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Fine v. Fine

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

May 23, 2016

Cynthia H. Fine
Allan H. Fine Opinion No. 133767

          Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Colin, Thomas D., J.


          Colin, J.


         This dissolution of marriage action was tried on three consecutive days: April 27, 28 and 29, 2016. The plaintiff was represented by counsel at trial. The defendant, who was previously represented by counsel throughout much of the case, did not have counsel at the time of trial. As a result, he tried the case as a self-represented party; this includes the presenting of evidence on his own behalf testifying in the form of a narrative, cross examining the plaintiff's fact and expert witnesses, and presenting arguments. Both parties testified, as did the plaintiff's forensic accounting expert. Numerous documents were submitted into evidence. The court has carefully considered the: (a) evidence presented; (b) arguments of both parties; (c) judicially noticed court file; and (d) relevant statutory and other law. This case presented with some unusual facts due to a combination of the following factors: the ages of the parties, the tragic events surrounding the plaintiff's health, the significant change in the parties' lifestyles during the marriage, and the substantial dissipation of the parties' assets, from over $20 million at the time of their marriage. As a result, the following factual findings are made.




         This case was returnable to the court on December 2, 2014. The defendant was served in hand by a state marshal on October 31, 2014. Three days later, the defendant's counsel (Law Offices of Gary I. Cohen, P.C.) filed an appearance on his behalf. The allegations of the plaintiff's complaint dated October 30, 2014 are proven and found to be true. The court has jurisdiction over the case and all statutory stays have expired. The parties were married nearly 28 years ago on June 25, 1988 in Greenwich, Connecticut. They have one child together: Andrew, now a college graduate who is age 23. As a result, there are no issues involving child custody, child support or educational support. The plaintiff is now age 66 and resides with family in Rockford, Michigan. The defendant is now age 79 and resides with family in Long Island, New York. He has three grown children from a prior marriage.

         Cynthia H. Fine

         The plaintiff, Cynthia Fine, graduated with a bachelor's degree from Fordham University and a master's degree in social work from New York University. At age 30, she moved from Michigan to the east coast. After a brief stay in Connecticut, she moved to New York City and lived with a roommate. She became employed at Salomon Brothers, a prominent and well-known investment bank, as Mr. Fine's personal secretary. She was attracted to him because he was kind, charismatic and wealthy. Mr. Fine wined and dined her. They married three years later after Mrs. Fine signed a prenuptial agreement. Neither party has sought enforcement of the prenuptial agreement; the document was never presented to the court. Mr. Fine did then disclose to Mrs. Fine that, at the time of their marriage in 1988, he had total assets worth $28, 151, 096 and that his net worth was then $22, 340, 670. At age 43, Mrs. Fine gave birth to the parties' son, Andrew. At that point, Mrs. Fine stopped working as a psychotherapist in her own New York City practice.

         The lives of these parties changed forever in 2004. At that time, Mrs. Fine was age 55 and in good health, and the parties' son was approximately age 12. Mrs. Fine then elected to have cosmetic surgery at a Connecticut outpatient medical facility. There were significant complications, including her suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage, falling into a coma and paralysis. She was in the hospital for 16 months. She suffered from cognitive impairment and the loss of her ability to speak. She had to relearn such things as how to read a clock. It was not until 2012, some eight years later, that she first felt significant improvement. She now uses a power wheel chair to move. She sat in that chair to testify in the courtroom. She is unable to walk. Mrs. Fine resides in Michigan with her cousins who assist in her care. She is not employed. She receives social security income in the amount of $895 per month and contributes the sum of $300 per month to the Michigan household.

         As a result of the medical malpractice action that followed, the parties received a net settlement of approximately $3, 100, 000. The funds were initially deposited into a joint bank account; however, soon thereafter, Mr. Fine moved those funds to an account in his sole name. What happened to those funds, and the other assets of the parties, was a source of great controversy at trial. Mr. Fine was very involved in supervising the malpractice suit in the years between the 2004 surgery and the 2008 settlement. He was in contact with the attorneys. He decided to accept a lump sum settlement as opposed to a structured, long-term, payout; in hindsight, this decision was a catastrophic mistake.

