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Varoglu v. Sciarrino

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk, Stamford

May 17, 2016

Lalé Varoglu
v.
Joseph Sciarrino

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          Michael E. Shay, Judge Trial Referee.

         The plaintiff wife (" wife") by the name of Lalé Varoglu and the defendant husband (" husband") were married in Westport, Connecticut, on August 5, 2012. This is a second marriage for the husband. No children have been born to the wife since the date of the marriage, and she is not currently expecting. The parties have lived separate and apart since April 5, 2014, when the husband left the marital home at 2 Ledgemoor Lane in Westport, which the wife continues to occupy. The husband currently occupies a two-bedroom apartment in Stamford. There is currently a Criminal Protective Order in place against the husband.

         The husband is 52 years old, and he appeared to be in good health. He is a maxillo facial surgeon, and he holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Dental Degree from Emory University. Dr. Sciarrino also completed additional studies Westchester Oral Surgery in 1987. He is licensed in both Connecticut and New York. Since 1988, he has had a solo dental practice operating under a legal entity known as Joseph N. Sciarrino, DDS, P.C. He has twice filed for bankruptcy protection, and in both instances, the petitions were dismissed. The husband does not carry health insurance for himself. The husband's income from his dental practice consists of a base salary, in addition to which he imputes income from certain living expenses paid by the business itself, such as rent, cell phone, and utilities. His financial affidavit shows a net income of $84, 552.00 per year, on a gross income of $117, 000.00. Individual and business federal income tax returns for the years 2013 and 2014 are consistent with the amount shown on his financial affidavit. (Exhibits ##4 and 21-23.) In 2009, the husband lost his license to administer conscious sedation, but he has applied for reinstatement. He told the court that, while he continues to perform dental procedures, his inability to bill both as a dentist and an anesthesiologist has resulted in a loss of income of between $200, 000.00 and $300, 000.00 per year.

         The wife is 50 years old, and she described her heath as " good, " although she told the court that she suffers from some effects from a previous bout of Lyme disease. Hers is a remarkable success story. Emigrating from Turkey as a young adult, she enrolled in an intensive, year-long English language program at Cornell University, and afterwards she obtained several degrees, including a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Massachusetts in Business Management, a Masters from Columbia University in International Affairs, and an MBA from NYU in Finance, the latter two earned in 1992. She worked at International Paper from 2001 to 2005, where she earned between $100, 000.00 and $120, 000.00 per year. This was prior to her most recent employment as a consultant for PepsiCo, Inc. where her consulting firm received between $130, 000.00 and $150, 000.00 per year. (Exhibits #34 and #36.) She left her position with PepsiCo in December 2013, after a disagreement over her compensation and changes in the job description, and she has not had any significant earnings since. Her current net income as shown on her financial affidavit is $3, 120.00 per year. Clearly she has the capability to earn substantially more, and her efforts to obtain employment have been less than robust to say the least. During the years 2012 and 2013, she reported $102, 000.00 and $109, 000.00 respectively in total income, including between $14, 000.00 and $16, 000.00 in dividends. (Exhibits #35 and #37.) She lists no rental income nor from interest or dividends on her financial affidavit, despite the fact that she has several substantial investment accounts in her name, as well as ownership in a limited liability corporation that owns a condominium, which she describes as " rental property." Under the circumstances, it would be fair to impute to her an additional $12, 750.00 net income per annum at a minimum. The court was left with the distinct impression that she is waiting for this case to be wrapped up before she makes a serious push in that direction. The wife spends many of her days at a coffee shop " writing a book." The wife has obtained her own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

         The principal bone of contention is the equitable division of the marital home at 2 Ledgemoor Lane in Westport, which was purchased by the parties in March 1, 2010, prior to their marriage for $1, 950, 000.00. (Exhibits #9 and #10.) The husband contributed the sum of $1, 535, 670.00 toward the purchase price, which sum represented his share of the net proceeds from the sale some Nantucket property, which was part of a previous divorce settlement. The wife contributed approximately $418, 000.00. Title to the property was taken in the name of 2 Ledgemoor Lane, LLC, in which the husband held a 65% interest and the wife held a 35% interest, which was intended to be a rough approximation of their respective monetary contributions to the purchase. In point of fact, the actual ratio was approximately 78% to 22%. The fact that title is held in the name of a limited liability corporation is a complicating factor. The husband testified that the purpose of taking title in the name of the LLC was to insulate him from any claims arising out of his dental practice. On questioning by the wife's counsel, he also admitted that another purpose was to insulate him from outstanding claims by the IRS, DRS (CT), and First County Bank. The parties worked out an arrangement to maintain the property, whereby the husband would contribute $4, 000.00 per month and the wife would contribute $2, 000.00. This arrangement continued until April 2014 when the husband left the marital home. The parties do not agree as to the value of the Westport property. The husband testified that the value is $2, 200, 000.00, and he insists that he is entitled to the return of his initial investment. The wife believes the value to be $1, 800, 000.00. There is a mortgage on the property with a balance of approximately $250, 000.00. For her part, the wife asks the court to grant her a right of first refusal to buy the husband out at 25%, or in the alternative, to sell the property and divide the net proceeds 75% to her and 25% to the husband.

