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Brochard v. Brochard

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 2, 2018

THOMAS BROCHARD
v.
BRITT BROCHARD

          Argued April 12, 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 transferred to the Regional Family Trial Docket at Middletown, where the matter was tried to the court, Gordon, J.; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief; thereafter, the court issued certain orders; subsequently, the defendant filed a motion for contempt; thereafter, the court, Gould, J., declined to rule on a certain issue related to the defendant's motion for contempt; subsequently, the court, Gould, J., denied the defendant's motion to reargue, and the defendant appealed to this court; thereafter, the court, Gould, J., denied the defendant's motions for contempt and for modification of the allocation of the parties' payments of certain guardian ad litem fees, and granted the plaintiff's motion for modification of child support and the defendant's motion for contempt as to certain alimony payments; subsequently, the defendant filed an amended appeal; thereafter, the court, Gould, J., granted the defendant's motion to reargue and issued certain orders; subsequently, the defendant filed a second appeal with this court; thereafter, the court, Gould, J., modified its order of child support; subsequently, this court reversed the judgment with respect to the first appeal and remanded the case for further proceedings. Affirmed.

          Britt Brochard, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Thomas Brochard, self-represented, the appellee (plaintiff).

          Keller, Prescott and Bright, Js.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

         The defendant, Britt Brochard, appeals from the postdissolution judgment of the trial court rendered after a hearing on financial issues raised by the parties in multiple motions for contempt and modification.[1] The self-represented defendant's brief is not a model of clarity, [2] but after a thorough review of the record and the parties' briefs, we have divined that the defendant claims that the court erred in (1) denying her motion for contempt alleging that the plaintiff, Thomas Brochard, had failed to pay his share of the minor children's medical and extracurricular activity expenses; (2) denying her motion for contempt alleging that the plaintiff had violated orders related to the mortgage on the former marital home; (3) denying her motion for contempt alleging that the plaintiff had failed to pay her one half of the amounts of 2010 tax refunds he received; (4) denying her motion for modification of the court's order allocating the parties' obligation pertaining to payment of the guardian ad litem's fees; (5) granting the plaintiff's motion for modification of child support, thereby decreasing his obligation, and failing to consider her cross motion for modification, which sought an increase in the amount of child support; and (6) granting her motion for contempt regarding certain alimony payments, but failing to order the plaintiff to pay her the full amount she was owed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as determined by multiple judges who have presided over pertinent proceedings in this case, and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. On July 6, 2011, the court, Gordon, J., dissolved the parties' marriage. In its memorandum of decision, the court found that the parties were married on August 27, 1995, in Ridgefield. They have two children, born in 1997 and 1999.[3] The plaintiff initiated the divorce action in 2008, following the parties' separation. The court found that the marriage had irretrievably broken down and issued the following orders relevant to this appeal. It ordered the plaintiff to pay to the defendant child support in the amount of $342 per week, in accordance with the child support guidelines, on the basis of his yearly income of $85, 441.72. It also ordered that he maintain medical and dental insurance for the benefit of the minor children if such insurance coverage was available through his employment. Additionally, the court ordered each of the parties to pay 50 percent of all unreimbursed, uninsured health related expenses for the minor children. The defendant was to submit the bill or statement for such expenses to the plaintiff within one week of receipt, and he was to pay it within one week. Each of the parties was responsible for one half of all reasonably incurred extracurricular expenses for the children. The court further ordered that the plaintiff pay to the defendant alimony of $350 per week until the earliest to occur of the following events: the death of either party, the remarriage of the defendant, June 30, 2021, or as otherwise provided for by law. The court stated that its order was subject to immediate wage withholding. As additional alimony, and subject to the same termination contingencies as the weekly order of alimony, the plaintiff was to pay, quarterly, 30 percent of all gross income earned from wages, self-employment, commissions, incentives, bonuses or other payment plan in excess of $90, 000 per year ($22, 500 per quarter), but less than $150, 000 per year, and 20 percent of any such amounts between $150, 000 and $200, 000 per year. Every quarter, the plaintiff was to forward to the defendant proof of his earnings for the previous quarter together with any payment due. The court ordered the parties to file a joint tax return for 2010. The plaintiff was responsible for any taxes due and owing for that year, and any refund would be divided equally. The court awarded all right, title and interest in the marital home to the defendant, who would be responsible for all costs associated with the home.

