Dowling v. Szymczak
The principle in Connecticut's child support guidelines preamble, Section §(e)(4)(A), p. iv, Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies §46b-215a-1, that "the proportion of household income spent on children declines as household income increases," reflected in its schedule of basic child support obligations, which supplies presumptive levels of support based on the parents' combined net weekly income up to $4000, is not contravened, as a matter of law, by an order of support calculated on the same percentage basis as that assigned to a combined net weekly income of $4000, even when the parents' combined net weekly income is several times that amount. Lauren Dowling and Luke Szymczak, unmarried domestic partners, had a son and ended their relationship. The commissioner of social services and Dowling filed a support petition against Szymczak, claiming his child was receiving state child support services. The family support magistrate ordered Szymczak to pay $1440 in weekly child support, plus health care costs, with Dowling responsible for child care costs necessary for employment, retroactive to their separation date. Of the parties' combined gross annual income exceeding $1 million and $14,154 in combined net weekly income, 86 percent was attributable to the defendant's income and 14 percent to the plaintiff's earning capacity. On appeal, the trial court affirmed the magistrate's decision after modifying the arrearage found and denying the plaintiff's motion seeking attorneys' fees. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court correctly determined, inter alia, that the magistrate properly ordered the defendant to pay child support in an amount equivalent to his proportionate share of 11.83 percent of the parties' combined net weekly income of $14,154, the same presumptive percentage under the schedule for a combined net weekly income of $4000. The order did not violate the preamble's principle noted above. The Court's trilogy of cases, Maturo v. Maturo and Misthopoulos v. Misthopoulos in 2010 and Tuckman v. Tuckman in 2013, recognized that the guidelines apply to combined net weekly incomes exceeding the maximum scheduled amount of $4,000. As long as the support award is derived from a total support obligation within the range between the presumptive minimum dollar amount—the support prescribed at the $4,000 net weekly income level—and the presumptive maximum percentage of net income, as here, a finding in support of a deviation is unnecessary.