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Roach v. Roach

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 16, 1990

Mary F. ROACH. 7320.

Argued Oct. 3, 1989.

Page 1038

[20 Conn.App. 501] Douglas S. Skalka, with whom were Debra A. Ludwig and, on the brief, Karen L. Williams, Greenwich, for appellant (defendant).

Sperry A. DeCew, New Canaan, for appellee (plaintiff).

Patty Jenkins Pittman, New Haven, filed a brief for Connecticut Educ. and Legal Fund, Inc., as amicus curiae.


DUPONT, Chief Judge.

The defendant wife appeals from the judgment rendered in this dissolution action, challenging the financial awards of the trial court. The trial court, Hon. William L. Tierney, Jr., state trial referee, dissolved the parties' marriage and ordered the plaintiff husband to convey his one-half interest in the marital residence to the defendant and to pay periodic alimony to the defendant in the amount of $300 per week for a period of three years. The primary issues on appeal are whether the trial court abused its discretion in awarding the defendant time limited alimony, and whether the defendant, in addition to the award [20 Conn.App. 502] of periodic alimony, should have been awarded support under General Statutes ยง 46b-85 because of her alleged mental illness.

Page 1039

We recognize that the court was faced with an extremely difficult case where there was no ideal financial solution and where equitable considerations could be applied to both parties. The parties were married in 1953. Six children were born of the marriage, all of whom have reached the age of majority. In 1970, the plaintiff moved out of the family residence, leaving the defendant to care for the parties' children who, at that time, ranged in age from five to fifteen years. The defendant continues to reside in that house, located in New York state, with the parties' schizophrenic son. From 1970 until 1986, when the youngest child attained majority, the plaintiff paid child support ordered by the state of New York in the form of mortgage, insurance and tax payments on the house. The plaintiff testified that he had paid other expenses for the children, but did not claim to have paid for their food or other household costs.

The defendant testified that since the separation she has worked at occasional jobs, borrowed money, accepted help from relatives, taken in boarders, and received welfare benefits. She is sixty years old, currently receives $403 per month in social security disability income and has not worked in ten years. She has no other income. The house in which the defendant had a one-half interest as of the date of the dissolution is subject to a tax lien and a $10,000 mortgage to Westchester County, New York, for welfare support furnished to her in the past.

The plaintiff is employed as a senior engineer and earns approximately $50,000 a year. He currently resides in and owns a cooperative apartment in Greenwich that is valued at $220,000 on his financial affidavit.[20 Conn.App. 503][1] In addition to the apartment and a one-half interest in the marital residence, the plaintiff's assets include a $140,000 profit sharing plan, individual retirement accounts worth approximately $16,000, two vehicles, $4500 in savings bonds, and an interest of approximately $15,000 in the estate of his deceased aunt.

Neither party is in good health. The plaintiff is fifty-eight years old and has had open heart surgery twice. The defendant has been receiving psychiatric treatment intermittently since 1959. She began seeing her current psychiatrist, Selwyn Juter, as a primary patient in 1986 [2] and has been hospitalized three times for mental problems since then. Juter testified that the defendant suffers from a chronic personality disorder that is exacerbated by stress, produces severely dysfunctional behavior, and requires ongoing psychiatric treatment. In his opinion, the defendant is unemployable due to her mental illness. He also testified that he does not expect her mental condition to improve in the future.

The plaintiff filed the present dissolution action on January 10, 1986. [3] In October, 1986, the court appointed a guardian ad litem for the defendant pursuant to an agreement by both parties. After unsuccessful attempts by the plaintiff to depose the defendant, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for an immediate trial, and set a trial date of June 7, 1988. Because the defendant was hospitalized on that day and had admitted the allegations contained in the plaintiff's complaint, the court bifurcated the matter and granted the plaintiff [20 Conn.App. 504] an uncontested dissolution of marriage. Trial on the financial issues commenced later that month, and, after several days of testimony by both parties and by the defendant's psychiatrist, the court rendered its decision.

Both parties and the guardian ad litem for the defendant filed motions for articulation of the court's memorandum of decision. The trial court filed an amended

Page 1040

memorandum pursuant to the defendant's amended motion for articulation. [4]

The court, in its articulation, stated that its financial awards were based upon its findings that the breakdown of the marriage was the defendant's fault, that the fee of $33,000 sought by the defendant for legal and guardian ad litem fees should not be imposed on a person in the plaintiff's financial position, and that in the eighteen years the parties were separated, the defendant had made no claim for alimony and had not disclosed her earnings. It also stated that the defendant had not contributed, after 1970, to the acquisition of the plaintiff's assets, and, therefore, had no interest in them.

The defendant first argues that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding her time limited periodic alimony. She claims that the court failed to consider the mandatory statutory criteria for alimony awards and that its decision conflicts with the well established purposes of time limited alimony. The plaintiff argues that the trial court properly considered and weighed the [20 Conn.App. 505] ...

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