         Following her return home in 2005 after a long hospital stay, Mrs. Fine discovered that her husband had closed the parties' joint bank account, moved her belongings out of her room, and removed her name from the title to their house. Mr. Fine did supervise his wife's medical care and recovery by many paid caretakers. The court concludes from the evidence presented that Mr. Fine was financially supportive of his wife in the years immediately following the 2004 accident. He made sure that her medical needs were met. He was a loving father who became the primary caretaker of the parties' son. Although the marriage lacked intimacy in the years following the 2004 accident, the parties did frequently have dinner together.

         Mrs. Fine's present relationship with her adult son, who lives with Mr. Fine, is strained. She has not seen her son in nearly three years. He has become embroiled in his parents' divorce case.

         In order to help finance the cost of this litigation in general, and her attempts to discover what happened to the marital assets in particular, Mrs. Fine retained legal counsel and a forensic accountant. She sold jewelry and other personal possessions to pay for those costs. She received gifts or loans from friends. She moved to Michigan because she has family there to help with her care. She takes a bus to and from her physical rehabilitation sessions; the sessions are three times per week for two to three hours per day. She now requires hearing aids that she cannot afford. She suffers from macular degeneration. Despite her unfortunate present circumstances, Mrs. Fine displayed throughout the trial a pleasant attitude and upbeat personality. She readily accepted responsibility, as did Mr. Fine, for how the parties' extravagant lifestyle, as more particularly described later, has contributed to their current financial predicament.

         Allan H. Fine

         The defendant, Allan Fine, obtained a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College. By the time the parties married in 1988, Mr. Fine, then age 51, had retired from Salomon Brothers. At the time of his retirement, he was employed in the upper echelon of this well-known investment bank as the Chief Operations Officer. Mr. Fine was on the executive committee. His highest year of earnings was when he earned approximately $3 million in 1984 or so. To this day, nearly 30 years after his retirement from the bank, he continues to receive a few perks as a result of his career at the firm, which was eventually taken over by Citibank. This includes an office in New York City and a personal secretary. His health insurance will be paid by Citibank for the rest of his life. He continues to use this secretary for his personal needs, and the needs of his grown children, and goes to his New York City office at least once per week. Mr. Fine, who is now age 79, suffers from a severe sleep disorder. He appears much younger than his stated age and presented his case in a clear, articulate and energetic manner. He is not currently employed but clearly has the ability to obtain employment.

         Following the defendant's retirement from Salomon Brothers, the defendant made considerable profits on various investments that benefitted both parties. Throughout the marriage of these parties, Mr. Fine was in nearly total control of the sources and uses of the parties' funds. He made the financial decisions.

         The defendant filed a financial affidavit on December 1, 2014 (#106.00) that disclosed the following relevant information: (a) total net monthly income of $1, 718 from social security; (b) total monthly expenses of $16, 041.75; (c) total assets of $118, 654; and (d) total debts of $699, 055.

         The defendant filed a financial affidavit on July 27, 2015 (#134.00). On that affidavit, the defendant's total net monthly income was reduced to $1, 464 and his total monthly expenses were reduced to $7, 250. His total assets were reduced to $25, 049 and total debts were increased to $734, 941. The defendant's sole Morgan Stanley investment account was reduced from $84, 418 on 12/1/14 to $390 as of 6/29/15. The defendant's sole Chase bank account was reduced from $9, 000 on 12/1/14 to $236 as of 6/29/15.

         The defendant's financial affidavit dated April 14, 2016 shows the following relevant information. First, his total net monthly income from social security is $1, 674. His total monthly expenses are $4, 787. His total assets are $22, 317. His total debts are $831, 306. The affidavit reveals that the defendant's sole Morgan Stanley ...

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