Tuckman v. Tuckman
Although the Connecticut Supreme Court has not directly addressed how to treat, for purposes of determining a parent's financial obligations, undistributed earnings of an S corporation that for income tax purposes are attributable to the parent-shareholder, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court persuasively addressed the issue in the 2009 case of J.S. v C.C. and found that "the better reasoned decisions require a case-specific, factual inquiry and determination…" The trial court dissolved the marriage of the plaintiff, Craig Tuckman, and the defendant, Karen Tuckman, adopting their parenting plan and setting forth financial orders. The court, relevantly, awarded no periodic alimony to either party but ordered $250 per week to the defendant for each of two children. The defendant appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment as to financial orders and ordered a new trial, concluding that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to follow or mention the child support guidelines. The plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court's judgment. The Appellate Court properly determined that the trial court abused its discretion when it awarded $250 per child per week without determining the net income of the parties, mentioning or applying the guidelines or making a specific finding on the record as to why it was deviating from the guidelines. The defendant's request for unallocated alimony and support did not alter the court's obligations. Further, the trial court improperly determined that the defendant's subchapter S allocated income should be included in her annual net income. The court made no finding as to what portion of the income reported on the defendant's tax returns, $530,000 in 2005 and $945,000 in 2006, was actually available to the defendant and what portion was merely pass through earnings of the S corporation. The fact-based inquiry approach in J.S. v C.C. was found persuasive. Because the trial court looked to the defendant's entire income as measured for income tax purposes as available income for determining alimony and child support and did not make findings as to the particular facts or circumstances of the S corporation, the matter was remanded for a determination of what portion of the defendant's income was available income for alimony and child support purposes. A new trial was required on the financial orders in their entirety.