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Ferraro v. Ferraro

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 4, 2016

CHRISTINE L. FERRARO
v.
DAVID FERRARO, JR.

          Argued May 23, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Shah, J.

          John F. Morris, for the appellant (defendant).

          Michael D. Day, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Keller and Mullins, Js.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

         In this marital dissolution action, the defendant, David Ferraro, Jr., appeals from the judgment of the trial court with respect to the court's financial orders. The defendant claims that the court improperly (1) made factual findings with respect to his net income without evidentiary support, and (2) entered an order regarding expenses for the minor children's extracurricular activities when neither he nor the plaintiff, Christine L. Ferraro, had requested such an order. We agree with the defendant and, accordingly, reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the defendant's appeal. The court dissolved the parties' twenty-one year marriage on May 6, 2015. At the time of the dissolution, the parties had two minor children, ages fifteen and thirteen. In its memorandum of decision, the court found that the marriage had broken down irretrievably and attributed ‘‘greater responsibility to the plaintiff'' for ‘‘the collapse of their marital union . . . .''[1] The parties' custody and parenting agreement was approved by the court, Morgan, J., prior to the beginning of the two day trial, and was incorporated by reference into the judgment of dissolution by the court, Shah, J. With respect to the remaining issues, the court entered financial orders for child support, alimony, and the division of property. The plaintiff was awarded periodic alimony for a period of twelve years. The defendant was ordered to pay $500 per week for the first two years and $450 per week for the remaining ten years. The defendant was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $310 per week in accordance with the child support guidelines worksheet dated April 28, 2015, which had been prepared by or at the direction of the court. The alimony and child support orders were based on the court's factual findings that the defendant's weekly net income was $1408, and the plaintiff's imputed weekly net income was $428.[2] In addition to other orders relating to, inter alia, health insurance, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, and the division of the defendant's pension benefits, the court entered an order for the sharing of expenses for the children's extracurricular activities.

         The defendant filed a motion for reconsideration and reargument on May 18, 2015, claiming that the court's orders were ‘‘inconsistent with the evidence'' and failed to leave the defendant with sufficient income for his living expenses. The defendant additionally claimed that the order for extracurricular activity expenses was improper because neither party had requested such an order. The court denied the defendant's motion without explanation. This appeal followed.

         The defendant filed his appeal on June 25, 2015. On July 29, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for articulation, requesting, inter alia, that the trial court articulate (1) the reason for using a child support guidelines worksheet prepared by a family services supervisor to determine net income rather than the evidence submitted by the parties at trial, (2) the evidential sources for the court's ‘‘figures used for taxes and deductions, '' and (3) the reason the court failed to include its alimony award as an income source for the plaintiff when it calculated how the uninsured health care costs for the minor children were to be divided between the parties.

         On September 4, 2015, the court granted the defendant's motion and provided the following articulation of its orders: (1) ‘‘the court had the appropriate child support guidelines worksheet . . . prepared based on evidence and testimony provided at trial''; (2) ‘‘the court based all of its findings on evidence and testimony provided at trial, including the financial affidavits provided by the parties . . . and used family law software provided by the judicial branch'' as sources for the figures on the worksheet for taxes and deductions; and (3) upon further review of the court's worksheet, the court ‘‘modifie[d]'' its orders with respect to the allocation of unreimbursed medical expenses. Attached to the court's September 4, 2015 order was a child support guidelines worksheet dated September 4, 2015, which included assumptions regarding the number of personal and dependent exemptions for each party, itemized deductions, refundable credits and tax deductions. The defendant did not file a motion for review of the trial court's articulation with this court, nor did he amend his appeal to include an issue relative to the court's modification of the original judgment of dissolution in the September 4, 2015 articulation.[3]

         ‘‘The standard of review in family matters is well settled. An appellate court will not disturb a trial court's orders in domestic relations cases unless the court has abused its discretion or it is found that it could not reasonably conclude as it did, based on the facts presented. . . . 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. . . . Appellate review of a trial court' findings of fact is governed by the clearly erroneous standard of review. The trial court's findings are binding upon this court unless they are clearly erroneous in light of the evidence and the pleadings in the record as a whole. . . . A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when there is no evidence in the record to support it . . . or when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. . . . Therefore, to conclude that the trial court abused its discretion, we must find that the court either incorrectly applied the law or could not reasonably conclude as it did.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Mensah v. Mensah, 145 Conn.App. 644, 651-52, 75 A.3d 92 (2013).

         ‘‘We next note that our review of financial orders entered by a trial court in a dissolution matter is governed by the mosaic doctrine. Under the mosaic doctrine, financial orders should not be viewed as a collection of single disconnected occurrences, but rather as a seamless collection of interdependent elements. Consistent with that approach, our courts have utilized the mosaic doctrine as a remedial device that allows reviewing courts to remand cases for reconsideration of all financial orders even though the review process might reveal a flaw only in the alimony, ...


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