Colbert v. Carr
An award of attorneys' fees sought under C.G.S. §46b-171(a)(1)(B), for an action brought under the paternity statutes, C.G.S. §46b-160, was not mandatory when the paternity of the child was never an issue and the trial court did not establish paternity, only the amount of support. The plaintiff, Colleen Colbert, appealed from the trial court's judgment in this paternity action brought against Charles Carr. The plaintiff argued, first, that the trial court improperly denied her request for attorneys' fees. The Appellate Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff argued that because she commenced this action under C.G.S. §46b-160, an award of attorneys' fees was mandatory rather than discretionary. She contended that the defendant's acknowledgment of paternity was insufficient to preclude the award because he failed to comply with the formal requirements for acknowledgment found in C.G.S. §46b-172. The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court that it had discretion to deny the request as C.G.S. §46b-160 is used to establish paternity but the child's paternity was already established. The defendant acknowledged paternity since around the child's birth and continuously acknowledged that paternity in paying child support. Under the circumstances, paternity was never an issue and the court did not establish paternity. The court found that the defendant was the father of the child based on his own admissions. The amount of child support, including any retroactive support, was the issue to be determined by the court. The statutes pertaining to contested child support, as opposed to contested paternity, do not provide for mandatory attorneys' fees. Additionally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff's request for three years of retroactive child support. The defendant paid support throughout his son's life in amounts requested by the plaintiff, sometimes paying more than the amounts in the child support guidelines. The plaintiff also unsuccessfully claimed that the trial court improperly declined to deviate from the guidelines as the defendant's refusal to have contact with their son led to emotional difficulties and additional expenses for the child. The trial court found that the plaintiff failed to prove that deviation from the presumptive amount was appropriate and equitable as a factual matter. The Appellate Court's review of the record did not lead to a contrary conclusion.