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DIVORCE: Optometrist Who Earns $84,000 Has $150,000 Earning Capacity

Case:  Watson v. Watson

Doc. No.: FA10-4013021S; Court Opinion by: Suarez, J.

Date:  Jan. 12, 2012

A court can find that a party’s earning capacity is greater than the amount that the party allegedly is earning.  The parties married in 1997 and have one minor child.  The husband, 45, is an electrical engineer who switched careers to work in optometry.  In 2004, the parties obtained a CIT small Business loan and purchased an optometry business in Vernon, Conn.  The husband examined patients, and the 48 year old wife managed the office and processed insurance claims. Currently, the fair market value of the optometry business in Vernon is approximately $560,000, and the balance on the loan is $153,000.  The parties also obtained $352,500 in small business administration loans, which they guaranteed, to expand their business.  They paid $250,000 to purchase property in Coventry.  The court found that the fair market value of the second property is $279,000.  Each of the parties earned $84,000 gross per year. In March 2010, the wife allegedly destroyed several eyeglasses displays and office equipment, after she discovered that the husband allegedly had an affair with a 22 year old optometry office worker.  The husband fired the wife and promoted his girlfriend to office manager.  The husband claimed that he earns $1,172 net per week, and the court found that the husband’s current earning capacity is $150,000, gross per year and that he earns $1,838 net per week.  The wife receives $480 per week in unemployment benefits.  The husband claimed the wife was at greater fault for the breakdown of the marital relationship because she allegedly criticized the husband, and he became depressed.  The court did not find either party at greater fault. The court awarded joint custody of the minor child, with primary residence with the wife.  The court ordered the husband to pay child support of $278 per week.  The court also ordered that he pay $625 per week as alimony, until the wife’s death, marriage, cohabitation or Jan. 12, 2019, whichever takes place first.  The court awarded the wife the marital residence and ordered the husband to pay her $50,000 within one year.  The court awarded the husband his interests in the optometry businesses.