Doris Bromson v. Michael Bromson
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Plaintiff wife brought this dissolution of marriage action before the court by Writ, Summons and Complaint dated June 23, 2010. The matter was originally filed in the Judicial District of New London at Norwich, but was transferred to this court on February 16, 2011. A three-day trial was held before the court on November 15 & 16, 2011 and January 19, 2012.
Defendant filed a Trial Memorandum dated February 3, 2012 and plaintiff filed a Post–Trial Brief dated February 6, 2012.
In rendering this decision and making the ensuing orders, the court has carefully considered the statutory criteria contained in Connecticut General Statutes §§ 46b–81 and 46b–82 regarding the assignment of the marital estate and alimony, respectively, § 46b–84 as to support and medical insurance for the parties' minor children, the case law as it has developed regarding these matters, and other relevant federal and state laws regarding the issues before the court. The court had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of the parties at the time of trial.
FINDINGS OF FACTA) Jurisdictional Findings
1) The parties were married on February 20, 2000 in Stratton Mountain, Vermont.
2) The plaintiff resided in the State of Connecticut for more than one year prior to the commencement of this action and the court has jurisdiction.
3) The parties have two minor children, Hailie Bromson, born July 29, 1994 and Hunter Bromson, born December 12, 1996.
4) The plaintiff is not currently pregnant.
5) The family received no public assistance.
6) The court finds that the allegations of the complaint are proven in truth. The marriage between the parties has broken down irretrievably. There is no hope for reconciliation of the parties to their marriage.
B) The Parties
If nothing else, the three-day trial of this matter drove home the fact that the parties have essentially nothing in the way of marital assets and that their individual financial situations are relatively bleak. Neither party owns a home, has a retirement account, or possesses significant personal property.
Plaintiff, who is 47 years old and made a credible witness, is self-employed as a housecleaner/handyperson and reports gross weekly income of $365.00. She testified that she is currently suffering from problems with her knees and elbows, which she claims will inhibit her ability to continue in her current profession. At one time, she managed a bar, but testified that she is reticent to return to that line of work because she is a recovering alcoholic. She is a high school graduate and impressed the court as being bright and capable. While her future earning capacity certainly exceeds her current income, the less-physical types of employment she will most likely pursue do not traditionally provide significant income.
Plaintiff has custody of the parties' two children and they currently live in a rented house along with a gentleman with whom plaintiff is romantically involved. Plaintiff pays the utilities while the gentleman pays the rent. She owns a 2000 Jeep worth $2,000.00 and reports $785.00 on deposit. She is encumbered by relatively significant personal debt, reporting owing $19,120.00 to various entities, $12,500.00 to two friends, and $20,013.00 to her attorney.
Defendant, who is 52 years of age and impressed the court as being something of a charming rogue, is self-employed as a home improvement contractor and reports gross weekly income of $922.18. While the evidence supported his contention that his business has been negatively affected by the recent economic downturn, he historically has demonstrated an ability to earn a better than modest living. He suffered a serious heart attack in May 2008, from which he has more or less recovered. Defendant has lived with his mother since vacating the marital residence. While he has not paid rent to his mother, he testified that he intends to do so when and if he possesses the financial wherewithal to do so and lists an $18,000.00 debt to her on his financial affidavit. He reports $421.00 in a personal checking account, $600.00 in a business checking account and $1,800.00 in an undesignated account. He owns a 2008 Dodge Ram truck which he estimates is worth $18,000.00, a 2005 Harley Davidson motorcycle worth $16,000.00, and a work trailer valued at $2,000.00. Neither the truck nor the motorcycle has any net value, however, as the former is encumbered by a $26,000.00 loan and the latter by an $11,000.00 loan. Plaintiff owes $16,700.00 to the IRS, $15,000.00 in loans related to several snowmobiles that are no longer in his possession, $6,200.00 in credit card debt and $26,454.00 to his attorney. He also estimates an $8,000.00 liability on a loan related to a truck that plaintiff drove and which was repossessed after the parties' separation. At one time, defendant owned a number of guns that held significant value, but he claims that they are no longer in his possession, a claim which the court deems credible. He indicates that he has consulted an attorney about declaring personal bankruptcy.
Defendant currently pays plaintiff $125.00 per week in child support. Both of the parties' children have serious medical issues and are currently carried on defendant's health insurance. When trial commenced, defendant had not seen the children in almost a year. He did, however, see his son when the child was hospitalized during the pendency of this trial. In spite of this lack of contact, the court was left with the impression that defendant cared for his children and was capable of being an involved father and a positive force in his children's lives once the issues between the parties are resolved.
C) Causes of the Dissolution of the Marriage
To the extent that it has any relevancy to the resolution of the issues before the court, there is no dispute that defendant was the cause of the dissolution of the parties' marriage, which began to deteriorate after defendant's 2008 heart attack. The evidence supports the conclusion that this event caused defendant to take stock of his life and decide that he no longer wanted to be married to plaintiff. Defendant did not dispute plaintiff's claims that he engaged in an extramarital relationship prior to the commencement of this action.
