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Winthrop v. Winthrop

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 30, 2019

LORI K. WINTHROP
v.
MATTHEW WINTHROP

          Argued January 16, 2019

         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, Malone, J.; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief in accordance with the parties' separation agreement; thereafter, the court, Tindill, J., denied the plaintiff's motion for contempt, and the defendant appealed to this court; subsequently, the court, Tindill, J., denied the plaintiff's motion for clarification and the defendant's motion for reargument; thereafter, the plaintiff cross appealed to this court; subsequently, the court, Tindill, J., denied the plaintiff's motion for articulation; thereafter, this court consolidated the appeals. Reversed in part; judgment directed.

          Matthew Winthrop, self-represented, the appellant-appellee (defendant).

          Barbara M. Schellenberg, for the appellee-appellant (plaintiff).

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

          OPINION

          DIPENTIMA, C. J.

         The defendant, Matthew Winthrop, appeals, and the plaintiff, Lori K. Winthrop, cross appeals, from the order of the trial court denying the plaintiff's postjudgment motion for contempt. The defendant claims that the trial court improperly found that his ‘‘earned income, '' for the purpose of calculating the amount of additional alimony that he owed the plaintiff in 2016, was the amount shown on his W-2 form. The plaintiff contends in her cross appeal that, although the court correctly determined that the defendant's earned income was the figure provided on his W-2 form, it failed to calculate the additional alimony owed in 2016 in accordance with the parties' separation agreement (agreement). We affirm the judgment as to the defendant's appeal and, as to the plaintiff's cross appeal, we reverse the judgment only with respect to the court's calculation of the alimony amount owed by the defendant in 2016.

         The following undisputed facts and procedural history are relevant for the purposes of this appeal and cross appeal. The parties were married on November 27, 1996, and their marriage was dissolved on February 9, 2012. The judgment of dissolution incorporated the parties' agreement, which provides, in relevant part, that the defendant is to pay the plaintiff unallocated alimony until September 11, 2019, or until the plaintiff's death, remarriage, or cohabitation for more than three months, whichever event shall occur first. Pursuant to article 3.2 of the agreement, the defendant is required to pay the plaintiff a minimum of $3000 per month, with an additional amount owed based on the annual earnings of the defendant. Specifically, the agreement provides that the defendant is to pay additional alimony as follows: 30 percent of his earned income in excess of $102, 000 and less than $150, 000; 20 percent of his earned income in excess of $150, 000 and less than $200, 000; and 0 percent of his earned income in excess of $200, 000. The agreement also states in article 3.4 that in any year in which the defendant does not pay the maximum annual alimony amount, he shall provide the plaintiff, upon written request, with copies of his quarterly paychecks and his year-end W-2 or 1099 forms reflecting ‘‘earned income.''

         The agreement also addressed a $160, 000 loan that the defendant had received from his employer, Royal Bank of Canada (Royal Bank), of which approximately $46, 000 was unspent and in the defendant's possession. According to article 6.2 of the agreement, the entirety of the loan was to be forgiven by Royal Bank, and the income imputed to the defendant, over a series of years, and reflected on his W-2. Moreover, the agreement specified that this imputed income ‘‘shall be included in the computation of unallocated alimony . . . .''

         On March 7, 2017, the plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion for contempt, which alleged that the defendant had ‘‘refused to voluntarily pay alimony based on [his] 2016 earnings and as stipulated in the divorce decree.'' On June 13, 2017, the court held an evidentiary hearing on the plaintiff's motion and received testimony from both parties. During the hearing, the plaintiff argued that, based on the defendant's 2016 W-2 form, his earned income was $168, 765.91, which, thus, required him to pay additional alimony as outlined in the parties' agreement. In response, the defendant stipulated that although he did owe the plaintiff additional alimony, he calculated his earned income to be approximately $104, 744. In reaching this figure, the defendant excluded his noncash earnings, including income that had been imputed to him in connection with his forgiven debt obligations to Royal Bank, and deducted from his cash earnings certain business and medical related expenses.

         In an order dated June 18, 2017, the court denied the motion for contempt but nonetheless agreed with the plaintiff that, for the purpose of calculating additional alimony, the defendant's earned income was the figure reflected on his W-2 form, i.e., $168, 765.91. The court, therefore, found that the defendant had failed to pay additional alimony as required by the parties' agreement and ordered that he pay the plaintiff $3753.18 no later than August 25, 2017.[1] From this decision, both parties now appeal. Additional facts will be set forth as needed.

         I

         In his appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly concluded that his earned income was the amount reflected on his W-2 form. Specifically, the defendant argues that the court, in calculating his earned income, should have (1) deducted from his cash earnings the business expenses provided on his 2016 tax return, as these costs were unreimbursed and necessary to the defendant's compensation as a commissioned salesman, and (2) excluded his noncash earnings, including amounts ...


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