         On June 3, 2010, with the agreement of the husband, the wife borrowed $350, 000.00 (Exhibit #11), at which time, according to the testimony, the bank insisted for security that she have an " overwhelming percentage interest" in the LLC, before it would advance the funds. Ownership of the LLC was then changed to 75% in favor of the wife and 25% in favor of the husband, which is the situation as of the trial. (Exhibit #40.) This change was clearly done for convenience, in order to obtain the loan, and the amended ratio bore no relation to the actual monetary contributions of the respective parties. The underlying operating agreement was not amended except as to ownership. (Exhibit #39.) The husband testified that the parties had an agreement that $100, 000.00 of the loan proceeds would be used to fund the post-high school education of his children from his first marriage, with the balance used for home improvements. Instead, from the proceeds of the loan taken against the marital home, the wife gave the husband $12, 000.00 in cash, to replace that sum he claimed was stolen by a household employee, but more important, she purchased a condominium at 620 Gothic Road, Crested Butte, Colorado, which she has valued at $162, 000.00, the price that she originally paid for it. Title was taken in the name of LV Solutions, LLC, of which she is the sole member. The husband does claim an interest in it, ostensibly having contributed $28, 000.00 toward it. The wife claims that he only contributed $20, 000.00. For her part, the wife asserts that this is offset by the approximately $20, 000.00 that she contributed to the husband's car (still in her name), and to the fact that she continued to pay the monthly carrying charges on the loan. She did, however, testify that she used the $87, 884.85 insurance proceeds (Exhibit #63) from flood damage to their basement, for living expenses and carrying charges on the marital residence.

         The husband values his dental practice at $532, 000.00, which includes his equipment and an office suite consisting of two condominium units 307-308, 90 Morgan Street Medical Condominium in Stamford. There is a substantial amount of equipment, including a cat scan purchased with the wife's credit. He also has equipment related to another business venture called " I Lipo." The wife makes no claim to either the dental practice or the equipment.

         As to other assets, the wife brought to the marriage several investment accounts with Pershing having a combined value of $460, 000.00. The husband makes no claims no claims to these.

         Prior to the marriage, the husband amassed a significant amount of indebtedness, principally to the IRS ($820, 000.00) and the Connecticut DRS ($150, 000.00), as well as to First County Bank ($840, 000.00). At some point, he settled the latter debt, which by then amounted to an $854, 429.00 deficiency judgment for $50, 000.00 with monies loaned to him by the wife. (Exhibit #2.) At present, he is working with counsel to compromise his tax claims. He filed for bankruptcy protection for the first time in January 2012, which petition was dismissed without prejudice in early 2014. He filed again in 2014, and this petition was later dismissed with prejudice. Although the wife still claims that the husband owes her $56, 000.00 as an outstanding debt to her, the evidence is clear that the husband paid her back in seven equal monthly installments of $8, 000.00 each. (Exhibits #15 and #16.) For her part, the wife lists a debt to her brother, Yavuz Varoglu, in the amount of $50, 000.00, which she claims is a joint debt with her husband. As to the latter, the court does not find her claim to be credible. In fact, the court found that both parties were less than candid, hedging their bets so to speak as to their current financial situation, and well as their past financial dealing with each other.

         As to the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, the husband told the wife that he had begun an extra-marital affair with her massage therapist approximately seven months after their marriage, which continues to this day. He told the court that " things were not working out for him." In fact, at one point, he suggested to his wife that the girlfriend could move into the marital residence with them. In addition, he testified that the wife had " aggressively injected herself into his finances, " and that had " made him nervous." The husband's claim simply does not hold water. For one thing, the husband's finances were in shambles long before the marriage, and for another, even while they were living together before marriage, they had substantial financial dealings together. The husband fails to see the irony in his position, where, in essence, the wife literally rode to his rescue with her earnings from employment and her excellent credit. But for her, the car he drives and some of the equipment used in his dental practice would not have happened without the wife. Moreover, the fact that his investment in the marital home has been largely shielded from the taxing authorities due to her cooperation is not fully appreciated by him. For her part, the wife told the court that she felt that her inability to have children was a factor. A brief attempt at marriage counseling failed.

         The trial took place over the course of seven days, including final argument. The court extended the time for both counsel to: (1) file Affidavits of Attorneys Fees and to review and challenge the reasonableness of same; and (2) reach an agreement on the division of household furnishings and other personal property. The evidence closed on May 13, 2016.

         FINDINGS

         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 ...


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