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Barnard v. Barnard

Supreme Court of Connecticut

February 27, 1990

Barbara BARNARD
v.
David C. BARNARD.

Argued Dec. 8, 1989.

Page 691

[214 Conn. 100] Gaetano Ferro, Westport, with whom, on the brief, was Gina Pasquini, for appellant (defendant).

Ernest N. Abate, Stamford, for appellee (plaintiff).

Before HEALEY, SHEA, CALLAHAN, COVELLO and HULL, JJ.

ARTHUR H. HEALEY, Associate Justice.

On February 4, 1986, the parties' marriage was dissolved by a judgment that incorporated the provisions of a twenty-one page separation agreement (agreement) of the parties, also dated February 4, 1986. On December 1, 1988, the defendant husband filed a motion for interpretation or clarification of that agreement maintaining that the parties were unable to agree upon the interpretation of Article III of that agreement. That article is captioned "Alimony and Support and Education." The trial court, Nigro, J., held a hearing [1] on this motion. The defendant has appealed

Page 692

from the trial court's interpretation of Article III. Pursuant to Practice Book § 4023, we transferred the case to this court.

[214 Conn. 101] Initially, it is useful to set out certain background gleaned from the record. At the time of the dissolution, the parties had two children: Amy, born July 25, 1967, and Brett, born April 2, 1971. At that time, Amy was in her freshman year at Tufts and Brett was attending a private secondary school. At the time of the hearing on the defendant's motion on January 23, 1989, Amy was a senior at Tufts and she planned to go to law school in the fall of 1989. [2] At that time, Brett was a senior at the Loomis-Chaffee School in Windsor and was going to college in the fall of 1989. The plaintiff wife had remarried on June 20, 1987, approximately one year and four months after the date of the dissolution.

The agreement encompasses eighteen "Articles," some of which are divided into numbered paragraphs. Article III, upon which the parties have focused, is divided into ten numbered paragraphs, [3] some of

Page 693

which, [214 Conn. 102] in turn, are further subdivided into subparagraphs. As will be seen below, the defendant's obligations concerning the education and support of the Barnard children, that are at issue here, varied depending upon whether he was paying alimony. Paragraphs 3.4 through 3.8 set out those obligations when he was paying alimony. [214 Conn. 103] Paragraph 3.10, however, concerned the defendant's obligations to pay for such education and support in the event his obligation to pay alimony terminated for any reason, except his death, within five years of the date of the dissolution decree.

[214 Conn. 104] Paragraph 3.4 of Article III provides that the plaintiff must pay the "total cost of the private preparatory school education" of his son, Brett, as "total cost" was defined in that paragraph. [4] It also provides that so long as the defendant was paying alimony to the plaintiff, she acknowledged that she would be paying the entire support obligation for Brett. Paragraph 3.5 provides, inter alia, that the defendant was "to continue to pay the total cost of the private college education of Amy [his daughter] ... at Tufts University through her freshman year, and the total cost of her college education, not to exceed

Page 694

such total cost at the University of Connecticut, during her sophomore, junior and senior years. Said obligation shall continue until Amy receives her degree from college but in no event beyond June 30, 1990. * ..." The asterisk refers to a footnote to paragraph 3.5 and that footnote has been the subject of conflicting[214 Conn. 105] interpretations by the parties. This footnote provides: "In the event the wife is remarried and there are two children in college at the same time, the husband agrees that he will contribute to the educational expense at a total cost for each child not to exceed such total cost at the University of Connecticut."

Paragraph 3.6 provides that the "Husband shall pay the total cost of the college education of Brett ... not to exceed such total cost at the University of Connecticut during his junior and senior years. Said obligation shall continue until Brett receives his degree from college but in no event beyond June 30, 1994...." Paragraph 3.7 provides that the "Husband further agrees to pay for the post graduate education of said children in accordance with his financial abilities to do so at the time of their election to obtain such education. In no event shall such obligation extend beyond three (3) years after their graduation from an undergraduate school."

Paragraph 3.8 provides: "The Husband's obligation to provide education to his children as limited above is predicated upon his present disposable income. In the event that the same shall increase substantially because of the remarriage of the Wife or in a manner unforeseen at the time of entering this agreement, then in that event the obligation of the parties to pay for expenses of education as set forth in ...


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