and inequitable.
Wife did not challenge any of the factual findings of the trial court, but argued that in light of the length of the marriage and incomes, the trial court erred in focusing on alleged bad conduct while giving scant attention to alimony. Wife cited Casey v. Casey, 82 Conn. App 378 (2004) and Wiegand v. Wiegand, 129 Conn. App. 526 (2011) in support of her argument of abuse of discretion.
The Appellate Court set forth the abuse of discretion standard of review. It noted that the factual findings went unchallenged, that the trial court considered all the requisite criteria, and distinguished this case from both Casey (where the financial orders were logically inconsistent with the facts) and Wiegand (where the orders would have left one party destitute). The common thread running through the cases of abuse of discretion was potential inability of a party to meet expenses and debt obligations. The Appellate Court found no hard and fast rule regarding requirement of alimony in specific circumstances. Here, the record was sufficient to support the trial court’s broad discretion in awarding no alimony.