Tuckman v. Tuckman

Decision Date26 March 2013
Docket NumberNo. 18786.,18786.
Citation61 A.3d 449,308 Conn. 194
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesCraig E. TUCKMAN v. Karen R. TUCKMAN.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Kenneth J. Bartschi, with whom were Brendon P. Levesque and, on the brief, Wesley W. Horton, Hartford, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Charles W. Fleischmann, Shelton, for the appellee (defendant).

NORCOTT, PALMER, ZARELLA, EVELEIGH and ALVORD, Js.

EVELEIGH, J.

In this certified appeal,1 the plaintiff, Craig E. Tuckman, appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court with respect to the financial orders in this action dissolving his marriage to the defendant, Karen R. Tuckman. Tuckman v. Tuckman, 127 Conn.App. 417, 14 A.3d 428 (2011). The dispositive issues in this appeal are whether: (1) the Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court failed to apply the child supportguidelines when the defendant sought unallocated alimony and support, and failed to file the required child support guidelines worksheet; and (2) the trial court properly determined that the defendant's subchapter S allocated income 2 should be included in her annual net income. We affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The opinion of the Appellate Court sets forth the following facts and procedural history. “The defendant and the plaintiff ... were married on November 3, 1990. They have two children, a son, born in 1994, and a daughter, born in 1996. Both parties have substantial income and assets available to them. In 2005 and 2006, the defendant had an income of $530,000 and $945,000, respectively. The defendant's assets included a one-third stake in BJK Partners (BJK), an investment partnership with her two older brothers, and a one-third ownership interest in Offices Limited, Inc., a family office furniture business. According to the parties' financial affidavits, at the time of trial, the defendant's share of BJK was valued at approximately $2.7 million, while her share of Offices Limited, Inc., was valued at $1.25 million. The defendant also earned well over $2 million through her BJK investment partnership between 1996 and 2007. In 2006 and 2007, the plaintiff, who worked in the commodities division at Merrill Lynch, each year earned a base compensation of $200,000 with a bonus of $1.5 million. In 2008, the plaintiff was set to begin employment at Citicorp, where he was to receive base pay along with a bonus of $1.25 million in 2009 and 2010.

“On September 13, 2006, the plaintiff brought this dissolution action by complaint in which he sought a dissolution of the marriage and an appropriate order regarding custody, child support and educational support of their minor children. Thereafter, the defendant filed an answer and cross complaint in which she sought a dissolution of the marriage, alimony, joint custody of the minor children, child support, educational support, an assignment of the plaintiff's estate, an order directing the plaintiff to provide security in satisfaction of any judgment rendered and attorney's fees.

“Following a trial, on January 8, 2009, the court, Hon. Howard T. Owens, Jr., judge trial referee, issued its memorandum of decision, dissolving the parties' marriage, adopting the parties' agreed parenting plan and setting forth its financial orders. The court found, as it related to fault, that ‘neither party is to blame-it is just a marriage that despite the parties' efforts, it did not succeed.’ In so finding, the court issued the following financial orders: (1) no periodic alimony to either party; (2) $250 per week in support of each child to the defendant; (3) property of the parties to be divided with 67 percent going to the defendant and 33 percent to the plaintiff, with the exception of [one particular] account, which went to the defendant; (4) possession of the marital home to the defendant and one half of its equity, or $528,183, to be paid to the plaintiff within sixty days; (5) denial of the defendant's request for attorney's fees; and (6) additional orders relating to personalproperty and medical insurance and expenses.

“The plaintiff and the defendant filed numerous motions for articulation and to reargue. In response, the court rectified its judgment and clarified several statements in its memorandum of decision. The court denied the defendant's requests to reconsider its decisions on alimony, asset division and attorney's fees.” Id., at 419–20, 14 A.3d 428.