         The court also approved and incorporated into the judgment the terms of a parenting agreement between the parties dated March 25, 2011, which established joint legal custody of the children with primary residence with the defendant.

         Protracted postdissolution proceedings commenced almost immediately after the court rendered the judgment of dissolution. In setting forth some of the postdissolution procedural history, we rely, in part, on our earlier opinion in Brochard v. Brochard, 165 Conn.App. 626, 140 A.3d 254 (2016) (Brochard I).

         ‘‘On July 20, 2011, the defendant filed a postjudgment motion for order, alleging that the plaintiff had not made payments on the mortgage on the family home since March, 2011. The mortgage was solely in his name. The defendant requested that ‘the plaintiff be required to bring the mortgage current, including all attorneys' fees and other charges.' In the alternative, the defendant move[d] that the plaintiff be required to immediately provide the bank with authorization to speak directly to the defendant, timely file all necessary paperwork in the foreclosure action to allow the parties to participate in the foreclosure mediation . . . attend the foreclosure mediation sessions along with the defendant, and . . . agree to any resolution the defendant comes to with the bank.'' Id., 629. The plaintiff objected to this motion.

         Judge Gordon heard the motion for order, granting it in part and denying it in part, on August 12, 2011. The nature of these orders is discussed more thoroughly in part II A of this opinion.

         On February 5, 2013, the plaintiff filed a motion to modify custody and child support, to which the defendant objected. The plaintiff claimed a substantial change in circumstances making it in the children's best interests for him to have primary physical custody and also sought a modification of his child support obligation. On April 26, 2013, the defendant filed a motion for modification seeking an increase in the child support order. On May 2, 2013, the parties agreed in writing that the plaintiff's motion would not go forward, but further agreed that he could seek retroactivity of any subsequent order(s) regarding child support. That written agreement was approved and made an order of the court. It indicates: ‘‘The [plaintiff's] motion to modify child support shall go off with orders retroactive to today. However, the [plaintiff] retains the right to seek retroactivity to the [date of] filing of the motion.''[4]

         Also on May 2, 2013, as part of the same written agreement the parties agreed that a guardian ad litem would be appointed for the parties' then two minor children. They agreed that the percentage of payment for the guardian ad litem's legal fees would be argued upon completion of some outstanding discovery. Attorney Susan E. Nugent was appointed as guardian ad litem. On May 24, 2013, the defendant moved that the plaintiff be ordered to pay the entirety of Nugent's fees. On February 6, 2014, the court, Munro, J., ordered that the plaintiff pay 80 percent and the defendant pay 20 percent of Nugent's fees. Judge Munro found that Nugent's fees totaled $5400, and that the plaintiff already had paid $2500 toward that amount as a retainer. The defendant had paid nothing despite Nugent's request of a similar retainer from her. The court ordered that the plaintiff would be responsible for $4320 and that the defendant would be responsible for $1080. Both parties were ordered to make payments to Nugent within fourteen days.

         On June 16, 2014, the defendant moved for an order reallocating the percentage payment obligations ordered by Judge Munro, alleging that she did not have sufficient income or assets to continue to pay her 20 percent share. The plaintiff objected to the defendant's motion for order and requested that either the defendant pay all of Nugent's fees, or, in the alternative, that the parties continue to pay pursuant to Judge Munro's allocated order.

         On April 26, 2013, the defendant filed a motion for contempt with respect to the payment of medical and activity expenses, claiming that the plaintiff had failed to pay his 50 percent share of some of the children's extracurricular expenses and unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, which he was required to pay pursuant to the parenting agreement.

