Officially released October 1, 2019.
In Short: A lot of writing with very little precedential value.
The parties were divorced in New York by agreement in 2012. Husband thereafter moved to New Jersey and Wife moved to Connecticut with the four children. The agreement provided that it was to be construed under New York law and provided for basic child support and “add-on” child support. The agreement also provided Husband a period of time to rehabilitate his career, with no child support payable through February of 2015.
The judgment was registered in Connecticut. Husband sought to modify child support downward and Wife moved for contempt and four counsel fees. The trial court ruled that New York law applied. The trial court denied Husband’s motion to modify as well as Wife’s motions for contempt and counsel fees, although it entered remedial orders requiring husband to pay some $36,000 of additional child support.
Wife appealed claiming that the trial court “rewrote” the agreement regarding child support and improperly denied her motion for counsel fees. Husband cross appealed regarding the choice of law.
As to the “re-writing” claim, the agreement provided a complicated formula for child support and envisioned a meeting of the parties’ accountants in the event of disagreement as to the precise amount, which did not occur. The trial court ordered them to fulfill the obligations of the judgment as to attempting to resolve the calculation through the accountants prior to returning to court. The Appellate Court held under de novo review that this was not a re-writing of the agreement but proper enforcement of its terms. The trial court’s use of the term “adjusted gross income” in entering its order was consistent with the agreement which was incorporated by the New York Court.
As to the denial of counsel fees, there were two separate provisions of the Judgment relied upon by Wife. The Appellate Court held that the record was inadequate for review under the first provision and found no abuse of discretion as to the second provision.
As to Husband’s claim that Connecticut law should apply to the modification of child support, the Appellate Court held that the issue was moot, as Husband did not challenge the finding that there was no substantial change in circumstances, and a substantial change in circumstances was required to modify support under both Connecticut and New York law.