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Bolat v. Bolat

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 5, 2018

JEAN-PIERRE BOLAT
v.
YUMI S. BOLAT

          Argued January 8, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action for the dissolution of a marriage, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven and tried to the court, Abery-Wet-stone, J.; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief; thereafter, the court, Gould, J., denied the plaintiff's motion for child support and granted the defendant's motion for contempt, and the plaintiff appealed to this court. Reversed; further proceedings.

          Steven R. Dembo, with whom, were Caitlin E. Kozloski and, on the brief, P. Jo Anne Burgh, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Richard W. Callahan, for the appellee (defendant).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Devlin, Js.

          OPINION

          DIPENTIMA, C. J.

         The plaintiff, Jean-Pierre Bolat, appeals from certain postdissolution orders denying his motion for child support and finding him in contempt. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the court erred in (1) denying his motion for child support and in finding no substantial change in the parties' financial circumstances since the date of judgment despite an increase in the income of the defendant, Yumi S. Bolat, and (2) finding him in contempt for failing to pay extracurricular activity expenses. We agree with the plaintiff as to both claims and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts are relevant to the resolution of the issues on appeal. The plaintiff and the defendant were married on September 21, 1998, in Harpswell, Maine. At the time the parties met and married, the plaintiff was an active duty officer in the Navy. The defendant is a Japanese national. The parties have three children: a son born in 1999, a son born in 2001, and a daughter born in 2003. The parties raised their children in Japan until the breakup of their marriage in 2010. Thereafter, the plaintiff moved to Connecticut with the children, where they have resided since that time. The defendant followed the family to Connecticut. She initially entered the United States on a visitor's visa but eventually was granted her green card.

         In 2010, the plaintiff instituted this action for dissolution of marriage. On June 21, 2011, the court, Abery-Wetstone, J., rendered a judgment of dissolution, which incorporated the parties' separation agreement and parenting plan-final custody stipulation (parenting plan). According to the parenting plan, the plaintiff would have sole legal and primary physical custody of the three minor children. Pursuant to the separation agreement, the parties agreed that, on the basis of the total coordination of family finances, and because the plaintiff was unemployed and receiving only retired military pay, there would be no order of child support. The separation agreement also provided that the parties would share agreed upon extracurricular expenses for the minor children and that each party would notify the other of any change in his or her employment status or income. Finally, the parties acknowledged that, due to a qualifying disability pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-84c, their elder son was entitled to receive child support until he attained the age of twenty-one years.

         The parties filed financial affidavits at the time of the dissolution. The plaintiff's financial affidavit, filed June 21, 2011, reflected a gross weekly income of $830.46 and a net weekly income of $709.59. The defendant's affidavit, filed June 21, 2011, reflected a gross weekly income of $134 and a net weekly income of $181.[1]

         On September 6, 2013, the defendant filed a motion seeking, inter alia, to modify the custody orders. The defendant filed a financial affidavit, dated March 20, 2014, reflecting a total gross weekly income of $1150 and a total net weekly income of $901. On July 15, 2014, the court, Munro, J., denied the defendant's motion.

         On August 13, 2014, the plaintiff, as a self-represented party, filed a motion for modification form (JD-FM-174) in which he identified the ‘‘[r]ecent decision by Judge Munro and loss of employment'' as substantial changes in circumstances warranting the modification of child support. While the plaintiff's motion for modification was pending, the defendant filed a motion seeking to hold the plaintiff in contempt for his failure to pay his share of extracurricular activities. Following a hearing on March 2, 2015, the court, Gould, J., denied the plaintiff's motion for modification, finding that there was no substantial change in circumstances warranting an order of child support. The court also found the plaintiff in wilful contempt of a prior court order. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiff owed the defendant for approximately 50 percent of all extracurricular activities for the minor children in the amount of $847.99. The plaintiff then filed the present appeal.

         I

         The plaintiff first claims that the trial court erred in finding no substantial change of circumstances and denying the motion for child support where the evidence clearly established that the defendant's income had increased significantly. Specifically, the plaintiff argues that the court should have reviewed the exhibits submitted with the motion and the parties' then current financial affidavits prior to concluding that no substantial change in circumstances had occurred. We agree.

         We first set forth our standard of review. ‘‘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.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted). O'Donnell v. Bozzuti, 148 Conn.App. 80, 82- 83, 84 A.3d 479 (2014). ‘‘Notwithstanding the great deference accorded the trial court in dissolution proceedings, a trial court's ruling . . . may be ...


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