         On April 16, 2014, the defendant filed a motion to compel, which supplemented an earlier motion to compel she had filed on March 24, 2014 claiming, inter alia, that the plaintiff should be ordered to pay her one half of the federal and state tax refunds he had received for the year 2010 and to reimburse her for an estimated tax payment she made that year, which she claimed was ordered by Judge Gordon in the dissolution judgment.

         ‘‘On November 13, 2013, the defendant filed a motion for contempt, claiming that the plaintiff had violated Judge Gordon's August 12, 2011 order [with respect to the mortgage on the marital home] by, inter alia, failing to execute an authorization allowing the defendant to speak with and represent the plaintiff with the mortgage loan holder, Wells Fargo, as the mortgage has been in the name of the plaintiff solely; said authorization to make [the] defendant the plaintiff's authorized agent for conversing, negotiating, entering into an agreement, all that kind of stuff with Wells Fargo to modify the mortgage loan to avoid foreclosure. Said authorization was to be specific that she has the authority.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Brochard I, supra, 165 Conn.App. 631.

         In this contempt motion, the defendant further claimed that she had successfully renegotiated the mortgage loan, cancelled all the late fees and reduced the monthly payments, but that the plaintiff deliberately had interfered and caused the renegotiated plan to be cancelled, thereby forcing imminent foreclosure of the home. She further alleged that the plaintiff had violated other orders of Judge Gordon that he would be responsible for any attorney's fees, interest and/or penalties relating to any foreclosure action on the marital home, that he provide the defendant with any documentation he received from the lender bank, and that he bring the outstanding mortgage on the family home current for the months of March through July, 2011.

         ‘‘The defendant's motion for contempt [regarding the mortgage] was heard by the court, Munro, J., on November 14, 2013. Judge Munro examined an authorization agreement drafted by the defendant's attorney and asked if the plaintiff consented to it. The plaintiff's attorney replied that he did not, due to language that stated that the defendant would ‘have full and complete authority to negotiate, agree and execute proposed settlements with said mortgage[e].' The plaintiff was concerned that this language would permit the defendant to extend the term of the mortgage, thereby further tying up his ability to obtain a new mortgage for a house of his own. The court subsequently told the defendant that ‘if he signs something that allows you to negotiate, it should not be something that puts him on the hook for any more liability than he has now. Do you understand that?' The defendant replied that she believed that the intent of Judge Gordon's order was to allow modification of the loan, and that Judge Munro should consult the full transcript containing Judge Gordon's order. Thereupon, Judge Munro stated: ‘I'm going to stop. I hear you. This is a complicated problem. It's not going to be dealt with on short calendar with an audience full of people waiting. I'm going to give you a three day hearing, and this will be rolled into the three day hearing.' Following the short calendar hearing, on November 26, 2013, the plaintiff filed an objection to the defendant's motion for contempt, attaching an authorization form and asserting that ‘Judge Munro has already told the defendant that Judge Gordon did not intend that the defendant could expand the plaintiff's exposure under the new mortgage.'

         ‘‘The case subsequently was transferred to the regional family trial docket. At a hearing on February 6, 2014, regarding the transfer, Judge Munro asked, ‘[a]ll right, and the motions I sent to regional are motions regarding modification of custody. Any financial motions at all?' The defendant replied: ‘A number of financial motions, there's a motion outstanding for contempt on not paying half the children's expenses; contempt on medical expenses; contempt on alimony; [and] contempt on not signing the authorization for me to be able to modify the home.' Judge Munro stated, ‘I remember that.' The parties then began discussing the plaintiff's financial disclosure and did not mention the contempt motions further.

         ‘‘The court, Gould, J., held a hearing on various matters on June 10, 2014. After concluding the custody and visitation portion of the hearing, Judge Gould indicated that he intended to turn to financial issues. The defendant stated that she wished to proceed to the authorization issue. The plaintiff objected stating that he needed a few days to prepare. Judge Gould queried whether the authorization issue was before him or in the foreclosure court. The defendant replied that it was before him, after which Judge Gould stated that they would proceed with outstanding motions on financial issues at a later date.

