Squatrito v. Zaccaro
A court can find that a parent willfully restricted income and chose not to pay child support. When the parties divorced in 2007, the husband, a family doctor with an earning capacity of $140,000 gross per year, agreed to pay the wife child support of $172 per week. (In February 2010, child support was reduced to $100 per week.) In October 2009, the husband allegedly discovered that an employee had been embezzling funds from his medical practice and that he was unable to pay his overhead. In December 2010, the husband closed his medical practice and transferred his patients to a medical group. The husband's plan to work for the medical group did not work out. The husband allegedly applied to 27 employers without success, then opened his own practice in August 2012. "It is particularly appropriate to base a financial award on earning capacity where there is evidence that the payor has voluntarily quit or avoided obtaining employment in his field," pursuant to Hart v. Hart, a decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. Here, the Superior Court was not persuaded that the husband diligently worked to find another job or to grow his medical practice. "Twenty seven applications over a period of approximately twenty months," wrote the court, "do not constitute a diligent search for work." Although the husband currently earns approximately $446 gross per week, the court was not persuaded that the husband's earning capacity changed, and it denied his motion to modify child support. The husband, wrote the court, "has willfully restricted his income and elected to pay expenses other than those payable for his children." The court found the husband in contempt of court and ordered that he pay child support of $100 per week, plus $20 per week on the child support arrearage. The court ordered the husband to pay $7,500 toward the wife's attorneys' fees.