Cunningham v. Cunningham
It was proper for the court to employ the present division method of deferred distribution, rather than the reserved jurisdiction method the Connecticut Supreme Court rejected in the 2001 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Bender v. Bender. The plaintiff, Mary Bender, appealed from the trial court's judgment dissolving her nearly 22 year marriage to the defendant, Gerard Cunningham. She claimed, inter alia, that the court abused its discretion in the manner in which it divided the defendant's unqualified, nonfunded retirement plan and employed the reserved jurisdiction method rejected by Bender. The Appellate Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff disputed the court's valuation of the nonqualified plan, which she claimed was unworkable because the court reserved jurisdiction to order distribution and contended that the calculation of the distribution would result in an improper hypothetical figure. However, the court properly employed the present division method of deferred distribution. The court divided the nonqualified plan 50 percent to each party and explained the method for calculating the coverture fraction. Pursuant to that formula, the plaintiff will receive 41 percent of the defendant's nonqualified plan valued as of the date of the dissolution of marriage. The defendant worked with his employer for 322 months and was married to the plaintiff for 263 of those months. 263 divided by 322 equals approximately 82 percent. 82 percent of the plaintiff's 50 percent share equals 41 percent. The date of the defendant's retirement was uncertain and the amount and basis for calculation of any distribution was unknown. The lack of information and consequent inability to determine the exact amount of the plaintiff's share did not render the order unworkable. The court, having determined the division formula, had discretion to retain jurisdiction to effectuate its judgment to deal with issues that may arise. The court also did not abuse its discretion in crafting its alimony award based on a potential gap in the continous stream of income between the termination of alimony and award of pension benefits. The court awarded the plaintiff certain real estate, including income producing property and personal property, including investment, savings and checking accounts. Nothing in the record demonstrated that the plaintiff would be destitute or unable to care for herself during the potential gap.