D) Defendant's Income
The lion's share of the three-day trial focused on defendant's business, the records of which can charitably be described as disorganized, a fact that defendant freely admitted. However, once one wades through the thicket, the evidence clearly demonstrates that the income defendant claims to take out of his business is an uncommonly small percentage of the business's gross income.1 In making alimony and child support awards in cases involving self-employed individuals, the court is not bound by the individual's assertions regarding the amount of income he or she takes from a business. See, e.g., Pacheco–Bomster v. Bomster, Judicial District of New London at Norwich, Docket No. 06–4105253 (March 13, 2008, Boland, J.). Whether defendant's miniscule reported profit margins are due to credibility issues or poor business practices is immaterial to the court's determination of his financial obligations in this matter. Even if the court were to accept defendant's assertion that his records accurately reflect the financial condition of his business, his wife and children should not have to pay the price for his profligacy. As a result, upon due consideration of defendant's testimony and careful review of defendant's financial records, the court imputes weekly income of $1,320.00 to the defendant.
Based on the foregoing, the court orders the following:
1. A decree dissolving the marriage, on the ground of irretrievable breakdown, shall enter.
2. Plaintiff shall have sole legal and physical custody of the children with reasonable rights of visitation to defendant.
3. Defendant shall pay plaintiff child support in the amount of $206.00 per week in accordance with the child support guidelines. In addition, defendant shall pay 46% and plaintiff 54% of all unreimbursed medical and dental expenses for the minor children as provided for in the guidelines. The definition of medical and dental expenses is to be broadly construed to include, but not be limited to, medical, dental, orthodontic, hospitalization, optical, pharmaceutical and psychological and/or psychiatric counseling and/or treatment. The parties shall split all extracurricular activity expenses according to the same ratio.
4. The parties shall be individually responsible for their own medical insurance. Defendant shall continue to provide and maintain medical insurance for the parties' children. This obligation shall extend until each child reaches the age of 21 pursuant to § 46b–84(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes.
5. Plaintiff shall claim both children as dependents for the 2012 tax year in view of the fact that defendant claimed both children for the 2011 tax year. In succeeding years, provided each party is current on any alimony, child support, unreimbursed medical/dental expenses, extracurricular and post-secondary education expenses, the parties shall each claim one of the children as dependents. When only one of the children may be claimed as a dependent, the parties shall alternate claiming the child as a dependent each year, beginning with plaintiff.
6. Defendant shall pay plaintiff alimony at a rate of $100.00 per week for a period of 10 years, modifiable as to amount, but not as to term. Defendant shall not receive alimony from plaintiff. The parties shall exchange their W–2s, 1099s, and K–1s by February 15th of each year and shall exchange their federal and state income tax returns immediately upon filing. These obligations shall remain in effect so long as either party has an alimony or child support obligation to the other. Alimony shall terminate upon the death of either party or plaintiff's remarriage subject to the terms of Connecticut General Statutes § 46b–86(b). Plaintiff's cohabitation status shall not serve to increase or decrease defendant's alimony obligation.
7. All financial orders contained herein shall operate prospectively.2
8. The parties shall each be responsible for their own liabilities as listed on their financial affidavits and hold each other harmless therefrom.
9. Each party shall be responsible for their own attorneys fees.
10. The parties shall retain and have sole ownership of the vehicles listed on their respective financial affidavits.
11. The parties shall retain the personal property currently in their possession with the exception that defendant shall give plaintiff all of the children's personal property currently in his possession.
12. The parties shall retain the cash assets currently in their possession.
13. The court shall retain jurisdiction over the post-secondary education of the parties' children pursuant to § 46b–56c of the Connecticut General Statutes.3
14. Defendant shall procure and/or maintain an insurance policy on his life in the aggregate face value of no less than $100,000.00 naming the plaintiff as th beneficiary for so long as he is obligated to pay alimony and child support and shall, upon reasonable request, provide written proof of the required coverage.
15. Each party shall sign whatever documents are necessary, and are presented to them by the other party, to effectuate these orders.
16. There having been a contested hearing, the financial affidavits are hereby ordered unsealed.
James W. Abrams, Judge
FN1. For example, on Schedule C of defendant's 2010 Federal Tax Return, he claims $80,513.00 in gross income and only $16,798.00 in net income, a profit margin of a mere 21%. His bank records paint a similar picture.. FN1. For example, on Schedule C of defendant's 2010 Federal Tax Return, he claims $80,513.00 in gross income and only $16,798.00 in net income, a profit margin of a mere 21%. His bank records paint a similar picture.
FN2. All pending pendente lite motions are hereby denied.. FN2. All pending pendente lite motions are hereby denied.
FN3. The court hereby finds that it is more likely than not that the parties would have provided support for their children's post-secondary education if the family had remained intact. General Statutes § 46b–56c.. FN3. The court hereby finds that it is more likely than not that the parties would have provided support for their children's post-secondary education if the family had remained intact. General Statutes § 46b–56c.
Abrams, James W., J.