         ‘‘The defendant filed a motion for an emergency hearing on August 1, 2014, in which she asserted that the court never returned to the authorization issue. This motion was heard by Judge Gould on September 11, 2014. Judge Gould stated that it was his understanding that there was a ruling that the authorization did not have to be provided. The defendant protested that Judge Munro's ruling indicated otherwise. Judge Gould then stated, ‘I'm not indicating [Judge Munro] ruled on [the authorization]. I'm indicating it was ruled on previously; it did not have to be provided.'

         ‘‘The defendant filed a motion to reargue on October 3, 2014, asserting that Judge Gould's ruling of September 11, 2014, was based on a misapprehension of fact. She contended that Judge Gould incorrectly believed that the motion for contempt regarding the authorization had previously been ruled on. . . .

         ‘‘Judge Gould considered the defendant's motion to reargue on November 6, 2014. He stated that ‘[t]his court said there was a prior ruling the authorization for modification of the mortgage would not have to be provided, and I have a specific recollection for issuing that order.' The plaintiff asserted that the issue had been decided by three judges . . . . The defendant asserted that the transcripts demonstrated that the issue had not been ruled on. The plaintiff quoted the statement by Judge Munro that the plaintiff should not be on the hook for more liability. Judge Gould then denied the defendant's motion to reargue with prejudice, noting that she could take an appeal if she chose.' '' (Footnotes omitted.) Id., 631-35. The defendant filed an appeal on November 24, 2014.

         Despite the pendency of the appeal in Brochard I, the defendant, rather than await a ruling by this court, persisted in seeking to have the trial court decide whether the plaintiff was in contempt for violating of Judge Gordon's August 12, 2011 order regarding authorization of a mortgage modification.

         The court, Gould, J., held a consolidated hearing and addressed all of the foregoing motions. The hearing took place on April 21, April 22, and July 10, 2015. On April 22, 2015, the defendant advised the court that she wanted to pursue the exact same contempt motion that the court had addressed on November 6, 2014, even though it was still the subject of an appeal. Although the plaintiff objected on the ground that this particular issue was still on appeal, the court permitted the defendant to present her claim that although she since had been able to assume the mortgage, the plaintiff was in contempt for not cooperating with her efforts to modify or assume the mortgage, and pursuant to Judge Gordon's August 12, 2011 orders, he was liable to her for costs, including interest, penalties, and fees she had incurred to prevent a foreclosure and eventually reinstate and assume the loan.

         On May 28, 2015, the defendant filed an addendum to her motion to modify child support. The court gave the parties three weeks to file additional information regarding the defendant's claim on the tax refund. The parties also were permitted to file posttrial briefs and attach additional ‘‘exhibits'' to them. At the July 10, 2015 hearing, the court denied the defendant's request to submit additional evidence, but it indicated that it was giving both parties the opportunity to reinforce their positions and arguments in their briefs.

         On September 28, 2015, Judge Gould issued a memorandum of decision that included a decision on the defendant's motion for contempt regarding the mortgage. Rather than marking the motion ‘‘off, '' as having previously been decided, he ruled on it. His decision does not reference the statement of Judge Gordon related to the authorization, but it did note that the plaintiff alleged that ‘‘ ‘the court, Munro, J., has previously ordered that the plaintiff did not have the duty to agree to a mortgage modification that would substantially increase the length of indebtedness to the bank.' [The court's decision also stated] that ‘[in] his objection, the plaintiff further alleges and provides evidence of a September 1, 2011 letter from his attorney to the defendant [that] enclosed the requested authorization referred to above, and further alleging that the defendant had been directly and actively dealing with the lender since September, 2011.' The decision concludes that ‘the recitation of the court's orders and findings made by the plaintiff to be accurate.' The undersigned also finds that the plaintiff provided the subject authorization to the defendant.'' Brochard I, supra, 165 Conn.App. 636.

