O. A. v. J. A., ___ Conn. ___ (SC 20590 Jan. 27, 2022)
Today, the Connecticut Supreme Court released O. A. v. J. A., which held that a trial court is not required to consider whether a postnuptial agreement is enforceable when deciding whether to order temporary alimony and counsel and expert fees. After the parties married in 2013, they signed a postnuptial agreement that addressed property distribution and alimony pursuant to a complicated formula.
The plaintiff filed an action for dissolution of marriage and challenged whether the postnuptial agreement was enforceable. She also moved for temporary alimony and counsel and expert fees. The trial court granted the motions, recognizing the need for support and that the complicated nature of the defendant’s finances would require expert testimony to understand.
The defendant appealed, contending that the trial court should have determined whether the postnuptial agreement was enforceable prior to awarding alimony and litigation expenses to which the plaintiff would not be entitled to under the agreement. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, relying on an earlier case, Fitzgerald v. Fitzgerald, 169 Conn. 147 (1975), which ordered temporary alimony despite a pre-dissolution separation agreement addressing temporary alimony where the plaintiff challenged the separation agreement. Just as in Fitzgerald, the court in O. A. recognized the need for support during the litigation on the enforceability of the agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court.
Notably, the court did not foreclosure the possibility of addressing the enforceability of a premarital or postnuptial agreement prior to the dissolution trial where “in its considered judgment,” it can do so without working an injustice on either party.
The plaintiff was represented on appeal by Attorney Kenneth J. Bartschi and Attorney Karen L. Dowd.