McRae v. McRae
The court was not required to maintain a parity of income between the parties in setting forth a modified alimony award. The plaintiff, Sandy McRae, appealed from the judgment of the trial court, Barrall, J.T.R., granting the motion of the defendant, Scott McRae, to modify periodic alimony payable to her. The plaintiff claimed, first, that the trial court improperly based its decision on the defendant's present earnings rather than his earning capacity. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff argued that the court failed to find a substantial change in circumstances and instead, simply utilized a different measure to determine alimony, namely the defendant's current earnings rather than his earning capacity as was used by the dissolution court, Caruso, J. However, Judge Barrall reviewed Judge Caruso's decision, set forth the findings as to the parties' earning capacities at the time of the dissolution and then concluded that the parties' earning capacities were significantly lower than that set forth by Judge Caruso. The Appellate Court was not persuaded that when considering whether there had been a substantial change in circumstances, the court used an improper standard by failing to consider the parties' current earning capacities as compared to their previous earning capacities as determined by the dissolution court. The plaintiff also unsuccessfully argued that the dissolution court designed its financial package so that the parties' income was in parity and Judge Barrall improperly failed to maintain that parity. Judge Barrall was not required to assure that the parties' incomes remained in parity. Connecticut law clearly requires the court to apply the factors in C.G.S. §46b-82 when determining the modified amount of alimony. Because there was no claim that the court failed to do so here, there was no merit to the claim that the court was required to maintain a parity of income for the remainder of the initial three year period of alimony after finding a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification of alimony. Such a mandatory requirement would be inconsistent with the clear dictates of Connecticut law. Further, the court did not err by improperly issuing an order that, effectively, modified alimony retroactively.