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Bauer v. Bauer

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 6, 2017

MARY L. BAUER
v.
JEFFREY W. BAUER

          Argued January 10, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Olear, J. [dissolution judgment]; Ficeto, J. [motion for modification; motion for contempt; articulation]

          James M. Ruel, with whom, on the brief, was Joshua Feldman, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Steven R. Dembo, with whom, on the brief, were Caitlin E. Kozloski and P. Joanne Burgh, for the appellee (defendant).

          Alvord, Sheldon and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The plaintiff, Mary L. Bauer, appeals from the postjudgment rulings of the trial court denying her motion for contempt and granting the motion of the defendant, Jeffrey W. Bauer, for modification of his alimony obligation.[1] The plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) determined that the defendant's failure to pay court-ordered alimony was not wilful, (2) failed to conclude that the defendant's conduct was culpable when considering his motion for modification, and (3) failed to admit certain evidence that she offered relative to the criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-82.[2]We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. The parties were married on October 20, 1985; their son was born in 1994. On December 18, 2008, the plaintiff filed a marital dissolution action on the ground that the marriage had broken down irretrievably. On May 23, 2011, the court, Olear, J., rendered judgment dissolving the parties' marriage. The judgment incorporated by reference a ‘‘divorce settlement agreement'' (agreement) dated May 20, 2011.

         Section 5.1of the agreement provides in relevant part: ‘‘[The defendant] shall pay to [the plaintiff] alimony of $10, 417 per month, payable semimonthly in accord with his employment pay schedule. . . . Alimony in this section 5 is based on annual gross income of [the defendant] of $436, 000 and $32, 500 for [the plaintiff].''[3]Section 5.7 of the agreement provides that ‘‘[t]he amount of all alimony in this section 5 shall be modifiable upon a substantial change in the circumstances of the parties.'' In addition to other provisions, the agreement included an attached exhibit B, which set forth the parties' assets at the time of the dissolution and the equal distribution of those assets.

         Since 2002, the defendant had been employed by Citco Fund Services as its ‘‘global head of connectivity.'' On or about December 11, 2013, without any prior notification, he was informed that his employment was terminated as of that date because of a restructuring of his department. His employer provided severance pay from the date of his termination until September 15, 2014. The defendant continued to pay his court-ordered alimony until he no longer received his severance pay.

         On August 1, 2014, the defendant filed a postjudgment motion for the modification of his alimony obligation on the ground that his employment had terminated and his severance pay was to end in approximately six weeks. He stopped paying alimony when his severance pay ended. On October 15, 2014, the plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion for contempt against the defendant, alleging nonpayment of the court-ordered alimony payments; she amended her motion on February 23, 2015.

         The court scheduled a hearing on the parties' motions. On December 18, 2014, and March 2, 2015, the court, Ficeto, J., heard testimony from the plaintiff and the defendant and admitted forty-nine full exhibits. Following the hearing, the parties submitted briefs summarizing their respective positions. On April 16, 2015, the court issued its memorandum of decision in which it denied the plaintiff's motion for contempt and reduced the defendant's monthly payment of alimony to $2500. The plaintiff filed a motion for reargument and reconsideration of the court's decision, which was denied by the court without discussion on July 1, 2015. This appeal followed.

         I

         The plaintiff's first claim is that ‘‘[t]he trial court's determination that the defendant was not in contempt of court, despite the admission of clear and convincing evidence[4] that his failure to pay court-ordered alimony to the plaintiff was wilful, was an abuse of discretion.'' Specifically, she argues that the defendant admitted that he did not pay alimony from September, 2014, through the ...


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