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Wood v. Wood

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 14, 2017


          Argued December 5, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Ficeto, J.

          James H. Lee, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          William J. Forbes, with whom was Cara C. Pavalock, for the appellee (defendant).

          Lavine, Alvord and Pellegrino, Js.


          ALVORD, J.

         The plaintiff, Amelia Wood, appeals from the financial orders relating to the judgment of the trial court dissolving her marriage to the defendant, David Wood. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court abused its discretion by (1) awarding the parties' joint securities account, in its entirety, to the defendant, (2) failing to treat the defendant's unexercised stock options as available income when awarding alimony or, alternatively, as marital property when distributing property, and (3) failing to distribute a portion of the defendant's pension annuity retirement income to her. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The court found the following facts. At the time of the dissolution of their fourteen year marriage, the defendant was sixty-six years old and retired and the plaintiff was fifty-two years old and in good health. The parties met through a chat room in 1999 while the defendant was living in Singapore and the plaintiff in Malaysia. At that time, the plaintiff was married but estranged from her spouse. The plaintiff testified that while in Malaysia she co-owned a business with her then husband, which she characterized as a successful hotel and resort marketing business. The plaintiff testified that when she and the defendant decided to marry, the defendant urged her to get a ‘‘ ‘quick' '' divorce so that they could leave Malaysia together and settle in the United States. She claims that they both understood that a quick divorce would mean that she would make no claim to the marital estate she shared with her then husband, but she had agreed to a quick divorce because the defendant assured her that he would always provide for her. As a result, the plaintiff requested that the court award her additional assets representing her allegedly forgone portion of the prior marital estate.

         The parties were married in 2001 in Bloomfield. During the marriage, the plaintiff filed for divorce on two prior occasions but withdrew each prior action. The parties each blame the other for the difficulties encountered in their relationship. There are no children of the marriage, although both parties have adult children from previous relationships. The defendant has always financially supported his children from his two prior marriages. The plaintiff has not worked outside the home since she married the defendant. She alleged that she managed a crew of ten employees at the business she co-owned in Malaysia prior to her marriage to the defendant. After completing a paralegal course in 2005, she obtained the related certificate, but she never sought employment in that or any other field during her marriage to the defendant. During the pendency of this dissolution action, the plaintiff removed a total of $120, 000 from the parties' bank accounts, funds for which she has provided no accounting.[1] The court found that the plaintiff is able to seek and obtain gainful employment. The plaintiff also has a UBS IRA in the amount of $25, 100, an Employee Provident Fund in the amount of $20, 000, and approximately $23, 400 in bank accounts.

         The defendant retired from Otis Elevator after a thirty-five year career at the end of 2012. Thus, the parties were married during the last eleven years of his employment. He receives $412 in social security benefits and $1900 in pension annuity retirement income for a total gross weekly retirement income amount of $2166.[2] His weekly net income is $1803. He has a PMP IRA valued at $312, 541 and a Dividend G IRA valued at $466, 253. He has $970, 819 in unexercised stock options and the parties' joint UBS Managed Equity account valued at $965, 645. On his financial affidavit, the defendant also listed unvested shares of UTC stock, which the court valued at $29, 800, and bank accounts worth $23, 000. Prior to the marriage, the defendant had $1.1 million in assets. He purchased the parties' marital home at 19 Stratford Park in Bloomfield, liquidating $110, 000 of those premarital assets for the deposit. The house has a fair market value of $275, 000 and a mortgage of approximately $43, 000.

         The court made the following relevant financial awards. The plaintiff is to receive alimony in the amount of $540 per week until her sixty-fifth birthday, which was a nonmodifiable period. The plaintiff retained all benefit and interest in her premarital bank accounts and retirement assets. She retained her jewelry and custody of the dogs, and the defendant was ordered to transfer title, free and clear, to his 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe to her. The plaintiff was further permitted to retain all sums of money she previously removed from joint bank accounts, including the unaccounted for $120, 000. The defendant was awarded all interest in the unexercised stock options, the UBS Managed Equity account, and the unvested UTC stock. He also retained his photography equipment and tools, the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe, and the 2003 Toyota Highlander. The defendant's IRA assets, valued at $778, 794, were divided 65 percent to the plaintiff and 35 percent to the defendant. The court also ordered that the plaintiff remain the named survivor beneficiary of the defendant's pension annuity retirement income. The parties were ordered to list for sale the marital home immediately. The defendant is solely responsible for the mortgage, real estate taxes, and insurance until the home is sold, and the parties are to divide equally the net proceeds from the sale of the home.[3] The parties were each awarded any residual assets held in their individual names. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the court erred by not (1) awarding to her one half of the UBS Managed Equity account, as it was jointly held; (2) considering the unexercised stock options when determining the defendant's ability to pay alimony or, alternatively, treating the defendant's unexercised stock options as a marital asset subject to distribution; and (3) distributing a portion of the defendant's current pension annuity retirement income to her. We disagree.

         We first set forth our standard of review. ‘‘It is within the province of the trial court to find facts and draw proper inferences from the evidence presented. . . . [W]here the factual basis of the court's decision is challenged we must determine whether the facts set out in the memorandum of decision are supported by the evidence or whether, in light of the evidence and the pleadings in the whole record, these facts are clearly erroneous. . . . An appellate court will not disturb a trial court's orders in domestic relations cases unless the court has abused its discretion or it is found that it could not reasonably conclude as it did, based on the facts presented. . . . In determining whether a trial court has abused its broad discretion in domestic relations matters, we allow every reasonable presumption in favor of the correctness of its action.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Kovalsick v. Kovalsick, 125 Conn.App. 265, 270-271, 7 A.3d 924 (2010).

         ‘‘The legal principles that guide our analysis are well established. In dissolution proceedings, the court must fashion its financial orders in accordance with the criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-81 (division of marital property), General Statutes § 46b-82 (alimony), and General Statutes § 46b-84 (child support). . . . All three statutory provisions require consideration of the parties' amount and ...

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