         In addition to denying the defendant's motion for contempt concerning the mortgage on the marital home, in its September 28, 2015 decision, relevant to this appeal, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for modification of child support, granted the defendant's motion for contempt with respect to the payment of certain alimony payments, denied the defendant's motion to compel and to hold the plaintiff in contempt for failing to pay her half of the tax refunds he received for the year 2010, denied her motion to modify the allocation of the payment obligations for the guardian ad litem's fees, and denied her motion for contempt regarding the children's activities and unreimbursed medical expenses.[5]

         On October 19, 2015, the defendant amended her prior pending appeal in Brochard I, claiming error only in the court's consideration of the mortgage authorization issue. Prior to the filing of this appeal, this court heard oral argument on Brochard I. This court issued its decision on May 24, 2016, and reversed the judgment with respect to Judge Gould's conclusion that, due to prior court rulings, the plaintiff could not be held in contempt for failing to provide an adequate authorization. Id., 642. This court ruled that neither Judge Munro nor Judge Gould had ever afforded the defendant an opportunity to be heard on whether the plaintiff's proffered authorization met the requirements ordered by Judge Gordon and that the issue had never been decided. Id., 640. The case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing only on that issue, consistent with our opinion. Id., 642.

         Upon returning to the trial court, on November 2, 2016, the defendant, through counsel, filed a motion to reargue/reconsider twelve aspects of the court's decision. After a hearing on the motion to reargue/reconsider on February 11, 2016, the court ruled from the bench on several issues and later, on March 16, 2016, issued a memorandum of decision in which it altered its modified order of weekly child support payable by the plaintiff from $220 to $296, effective June 19, 2015, after hearing argument from the defendant that the court had made an error in the calculation of the plaintiff's net income. The court also corrected the amount it found that the plaintiff owed to the defendant for past due 2012 alimony, but denied all of the defendant's other requests to reconsider its decision.

         This appeal was filed on March 2, 2016. After filing this appeal, the defendant amended her then pending appeal in Brochard I to claim that the court erred in denying her motion for contempt relative to the mortgage authorization on September 28, 2015, because it failed to provide her with a full evidentiary hearing; the defendant has raised the identical claim in this appeal. Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

         I

         We first address the defendant's claim that the court erred in denying her motion for contempt alleging that the plaintiff had failed to pay his share of the minor children's medical and extracurricular activity expenses. Specifically, the defendant claims that the plaintiff owes her $242.50 for his share of nonemergency unreimbursed medical expenses and $2129.13 for his share of activity expenses that he is required to pay pursuant to the parties' parenting agreement of March 25, 2011.

         The defendant asserts that the court erred in not finding the plaintiff in contempt because it misinterpreted the parties' parenting agreement, which, thus, requires us to examine that document to ascertain the meaning of the terms contained therein. At the outset, we note that the applicable standard of review requires a two part inquiry. ‘‘First, we must determine whether the agreement entered into between the parties in conjunction with the dissolution of their marriage was clear and unambiguous. . . . Second, if we find that the court accurately assessed the intent of the parties regarding the [payment of medical and activity expenses for the minor children], we must then decide whether the court correctly determined that the [plaintiff] had [not] wilfully violated its terms.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Dowd v. Dowd, 96 Conn.App. 75, 79, 899 A.2d 76, cert. denied, 280 Conn. 907, 907 A.2d 89 (2006).

         Regarding the first inquiry, any agreement, including an agreement that is incorporated into a dissolution judgment is regarded as a contract. Accordingly, our resolution of the defendant's claim is guided by the general principles governing the construction of contracts. ‘‘A contract must be construed to effectuate the intent of the parties, which is determined from the language used interpreted in the light of the situation of the parties and the circumstances connected with the transaction. . . . [T]he intent of the parties is to be ascertained by a fair and reasonable construction of the written words and . . . the language used must be accorded its common, natural and ordinary meaning and usage where it can be sensibly applied to the subject matter of the contract.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Lisko v. Lisko, 158 Conn.App. 734, 738-39, 121 A.3d 722 (2015). ‘‘Where the language of the contract is clear and unambiguous, the contract is to be given effect according to its terms.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Tallmadge Bros., Inc. v. Iroquois Gas Transmission System, L.P., 252 Conn. 479, 498, 746 A.2d 1277 (2000). ‘‘Although ordinarily the question of contract interpretation, being a question of the parties' intent, is a question of fact . . . [when] there is definitive contract language, the determination of what the parties intended by their . . . commitments is a question of law [over which our review is plenary].'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Bristol v. Ocean State Job Lot Stores of Connecticut, Inc., 284 Conn. 1, 7, 931 A.2d 837 (2007).

