Lower Court Sidesteps Argument That Dan Is Part of a “Trend” to Limit Alimony
Previously, I reported that Dan v. Dan, 315 Conn. 1 (2014) Connecticut’s Supreme Court held that a substantial increase in the income of a payor spouse is an insufficient basis to support a modification of an alimony award without a factual finding that the original award is no longer sufficient to support the original purpose for which it was made. Some commentators and practitioners opined that Dan is emblematic of a larger trend to limit alimony, although no such policy objective is alluded to in the decision itself.
More recently, the Superior Court suggested that increased income alone is sufficient to support an upward adjustment in alimony if the formula for modification is specified in a prejudgment agreement. In Halperin v. Halperin, 2016 Conn. Super. LEXIS 148 (J.D. New London at Norwich), the parties stipulated that the husband would pay the wife a decreasing percentage of his income over a twelve-year schedule, and would disclose his income periodically. The wife brought a motion for contempt, alleging that, following entry of the judgment, the husband knowingly failed to include income derived, postjudgment, from his invention of a medical implant in the calculation of his income.
The (ex-) husband argued that the inclusion of such income ran counter to a “modern trend” about alimony that had been articulated in Dan v. Dan. The court avoided that argument:
“The focus of this court is the interpretation of a pre-judgment agreement. After thirteen months of exhausting tension, anxiety, negotiation and compromise, the parties reached a written deal that determined what each would receive after the dissolution of a twenty-two-year marriage between savvy, forward-thinking spouses….While it might not be “fair” for an ex-spouse to share in the former spouse’s postjudgment income that the spouse did not in any way help create, that spouse should not be deprived of the benefit of an insightful prejudgment bargain even as it extends to such income.”
Halperin might be viewed as reflective of nothing more than the propensity of courts to enforce arms-length agreements according to their terms.