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Keusch v. Keusch

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 18, 2018


          Argued January 2, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action for the dissolution of a marriage, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk and tried to the court, Tin-dill, J.; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief, from which the defendant appealed to this court; thereafter, the court, Tindill, J., denied the defendant's motion for articulation; subsequently, this court granted the defendant's motion for review but denied the relief requested; thereafter, the court, Tindill, J., issued an articulation of its decision. Reversed in part; further proceedings.

          Gaetano Ferro, with whom, on the brief, was Olivia M. Hebenstreit, for the appellant (defendant).

          Yakov Pyetranker, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Sheldon, Elgo and Stevens, Js.


          STEVENS, J.

         The defendant, Kenneth Keusch, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dissolving his marriage to the plaintiff, Lisa Keusch, and entering related financial orders. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court (1) erroneously computed his presumptive minimum child support obligation and (2) abused its discretion by ordering the defendant to pay nonmodifiable unallocated alimony and support.[1]We agree with the defendant and, accordingly, we reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as found by the trial court, and procedural history are relevant to our consideration of the issues raised on appeal. The plaintiff and the defendant were married on July 19, 1997. They are the parents of three minor children. By complaint dated February 26, 2014, the plaintiff sought, inter alia, dissolution of the parties' marriage, custody of the minor children, and temporary and permanent alimony and child support. On June 21, 2016, following a trial over several days on financial and property issues, the court dissolved the parties' marriage. In its memorandum of decision, the court ordered, inter alia, that the defendant pay unallocated alimony and support to the plaintiff in the amount of $12, 500 per month ‘‘until the death of either party, the [p]laintiff's remarriage, or November 3, 2025, whichever shall occur first.''[2] The duration and the amount to be paid were nonmodifiable by either party. The court indicated that it was deviating from the child support guidelines' (guidelines) presumptive support amount of $752 per week ‘‘based on the extraordinary disparity in income and the provision of alimony.'' The defendant then filed the present appeal.

         Before addressing the merits of the defendant's claims, we first set forth the applicable standard of review in domestic relations matters. ‘‘[T]his court will not disturb trial court orders unless the trial court has abused its legal discretion or its findings have no reasonable basis in the facts. . . . As has often been explained, the foundation for this standard is that the trial court is in a clearly advantageous position to assess the personal factors significant to a domestic relations case. . . . 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. . . . Notwithstanding the great deference accorded the trial court in dissolution proceedings, a trial court's ruling . . . may be reversed if, in the exercise of its discretion, the trial court applies the wrong standard of law.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) LeSueur v. LeSueur, 172 Conn.App. 767, 774, 162 A.3d 32 (2017).

         ‘‘Individual financial orders in a dissolution action are part of the carefully crafted mosaic that comprises the entire asset reallocation plan. . . . 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, property distribution or child support awards.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Barcelo v. Barcelo, 158 Conn.App. 201, 226, 118 A.3d 657, cert. denied, 319 Conn. 910, 123 A.3d 882 (2015).

         Guided by these principles, we will address the defendant's claims on appeal.


         We first consider the defendant's claim that the court erroneously computed his minimum child support obligation. Specifically, the defendant argues that the court erred in calculating his presumptive child support obligation on the basis of his earning capacity rather than his actual earnings. He contends that the court did not calculate the amount of child support that would have been required based ...

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