Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford, Hartford
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Anna M. Ficeto, J.
This action seeks the dissolution of the parties' 7-year marriage. The action was commenced by complaint filed September 3, 2013 and returnable to the court on September 10, 2013.
The matter was tried before the court on September 11, 14, and 15, 2015. The court has considered all the credible evidence presented to it along with its observation of the demeanor and attitude of the parties. All the exhibits have been carefully reviewed and considered, as well as relevant common law, including, without limitation, the statutory criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-56 as to custody and support, § 46b-82 as to assignment of alimony and § 46b-81 as to assignment of property and transfer of title. The court has carefully considered the respective criteria for orders of custody and support, alimony, property division, payment of counsel fees, and has unsealed the financial affidavits. The findings of fact made by the court have been made by a fair preponderance of the evidence.
The parties have lived in the State of Connecticut for at least one year prior to the filing of the dissolution complaint. The parties have not been recipients of state aid although the minor children are on HUSKY. The court finds that the allegations of the complaint are proven and true. The parties' marriage has broken down irretrievably with no hope of reconciliation. All statutory stays have expired. The court has jurisdiction over this matter. Both plaintiff and defendant are represented by counsel. A guardian ad litem represents the interests of the minor children.
FINDINGS OF FACTS
The parties were married on October 29, 2008 after a six-month courtship. They are the parents of two minor children: Talyah, age 5, and Moriah, age 7 months. The plaintiff wife is 37 years of age and employed as a dental assistant. She earns $17.50 per hour and works approximately 20 hours per week. Her net weekly income is $250. She also receives $175 in weekly child support and $50 weekly in alimony on a pendente lite basis. She has a history of bi-polar disorder and depression. She has been hospitalized on several occasions with her last hospitalization in March 2012. She actively treats with a medical professional and is compliant with her treatment. The plaintiff is a native of Brazil and speaks limited English. She has had her " green card" for eleven years.
The defendant is 42 years old, healthy and self-employed. He owns a cleaning business known as North Eagle Cleaning Services and works eight hours per week at the business for a gross weekly amount of $200. He owns several properties and currently receives $572 per week in rental income. The defendant also " buys and flips" homes from which he has made substantial income. He reports his net weekly income is $696. The defendant is a citizen of Brazil and has very limited ability to understand English. He is not in the United States legally but is attempting to obtain legal status.
The parties met at their place of worship while the plaintiff was still married. Plaintiff allegedly asked the defendant to fund her divorce proceedings against her husband with whom she had a daughter, Jennifer. The parties married approximately six months after they met. They both describe their marriage as good for a short period of time. The defendant alleges his wife was very jealous; the plaintiff describes the defendant as very controlling. It is clear that the marriage encountered serious difficulties after a short period of time. The plaintiff alleges that her daughter Jennifer had to live with her ex-husband in Florida because of the defendant's refusal to have her be a part of their new family. The defendant recounts an incident where he offered cleaning supplies to a female church member only to have his wife respond in a jealous rage.
The defendant testified that, since 2012, his wife has left the marital home on four extended occasions, including a four-month stint from December 2102 to April 2013 when he alleges she lived with another man in Manchester. He testified that he welcomed her home after each occasion. He testified that he was the main caregiver for Talyah when plaintiff left the marital home. He further testified that he was supportive of his wife when she experienced issues related to her mental health. Defendant took her to his pastor for counseling and purchased a book on depression.
The plaintiff testified that she was the victim of domestic violence and mental abuse. She testified that her mental health issues were well controlled, without medication, for four years prior to meeting the defendant. She alleges that the stress and anxiety triggered by the defendant caused an exacerbation of her mental health issue and resultant hospitalizations.
The defendant was arrested following an incident of domestic violence in 2011. He alleges it was a " slight infraction" of domestic violence. The plaintiff alleges she was beaten all over her body with a belt. The charges against the defendant were dismissed after he completed the required domestic violence/anger management classes. Plaintiff alleges that the 2011 incident was not the first time that the violence occurred. She alleges that she reached out to their pastor who was willing to help. As a result, the defendant switched churches and the new pastor's approach to the domestic violence issue was to pray for the defendant because the church is akin to a hospital.
The parties attempted to reconcile during the pendency of the dissolution action. The plaintiff became pregnant with Moriah as a result of the attempted reconciliation. On June 2, 2014, while pregnant with Moriah, the parties were engaged in a verbal dispute that turned physical when the defendant pushed the plaintiff and caused her to hit her head. She left the marital home and went to a domestic violence shelter. The plaintiff testified that while she was at the shelter, Talyah, who was 4 years old at the time, made certain disclosures to her mother. More specifically, the child stated that her father put his tongue in her mouth, vagina and buttocks.
The plaintiff informed the workers at the shelter and the child was taken to the emergency room at Connecticut Children's Medical Center on June 19, 2014. She was subsequently referred to Children's Advocacy Center at St. Francis where she was examined and interviewed by Dr. Nina Livingston and where Lisa Murphy-Cipolla, a licensed therapist, conducted a forensic interview. The child's physical examination was normal, however, Dr. Livingston testified that diagnostic findings are rare and only found in less than 5% of reported cases of child sexual abuse. There was no evidence or concern that the child had been coached and both Dr. Livingston and Ms. Murphy-Cipolla found the child to be reliable and consistent in her disclosures. Dr. Livingston further testified that the child was age appropriate, contextual and spontaneous during the examination.
The Department of Children of Families was also involved during this time frame and a representative was present during the forensic interview and examination. Gloria Rodriguez, a social worker at DCF, testified relative to the department's involvement with the family in 2014 and stated that the department had substantiated the allegations of " sexual abuse/exploitation." The child has been in therapy with Anne Webb since February 2015. The child sees Ms. Webb on a weekly basis. Father's access to the minor child has been supervised through Kidsafe since July 2014.
A subsequent DCF file was opened in August 2015 along with a referral back to the Children's Advocacy Center at St. Francis following additional disclosures made by Talyah. Although all visitation and contact with the defendant has been supervised, Dr. Livingston testified that " incremental disclosures" are common for a child of Talyah's age. Additional findings relative to the second disclosure and resultant investigations were not yet available at the time of trial.
Testimony was also elicited relative to the education of Talyah. She is currently enrolled at the New Testament Bible School in East Hartford. She is repeating kindergarten. Talyah struggles with the English language and would benefit from English as a Second Language service. ESL is not available at the New Testament Bible School and the school does not have a social worker or psychologist on staff. The child's therapist, Anne Webb, described the child's demeanor as morose when dressed in her school uniform. She described the school uniform as that of a " novitiate" with heavy black shoes, a long dark skirt, dark stockings, and a high collared shirt. When asked about her school or her school day, the child only speaks of the number of times she has been disciplined.
Mother prefers to have Talyah attend public school and had enrolled the child in Robertson Elementary School in Manchester in September 2014. The child remained at Robertson for two months before returning to New Testament Bible School. While at Robertson Elementary, the child received ESL support, worked with the school psychologist and social worker and received additional small group instruction to address a deficiency in letter and name recognition and an inability to write her name.
Father desires that Talyah remain at New Testament Bible School as he believes it to be a better school. He cites the fact that the school, which serves grades K through 12, has a higher graduation rate and a higher percentage of children that enroll in college. He testified that he pays and is willing to continue to pay the tuition. The current yearly tuition is $4, 540.
Mr. Almeida was not present for the birth for his daughter, Moriah, in February 2015. He has never met or spoken to the child. He saw Moriah briefly when a DNA test was performed. A photograph of his children was submitted into evidence during trial. He has not had any visitation with Moriah. The ...