Thereafter, the defendant appealed to the Appellate Court claiming, inter alia, that the trial court abused its discretion by improperly awarding her an insufficient amount of child support. Id., at 418–19, 14 A.3d 428. The Appellate Court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion because [t]he [trial] court's order failed to follow the guideline's tables, and, more importantly, its memorandum of decision failed to make any reference to the guidelines.” Id., at 425, 14 A.3d 428. The Appellate Court continued: “Thus, we are left to speculate as to whether the court acknowledged the guidelines but deviated from them without making findings on the record as to how application of the guidelines would be inequitable or inappropriate, or, in the alternative, disregarded the guidelines entirely. In either case, the court violated the statutory provisions by failing to articulate its reasons for deviating from the child support guidelines. We, therefore, conclude that the court abused its discretion when it awarded $250 per child per week to the defendant.” Id. Thereafter, the Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the trial court as to the financial orders and ordered a new trial. Id., at 427, 14 A.3d 428. As a result of this conclusion, the Appellate Court did not address the two other issues on appeal, namely, whether the trial court abused its discretion by failing to award the defendant alimony or by determining that the investment assets held by [a certain premarital trust] were part of the marital estate. Id., at 418–19, 427 n. 3, 14 A.3d 428. This appeal followed.3

After hearing oral arguments in this case, this court issued an order transferring the other claims raised by the defendant at the Appellate Court to this court, and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing those issues. The issues were identified in this court's order as follows: (1) Did the trial court properly determine that the defendant's [s]ubchapter S allocated income should be included in her per annum income? (2) Did the trial court properly determine that the trust established on October 24, 1990, was not, in fact, a trust, but rather was an asset belonging to the defendant and subject to payment to her, of its principal and interest?” Thereafter, this court heard oral argument on these supplemental issues.4

We begin by setting forth the applicable standard of review. “The well settled standard of review in domestic relations cases is that this court will not disturb trial court orders unless the trial court has abused its legal discretion or its findings have no reasonable basis in the facts.... As has often been explained, the foundation for this standard is that the trial court is in a clearly advantageous position to assess the personal factors significant to a domestic relations case.... Simms v. Simms, 283 Conn. 494, 502, 927 A.2d 894 (2007), quoting Borkowski v. Borkowski, 228 Conn. 729, 739, 638 A.2d 1060 (1994). In determining whether a trial court has abused its broad discretion in domestic relations matters, we allow every reasonable presumption in favor of the correctness of its action.... Bender v. Bender, 258 Conn. 733, 740, 785 A.2d 197 (2001). Notwithstanding the great deference accorded the trial court in dissolution proceedings, a trial court's ruling ... may be reversed if, in the exercise of its discretion, the trial court applies the wrong standard of law. Borkowski v. Borkowski, supra, at 740, 638 A.2d 1060. The question of whether, and to what extent, the child support guidelines apply, however, is a question of law over which this court should exercise plenary review. See In re T.K., 105 Conn.App. 502, 506, 939 A.2d 9 ( [t]he application of a statute to a particular set of facts is a question of law to which we apply a plenary standard of review), cert. denied, 286 Conn. 914, 945 A.2d 976 (2008); Unkelbach v. McNary, 244 Conn. 350, 357, 710 A.2d 717 (1998) (interpretation of statutory scheme that governs child support determinations constitutes question of law).” Internal quotation marks omitted.) Maturo v. Maturo, 296 Conn. 80, 87–88, 995 A.2d 1 (2010).

I

The plaintiff claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding the defendant an insufficient amount of child support. Specifically, the plaintiff asserts that the Appellate Court should not have reached the merits of the defendant's claim regarding child support because she induced the supposed error and waived her right to review. The plaintiff claims that, because the defendant sought unallocated alimony and child support under General Statutes § 46b–845 without referring to the child support guidelines, the defendant effectively induced any supposed error and, therefore, the Appellate Court improperly considered the merits of the defendant's claim regarding child support.6In response, the defendantasserts that the Appellate Court properly considered her claim regarding child support. Specifically, the defendant claims that her decision to request unallocated alimony and child support should not deprive her of the right to have her claim regarding child support considered on appeal, particularly where the trial court awarded no alimony. The defendant further claims that the doctrine of induced error does not apply in the present case because the trial court rejected her proposed order. Finally, the defendant asserts that the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court abused...

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