Alimony and Child Support Modification
In a post judgment divorce action, the Court allowed the ex-wife to modify alimony and child support, despite language in the parties’ separation agreement precluding them from doing so. The parties, who were divorced in 2008, were the parents of one minor child. According to the terms of their separation agreement, the husband was obligated to pay to the wife unallocated alimony and child support in the amount of $225 per week for a period of five years. The parties agreed that at the end of the five year term, they would calculate child support in accordance with the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines. The agreement contained language specifically designating the term and amount of the unallocated order as non-modifiable.
Just six months after the parties’ divorce, the child changed residences and began living with the father. At that point, the parties entered into a stipulation pursuant to which the father’s child support obligation to the wife ceased, and he paid her $120 per week in alimony. The parties further stipulated that the terms and conditions of the original unallocated order were to remain in full force and effect. In or about early 2012, the child changed residences a second time back to the mother’s home. Accordingly, the mother sought an increase in the prior unallocated alimony and support order alleging a substantial change in circumstances; however, the father objected.
The Court’s Decision
Granting the mother’s motion to modify, the Court explained that a minor child’s right to parental support has an independent character, separate and apart from the terms of a support obligation set out in a judgment of dissolution. Although parents may enter into a contract allocating child support payments between them, they may not by contract override the state’s authority and duty to ensure the welfare of children.
Parties are expressly authorized by statute to make unallocated periodic alimony and child support non-modifiable, but the Court must retain the authority to modify such orders where the needs of the children warrant such modification. Ultimately adopting the parties’ previous stipulation with respect to alimony, the Court ordered the father to pay to the mother child support in the amount of $190 per week, for a total, unallocated award of $310 per week.
By: Joseph Maya, Esq.
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