O'Brien v. O'Brien
It was an abuse of the trial court's discretion to enter its unallocated award of alimony and child support without considering and applying the child support guidelines or the principles espoused therein. The plaintiff, Michael O'Brien, appealed from the judgment of the trial court dissolving his marriage to the defendant, Kathleen O'Brien, challenging certain financial orders. The plaintiff's central claim was that in issuing its order of unallocated alimony and child support for the defendant and parties' three minor children, the court erred in failing to consider and apply the child support guidelines. The majority of the Appellate Court agreed and reversed the judgment with respect to the financial orders. The erroneous order was inextricably interwoven with the mosaic of other financial orders entered in the final decree and the matter was remanded for a new trial on all financial issues. In the 2010 case of Maturo v. Maturo, the Connecticut Supreme Court emphasized the importance of the mandatory application of the guidelines to all cases involving minor children, including those cases involving families with high incomes. The trial court abused its discretion in entering its unallocated award of alimony and child support without considering and applying the guidelines or the principles espoused therein. It erred, specifically, by failing to determine the presumptive amount of child support under the guidelines, failing to explain that that amount was inequitable or inappropriate, and failing to explain its basis for deviating from the guidelines. The majority was left to speculate both as to the presumptive child support amount and whether a deviation was warranted. The defendant argued, and Judge Lavine in his dissent agreed, that because the court issued an unallocated award of alimony and child support, the guidelines did not apply. The majority found that the law supports no such conclusion and that in any marital dissolution action involving minor children, it is axiomatic that the court must fashion orders providing for the support of those children. There was no exception to the mandate including for unallocated awards of alimony and child support, which necessarily include amounts for both child support and spousal support. Judge Lavine dissented and reached the plaintiff's remaining claims on appeal, including an issue on the award of lifetime alimony.