Mecartney v. Mecartney, 206 Conn. App. 243 (2021) (interpretation of post-judgment order modifying life insurance requirement)
Officially released July 27, 2021
In Short: This case had many potentially interesting appellate issues, but most were rendered moot, and there is little precedential value. A post-judgment modification of a life insurance requirement that was silent as to the premium cap in the original order was deemed by the trial court to have eliminated the premium cap portion of that order, and the Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s interpretation.
The parties were divorced in 1999 by separation agreement. The separation agreement provided, in relevant part, that (1) Husband was required to name Wife as beneficiary of a $900,000 life insurance policy so long as he was obligated to pay unallocated alimony, (2) the life insurance was to be modifiable and subject to a second look in 2008, and (3) the obligation would not require him to pay more than $3,500 for his annual premium on the insurance and any deficiency in the required coverage resulting from the capped premium would be paid from his estate if he died while still obligated to pay alimony.
In 2007 Husband’s alimony obligation was increased from $17,500/month to $30,000/month. In 2008 the trial court ordered that Husband’s life insurance obligation be increased from $900,000 to $1.8m. The 2008 order was silent as to any cap on Husband’s premiums. Husband obtained the required coverage as part of a $5m policy at that time.
In 2019 Husband notified Wife that his insurance premiums had arisen substantially, and he would be discontinuing the policies. Wife filed a motion for contempt. After a lapse in coverage, Husband subsequently obtained a policy that provided the necessary coverage, but which contained a piloting exclusion.
The trial court ordered that Husband undertake certain actions to obtain a policy without a piloting exclusion, transfer security for his life insurance until such policy without exclusion could be obtained and prohibited him from privately piloting an aircraft until he obtained life insurance without an exclusion. The trial court found that Husband’s interpretation that the $3,500 cap was still in effect was not reasonable and not made in good faith. It noted that Husband had maintained policies with premiums well in excess of the $3,500 cap since the modification was entered and that the modification was silent as to the cap while doubling the required insurance. Husband appealed.
Husband argued that the trial court erred in concluding that the cap on premiums was no longer in effect. The Appellate Court applied plenary review to the construction of the judgment. It noted that courts have continuing jurisdiction to fashion appropriate remedies to vindicate prior judgments. The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court that, because the 2008 order did not include the $3,500 limitation, the cap was eliminated with the doubling of the life insurance obligation. The Appellate Court did not second guess the trial court’s findings as to Husband’s credibility nor find any error in the trial court’s interpretation of the order.
Husband further argued that the trial court erred by banning him from private piloting until he secured the requisite insurance without exception and by imposing the requirement that he transfer security. The Appellate Court found that both claims were rendered moot by Husband obtaining the necessary life insurance which removed those conditions. Thus, there was no ruling on the more interesting issues in the case.
The judgment was affirmed.