Court Rules it Has Authority to Award Child Support and Alimony Even if Parties are Living Together

In a dissolution action currently pending in the Stamford Superior Court, Judge Tierney recently ruled on what appears to be an issue of first impression regarding pendente lite child support and alimony.  In Peterson v. Peterson, Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford, Docket No. FSTFA094015636S (Sept. 21, 2011, Tierney, J.), the parties were married on May 23, 1985 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  They are both in their early fifties and are both in good health.  The wife is a Program Administrator earning $3,287 per month, and the husband is a lawyer who, at one time, earned approximately $500,000 annually, plus bonuses.

Despite the fact that the parties continued residing in the marital home during the pendency of the action, the Wife requested unallocated alimony and child support in the amount of $6,500.00 per month.  The court framed the principal issue as follows: “Does the Superior Court have the authority to enter pendente lite alimony and child support orders when the parties are residing together?”

Generally speaking, in determining pendente lite alimony and child support, one must consider the factors set forth in Connecticut General Statutes §§ 46b-83 and 46b-84.  With respect to pendente lite child support, those factors include the respective abilities of the parents to provide such maintenance, as well as the age, health, station, occupation, earning capacity, amount and sources of income, estate, vocational skills and employability of each of the parents, and the age, health, station, occupation, educational status and expectation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of the child.  With respect to pendente lite alimony, the court must consider the length of the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties, and, in the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability of such parent’s securing employment.

After setting forth case law precedent and relevant legislative developments, the Court in Peterson found that §§ 46b-83 and 46b-84 are silent as to whether the parties must live separate and apart in order for the Court to enter pendente lite alimony and child support orders.  Indeed, as the Court explained, “Nowhere in these statutes does there exist any requirement that the parties live separate and apart as a condition of a pendente lite alimony order.”  Id.  The court further found that older decisions citing “abandoned” and “living apart” as conditions of pendente lite alimony have been rejected by more recent decisions that do not mention either phrase.  Thus, Judge Tierney ultimately held that there is no current statutory or case law authority to support the proposition that parties must be living apart in order for the Court to enter pendente lite alimony or child support, and, therefore, the Superior Court has the authority to enter such orders even when the two parties continue to reside together.

If you have any questions regarding child support, or any family law matter please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.