Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk, Stamford
Monica L. Woo
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Michael E. Shay, Judge Trial Referee.
The plaintiff wife (" wife"), whose birth name was Monica L. Woo, and the defendant husband (" husband") were married in Montvale, New Jersey, on January 19, 1990. No children have been born to the couple during the marriage. The parties have been living separate and apart since March 2013. The husband continues to reside in the marital home, while the wife occupies a rental unit. It is a first marriage for the wife and the husband's third.
The husband is 88 years old and has some health issues which, he told the court, include high blood pressure, gout, and arthritis. He is a concert violinist of some note, and he has taught the instrument for decades, both privately and through an affiliation with the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. In addition, he earns income in the form of commissions for the sale of violins, as well as writing. He reports a current net income from all sources, including interest and dividends of $17, 797.35 per month ($213, 568.00 per year).
The wife is 59 years old and in relatively good health. However, she did describe some issues with anxiety and arthritis. She holds both a bachelor's degree from Mills College in Oakland, California, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States with her parents at the age of 16, and by means of scholarships, summer jobs, and work-study programs, she was able to complete her education. The wife has held a number of high level executive positions throughout her career, for which she was well paid commensurate with her responsibilities. In fact, the evidence demonstrates that throughout a significant portion of the marriage, the wife's annual income was approximately 10 times that of the husband, ranging between $47, 000.00 and $1, 200, 000.00, and that clearly, she was the " breadwinner." (Exhibit #25.) At the time of the hearing, she was working as a self-employed consultant. She reports a net income from her employment and investments of $7, 289.00 a month ($87, 468.00 per year). The wife indicated that she is currently looking for full-time work. At the time of the marriage, the wife was employed as president of a corporation, where her annual salary was $125, 000.00 plus bonus. Also at that time, she brought to the marriage a home in New Jersey worth $227, 000.00 and bonds and certificates of deposit worth $160, 000.00.
There are two major assets of the marriage with which there are disputes. The first is the marital home at 67 Oenoke Lane, New Canaan, Connecticut. The wife purchased the property with her funds and the help of a mortgage in January 1995. (Exhibits ##6 through 10.) She placed the property in joint names. The wife made regular monthly payments on the mortgage, and in 2001 she paid off the mortgage in full. In addition, the wife has paid for various improvements to the property, including a new driveway, septic system, a new boiler, and the husband's in-home studio. (Exhibits ## 13-14.) According to the financial affidavits of the parties, the fair market value of the property is $1, 500, 000.00. There is currently no mortgage on the premises.
The second major asset is comprised of the proceeds from the sale of a rare antique violin crafted by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri (del Gesù) in 1741 (also known as the " Kochanski Violin"), along with a bow. The latter was referred to throughout the trial as the " Kittel Bow, " which the husband separately valued at $144, 000.00 and is still in his possession. The violin was purchased by the husband and his first wife (now deceased) in February 1958 for the sum of $35, 000.00 (Exhibit #99), $20, 000.00 of which was borrowed. The husband played the instrument at his concerts for decades, but sold it to a Russian collector in October 2009 for $10, 000, 000.00. The court heard testimony that at the time of the marriage, the violin was worth $2, 000, 000.00 (Exhibit #54); and that at one point in connection with an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in December 1994 was valued at $5, 000.000.00 for insurance purposes. (Exhibit #55.) The husband insured the violin for $3, 138, 000.00 in 2006 and $5, 138, 000.00 in 2007. (Exhibits ##83 and 84.) Thereafter, without the knowledge or consent of the wife, the husband fulfilled a pledge to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia in the amount of $1, 500, 000.00 which he had made two years before. He also made a gift of $1, 000, 000.00 to his current assistant, a married woman, Christina Khimm, with whom, by his admission, he has had a long-time sexual relationship since at least 1997. He went so far as to list her as his " niece" on the gift tax return. (Exhibit ##81-82.) The wife contends that these were fraudulent conveyances, and seeks to have them either annulled or accounted for in some fashion in the property division.
Other assets include a home in Corte Madera, California purchased during the marriage by the wife without the knowledge or consent of the husband. She has valued this property at $573, 000.00. There is also a home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, purchased by the husband during the marriage, likewise without the wife's knowledge or permission, which is now occupied by his step-daughter. He has valued this property at $585, 000.00. The Husband has a collection of lesser valuable violins and bows (exclusive of the " Kittel Bow"), including a Steinway piano that belonged to his first wife, valued at $5, 000.00 (Exhibit #60), totaling $362, 000.00. Each has savings and investment accounts, as well as substantial retirement accounts.
As to the breakdown of the marriage, there were many contributing factors, most of which stem from the husband's overinflated sense of his own importance. He presented himself to the court as an arrogant, selfish, self-centered prima donna, who expected to be pampered and his every whim catered to, and who gave little back in return--little thanks or appreciation for the efforts of others, particularly his hard-working spouse, who juggled her own career with physical and financial support in order to bolster his waning professional career. His deceitful behavior toward his wife from early on in the marriage was a dagger in the heart of the most fundamental basis for a successful marriage--trust. She told him that she wanted children, and he said that he did not. She acceded to his wish in this regard. More to the point, he told her that he was unable to perform sexually, yet, at least seven years into the marriage, he began a sexual liaison with another woman, even to the point of carrying it on in the family home. When confronted with this relationship, his initial denials soon turned to promises not to see Mrs. Khimm, promises repeatedly broken. The affair continues to this day.
No doubt, the long separations due to the wife's employment did not help, yet at various times, the wife put her career on hold to care for the husband following his back surgery (hiring a private duty nurse at her expense) or during an episode of gout. Moreover, throughout the marriage she acted as his administrative assistant, handling his correspondence and booking concerts, many times spending her own funds to do so. (Exhibit #20.) She even purchased and paid the premiums for long-term care insurance for the husband (Exhibits ##4-5). In addition, there were episodes of physical confrontations, once in 2010, when the husband struck the wife, and again in 2013, after the wife came to the marital home and found Mrs. Khimm and her husband together, resulting in a physical altercation. A protective order was entered against the wife. (Exhibits ##24, 101-03, and 108.) The husband told the court that the marriage broke down five or six years prior. He attributes the cause of the breakdown to the wife's temper, as well as her work habits and distant work assignments, particularly between 1992 and 1995 when she was working in London, telling the court that " she wasn't around a lot."
The case was tried over the course of nine days, including final argument.
The Court, having heard the testimony of both parties, and having considered the evidence presented at hearing, as well as the factors enumerated in General Statutes § § 46b-40, 46b-51, 46b-62, 46b-63, 46b-81, and 46b-82, hereby makes the following findings.
1. That it has jurisdiction.
2. That the allegations of the complaint are proven and true.
3. That no minor children have been born to the wife since the date of the marriage, and that she is currently not expecting.
4. That the marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably, and that ample evidence exists that the husband is primarily at fault for the breakdown.
5. That during the marriage, neither party has received any aid or assistance from the State of Connecticut or any town ...