LAUREN DOWLING et al. v. LUKE SZYMCZAK, SC 18922
Judicial District of New London
Child Support; Whether Trial Court Properly Affirmed Family Magistrate's Child Support Order in Case Where Parents' Net Weekly Income Exceeds Highest Income Level for Which Child Support Guidelines Provide. The commissioner of social services filed this action seeking a support order concerning the minor child of the named plaintiff and the defendant. The family magistrate found that the parties have a combined net weekly income of $14,154, and attributed 86% of that amount to the defendant. The magistrate noted that the child support guidelines do not address the circumstances presented here where the combined net weekly income of the parents exceeds $4000. The magistrate noted, however, that Maturo v. Maturo, 296 Conn. 80, 106 (2010), provided that the principles set forth in the guidelines are applicable in such circumstances and that courts should "treat the percentage set forth in the schedule at the highest income level as the presumptive ceiling on the child support obligation." The magistrate noted that the percentage used to calculate the weekly support amount for the highest income level set forth in the guidelines is 11.83%, which results in a presumptive weekly support amount of $473 for parents with a combined net weekly income of $4000. In calculating the defendant's weekly support obligation, the magistrate multiplied the parties' combined net weekly income by 11.83%, apportioned 86% of that amount to the defendant and arrived at a total of $1440. The magistrate made the order retroactive to the date of the parties' separation. The defendant appealed to the Superior Court, which largely affirmed the child support order. In this appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendant claims that the child support order violates one of the foremost principles of the child support guidelines, i.e., that the proportion of household income spent on children declines as household income increases. The defendant argues, accordingly, that in cases like this where the parents' combined weekly net income exceeds $4000, the support award should be calculated using a percentage less than 11.83%. The defendant further claims that the support order is excessive because the magistrate made no specific findings that an upward deviation was justified under the criteria set forth in the guidelines. Finally, the defendant claims that the support order is not based on the needs of the child and is unsupported by the evidence. The plaintiff cross appeals, challenging the trial court's denial of her motion for attorney's fees incurred in her defense of the defendant's appeal of the magistrate's ruling.