         The ‘‘determination as to whether language of a contract is plain and unambiguous is a question of law subject to plenary review.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Perez v. Carlevaro, 158 Conn.App. 716, 722, 120 A.3d 1265 (2015). ‘‘A court will not torture words to import ambiguity where the ordinary meaning leaves no room for ambiguity . . . . Similarly, any ambiguity in a contract must emanate from the language used in the contract rather than from one party's subjective perception of the terms.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Eckert v. Eckert, 285 Conn. 687, 692, 941 A.2d 301 (2008).

         As to the second inquiry, ‘‘[a] finding of indirect civil contempt must be established by sufficient proof that is premised upon competent evidence presented to the trial court . . . . A finding of contempt is a factual finding. . . . We will reverse that finding only if we conclude the trial court abused its discretion.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Legnos v. Legnos, 70 Conn.App. 349, 352-53, 797 A.2d 1184, cert. denied, 261 Conn. 911, 806 A.2d 48 (2002). To the extent that the defendant challenges the factual findings the court relied on in making its determination that the plaintiff was not in contempt, ‘‘we apply our clearly erroneous standard, which is the well settled standard for reviewing a trial court's factual findings.'' Id., 353 n.2. The defendant, as the party seeking a finding of indirect civil contempt, has the burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that the plaintiff violated an order of the court. See Brody v. Brody, 315 Conn. 300, 318-19, 105 A.3d 887 (2015).

         We first examine the language of the parenting agreement. The provisions of the parties' parenting agreement concerning the children's unreimbursed medical expenses and activities include paragraph 1, which states, in pertinent part: ‘‘It shall be the intent of the joint [legal] custody arrangement to allow each parent to have a full and active role in providing a sound social, economic, educational, religious and moral environment for the minor children.[6] To this end, the [defendant] shall consult with the [plaintiff] on all non-emergency matters affecting the health, safety, welfare and education of the minor children, before such decisions involving the minor children are taken. These matters shall include, but not be limited to, such substantial issues as educational programs, camp, extracurricular activities and medical treatment, etc. If the [plaintiff] disagrees on the resolution of the issue, the parties shall seek the assistance of a co-parenting therapist (chosen by the guardian ad litem) in an effort to resolve the disputed issue. . . . The parties shall adhere to the following procedures when dealing with a disputed issue:

‘‘a. After discussion, the [defendant] shall indicate to the [plaintiff] her final decision. The [plaintiff] shall within twenty-four hours, inform the [defendant] that he wishes to trigger the co-parenting therapy requirement.
‘‘b. The [plaintiff] shall make an initial joint appointment with the therapist, said appointment to take place within seven days of the time of his trigger to this provision.
‘‘c. At the conclusion of the initial appointment, and at the recommendation of the therapist, the parties may meet for a second appointment, within seven days.
‘‘If the parties are unable to reach a joint decision after the meeting with the therapist, the [defendant] shall be allowed to make the final decision. The plaintiff . . . may elect to have a court hearing on the issue; however, this shall not delay the [defendant] from making the decision prior to any hearing.'' (Footnote added.)

         Also relevant to the children's activities is paragraph 5 of the parenting agreement, which states, in pertinent part: ‘‘The parties shall enroll the children in agreed upon activities for the children and shall share the cost of the same. Consent for the children to participate in an activity shall not be unreasonably withheld.''

