Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Bridgeport
Stuart R. Gelles
Carolyn S. Brodie
Filed Date August 5, 2015
CORRECTED MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Howard T. Owens, Judge Trial Referee.
The Plaintiff, Stuart R. Gelles and the Defendant, Carolyn S. Brodie intermarried on December 8, 1996 at Palm Beach, Florida. Both parties are residents of the State of Connecticut and both parties have resided herein for at least 12 months next preceding the filing of the complaint. There are two minor children issue of the marriage, to wit: Noah Gelles, born November 28, 1997; and Grant Gelles, born March 7, 2000. Neither the State of Connecticut nor any of its municipalities has contributed support to either of the parties. The marriage has broken down irretrievably and is dissolved.
The parties presented evidence relating to the cause for the breakdown of the marriage but after conferring with the parties it was agreed that the Court would not address this issue as part of its judgment. So the Court simply finds that neither of the parties is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. It has been observed that the parties have been excellent parents to their two children and both have been steadfast in making certain that their children's interests are first. The husband is 57 years old. He was born on October 29, 1957 and has a degree in marketing and advertising from Syracuse University. He has done post graduate work in marketing at New York University. The wife is 51 years old with a degree in communications from Boston University. Their older child, Noah, is a senior at Hopkins School in New Haven. He will be 18 on November 28, 2015. Grant attends the Academy of Information and Technology in Stamford and will graduate in June of 2018. Grant will be 18 on March 7, 2018. During a greater course of the marriage money was never a serious obstacle. The parties traveled to Palm Beach, Florida and entertained lavishly. The parties extensively sued the Palm Beach condominium that is presently valued at approximately one-million ($1, 000, 000) dollars. After his graduation the husband began his career in advertising working at McCall's and then at Penthouse/Omni where he was promoted to advertising director. He received funds from his grandfather Louis Silver and started a men's skin care products company known as " Solutions For Men." He subsequently launched a women's skin care company. He sold his interest in these enterprises and initially became an employee of Life Spring for about three years at which time he switched to a full-time independent contractor. He earned about $100, 000 per year plus bonuses and successfully trained thousands of people. He returned to work with Lou Dobbs at CBB and developed CNN Financial News Network in 1995. He stayed at CNN until 1999. He then went to work for Edelman Public Relations as an independent contractor. He created and established his own company known as " Source Management, Inc." in approximately 2000.
The wife has had a very successful career. While both parties have experienced physical ailments there is no evidence that either party is physically unable to maintain substantial gainful employment. The parties initially lived in New York City until October of 1997 and then moved to Scarsdale. In 1999 the parties moved into their 158 Twin Lanes Road, Fairfield residence. The wife has had an interesting and rewarding employment history. After a short stint at N.W. Ayer Advertising she worked in advertising in Manhattan. She also worked with the DeBeers Diamond account. She then went to work for Harry Winston and made arrangements for childcare. When husband was absent she cared for the children on weekends. She worked for Harry Winston for several years and then obtained employment at Curtco Media. She developed a knowledge and understanding of jewelry. She subsequently created and pursued an opportunity to develop a new television show on the Home Shopping Network (HSN). She formed a single member LLC named Luxury Brand Advisors, LLC and in April 2009 she entered into a marketing and service agreement with HSN.
The Court has carefully considered the parties' income, assets, expenses and liabilities in entering its orders. It has also considered the criteria set forth in Sec. 46b-81 and 46b-82, Connecticut General Statutes in entering its orders with the exception of the causes for dissolution of the marriage.
Dissolution of marriage : The Court finds that it has the requisite jurisdiction that neither party has received any support from the State of Connecticut that all statutory stays have expired and the parties' marriage has irretrievably broken down. The marriage is dissolved.
Custody and Parenting Plan : The Court adopts the well thought out parenting plan of April 29, 2014 subject to the following modification;
If the wife is unable to personally engage in and use her parenting time with either one or both of the minor children during her parenting time as set forth in the Plan, then she shall notify the husband as per the terms of the said Plan and offer him the right to exercise her parenting time with either one or both of the minor children, as applicable. If the husband accepts the offer to utilize the wife's parenting time, then the husband shall have physical custody of the said child or children for the full period of time allocated to the wife at that time. The husband's acceptance of any such offer of parenting time from the wife shall not be subject to or predicated upon the husband having to compensate the wife in any manner, whether by agreeing to provide the wife with additional parenting time, exchanging parenting time or giving up his time to the wife.
The parties shall use Annette Lynch as the adult supervisor for either one or both of the minor children due to the fact that she has had an extended period of caring for the children and is knowledgeable about them and the family. If Annette Lynch is not available or ceases to accept such position or employment, then the parties shall use a suitable and qualified adult of mature years who has had substantial experience as a care giver for children or adolescents, who is in good health and who is not on any state or Federal registry for sex offenders or child abuse.
Neither the minor children shall be left alone without adult supervision for any extended period of time while they are subject to the authority of this Court.
The wife shall maintain medical insurance for the benefit of the children until each child attains the age of 23.
