Sagalyn v. Pederson
Since its amendment in 2001, Connecticut General Statutes §46b-86(a) expressly permits a court to set aside an order requiring a parent to maintain life insurance for a minor child "[u]nless and to the extent that the decree [dissolving the marriage] precludes [such] modification…" The judgment dissolving the marriage of the plaintiff, Michelle Sagalyn, and the defendant, Christopher Pederson, incorporated a separation agreement between the parties which obligated each party to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of their minor children. Post-judgment, the plaintiff filed a motion for contempt and for an order to compel compliance with the life insurance obligation. The defendant filed a motion for modification of the provision. Following a hearing, the court denied the plaintiff's motion and granted the defendant's motion for modification finding he could no longer afford the insurance. The plaintiff appealed claiming that the court improperly held that the terms of the dissolution decree permitted such a modification and improperly found that the defendant could no longer afford to comply with the agreement. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to modify the term because that provision amounted to a property division. The Appellate Court disagreed and distinguished precedent pertaining to life insurance provisions in dissolution decrees naming a former marital partner as beneficiarythese were found to be intended as a property settlement and non-modifiable. Further, C.G.S. §46b-86(a) was amended in 2001 to expressly permit a court to set aside an order requiring a parent to maintain life insurance for a minor child "[u]nless and to the extent that the decree [dissolving the marriage] precludes [such] modification…" The trial court properly decided that it had the ability to modify the life insurance provision, as a matter of law. The designation of the parties' children as beneficiaries of the insurance manifested the parties' intent to consider the insurance as part of their obligations for child support and the provision was, therefore, modifiable. As a matter of fact, the court's finding that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant's noncompliance with the provision as written was a contempt of court was not clearly erroneous. In considering both parties' motions, the court properly focused its analysis on the financial resources then available to the defendant.