         We first address the defendant's claim that the plaintiff violated his obligation to share equally the cost of the children's unreimbursed medical expenses. The defendant is seeking an order requiring the plaintiff to reimburse her for $42.50 for eye examinations and/or corrective lenses by Shoreline Eye Associates, P.C., and $200 for a psychiatric consultation with a Dr. Paul ElFishawy. She claims that the court misinterpreted the parenting agreement and thus made an ‘‘unwarranted modification'' of the terms of the dissolution judgment. The defendant contends that the plaintiff agreed to these treatments, and even if he did not, the parenting agreement does not require her to notify and obtain the consent of the plaintiff before incurring expenses for nonemergency medical treatment or activities for the children. We disagree.

         A plain reading of the applicable provisions in the parenting agreement, according the language its common, natural and ordinary meaning and usage, is that it obligates the defendant to notify the plaintiff of her intent to seek nonemergency medical treatment for the children. Only after the plaintiff has been given prior notice and, after some discussion, indicates that he disagrees, can the defendant make a decision. Once that occurs, the plaintiff has twenty-four hours to inform the defendant that he wants to continue to dispute that decision and trigger the coparenting therapy requirement. If he does so, and the appointment takes place within seven days and the parties are still unable to reach a joint decision, the defendant is then allowed to make the final decision and incur the contested expense, subject to the plaintiff's right to return to court for a final resolution if he so chooses.

         The court correctly determined that paragraph 1 of the parenting agreement required the defendant to consult with the plaintiff regarding all nonemergency matters affecting the health, safety, welfare and education of the minor children, before any decisions involving the minor children were made by the defendant. These matters included educational programming, extracurricular activities and nonemergency medical treatment. The court found that the record was ‘‘replete with [the defendant's] inability, or unwillingness, to communicate with the plaintiff before undertaking any major decisions regarding the [childrens'] care.''[7] It further found that crucial e-mail evidence submitted during the hearing showed that the plaintiff did not agree with undertaking the defendant's claimed medical expenses and wanted to research and/or discuss the matter further with the provider and the defendant.

         The defendant asserts that the plaintiff should have triggered the coparenting therapy requirement in the parenting agreement to address medical bill disputes, but that provision states: ‘‘After discussion, the [defendant] shall indicate to the [plaintiff] her final decision. The [plaintiff] shall within twenty-four hours, inform the [defendant] that he wishes to trigger the co-parenting therapy requirement.'' There is no evidence that the defendant gave any indication to the plaintiff that she had made her final decisions on medical treatment prior to the defendant's acceptance of the services at issue that would have alerted him that he needed to trigger this requirement.

         Essentially, the defendant was putting the cart before the horse, incurring expenses for the children without consulting with the plaintiff and then demanding payment from him. Although the defendant is correct that the plaintiff must not unreasonably withhold his approval of such expenses, it is not possible to unreasonably withhold approval of an action if one has no notice of it whatsoever or has not had sufficient time to consider it.

         We agree with the court's determination that the parenting agreement unambiguously requires the defendant either to obtain the plaintiff's agreement or to have the type of discussion contemplated by the trigger provision before the defendant could incur nonemergency medical expenses for which she would seek reimbursement from the plaintiff. The court did not err in denying the portion of the defendant's motion for contempt regarding her claimed medical expenses.

         As to the children's extracurricular activities, the defendant acknowledges that she was required to obtain the plaintiff's agreement prior to enrolling the children in those activities. The court noted that the defendant provided the court with an exhibit that contained a list of activities with a total cost of $2129.13. The court, however, found that the testimony was unclear as to whether the defendant complied with the parenting agreement provisions regarding notice and prior agreement for those expenses and which, if any, of the claimed expenses remain unpaid.[8] In denying without prejudice the portion of the defendant's motion related to the children's extracurricular activities, the court essentially determined that the defendant had not proven contempt of court on the part of the plaintiff by clear and convincing evidence. It also indicated that the parties could return to court on this issue at a later date and provide additional evidence regarding any alleged agreement(s) ...


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