The husband shall be afforded all of the rights under § 46b-84. The wife shall provide the husband with a duplicate copy of any medical or dental benefit cards for his processing of any claims.
Alimony : The wife shall pay the husband alimony of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10, 000) per month unless subsequently modified. This sum is based on her present income and current assets. The foregoing shall be paid on the first day of each month subsequent to the date of this judgment. All payments shall be made by direct deposit. The alimony shall be paid until the death of either party, the remarriage of or entry into a civil union by either party or if a court determines there is a basis to modify the orders of this Court under 46b-86(b), Conn. Gen. Stats.
Earning Capacity of the Husband : The Court is satisfied after hearing all of the evidence that the husband has a significant earning capacity. He has the capacity to earn an income as a successful motivational speaker, as an interior designer; and as a venturesome project manager. The evidence is clear. The husband testified that he recently worked as a motivational speaker and the rate he charged for a five-day seminar as recently as 2013 was $6, 000. For three seminars he conducted in 2013, he charged a total of $18, 000. Therefore, he can realistically be expected to earn income in that range as a motivational speaker. In his financial affidavit Exhibit E, the husband represented his employment as " part time motivational speaker and interior design." During the trial there was extensive testimony regarding his development of the Hamptons house which he referred to as " a calling card for my design work." This was his " showcase." He testified that he decided to undertake interior design work as a " career move." The plaintiff described numerous recent jobs and the rates of compensation he received for interior design work. In 2010, he worked for a Westport couple and earned $7, 500 from that one job. In 2011, he worked on a family member's residence in Manhattan and earned management fees. In 2011 and 2012 he also worked on homes in Pound Ridge and Manhattan for which he earned $1, 500 and $4, 500 respectively. He also did extensive work for family members as a project manager and according to his financial affidavit his mother pays him $5, 000 per month tax free. The Court has considered the husband's earning capacity and the regular recurring gifts from his wealthy family. The husband has no fixed schedule and with his background and training is able to find regular and gainful employment.
Child Support : Pursuant to the Connecticut General Statutes and the decisions of the Connecticut Supreme Court both parents must support their children and when calculating the amount of child support pursuant to the guidelines the Court must begin with actual income not imputed income of the parties.
Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84(a) provides in pertinent part:
Upon or subsequent to the annulment or dissolution of any marriage or the entry of a decree of legal separation or divorce, the parents of a minor child of the marriage, shall maintain the child according to their respective abilities, if the child is in need of maintenance.
In Maturo v. Maturo, 296 Conn. 80, 995 A.2d 1 (2010) and Misthopoulos v. Misthopoulos, 297 Conn. 358, 999 A.2d 721 (2010) the Connecticut Supreme Court repeatedly emphasized this principle. Very recently in Fox v. Fox, 152 Conn.App. 611, 99 A.3d 1206 (Decided 9/9/14), the Appellate Court found reversible error where the trial court began its calculation of the amount of child support pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines based on the " imputed" income of the defendant. As the Court noted, " the [trial] court should have begun its calculation with the actual income of the parties." Id. The Appellate Court held that " imputed income" may be considered as a deviation criterion. Id.
A fundamental principle underlying the wife's Claims for Relief is that orders for child support must be based on the current " net" incomes of the parties. Ludgin v. McGowan, 64 Conn.App. 355, 780 A.2d 198 (2001); Morris v. Morris, 262 Conn. 299, 811 A.2d 1283 (2003).
In Maturo v. Maturo, 296 Conn. 80, 995 A.2d 1 (2010) and Misthopoulos v. Misthopoulos, 297 Conn. 358, 999 A.2d 721 (2010) the Connecticut Supreme Court established principles that govern the determination of the amount of shield support in so-called " high income" cases. Regarding the limitations upon the discretion of the trial court's authority to issue Orders in cases such as the present where the combined income of the parties exceeds $4, 000 per week, the Supreme Court in Maturo v. Maturo specifically held:
The effect of unrestrained child support awards in high income cases is a potential windfall that transfers wealth from one spouse to another or from one spouse to the children under the guise of child support. In the present case, the award of 20 percent of the defendant's indeterminate annual bonus without justification relating to the characteristics or needs of the children closely resembles the " disguise[d] alimony" this court disapproved of in Brown v. Brown, 190 Conn. 345, 349, 460 A.2d 1287 (1983).
The sole basis for the husband's Claim for Relief dated July 3, 2014 is the " projected" income of the wife. The husband originally failed to include his own income in the calculation of child support until the last day of trial when he submitted a calculation of child support and included the income shown on his financial affidavit.
Before appropriate deviation criteria as set forth in the Child Support Guidelines and the ruling in Maturo v. Maturo, supra, 296 Conn. 80 (2010) the combined weekly net income of the parties and their respective pro-rata share of that combined total is as follows:
Plaintiff $60, 000/yr $1, 154/wk 13% Pro Rata Share
Defendant $411, 164/yr $7, 907/wk 87% Pro Rata Share
TOTAL $471, 164/yr $9, 061/wk
Based on the Supreme Court's holding in Maturo, the maximum presumptively correct amount of child support pursuant to the Guidelines is ...