September 11, 2017
for the dissolution of a marriage, and for other relief,
brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of
Stamford-Norwalk and tried to the court, Hon. Dennis F.
Harrigan, judge trial referee, who, exercising the powers of
the Superior Court, rendered judgment dissolving the marriage
and granting certain other relief; thereafter, the court,
Shay, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to open the
judgment and issued certain orders, from which the plaintiff
appealed to the Appellate Court, Beach, Keller and Harper,
Js., which reversed the trial court's judgment and
remanded the case with direction to deny the plaintiff's
motion to open, and the plaintiff, on the granting of
certification, appealed to this court. Reversed; further
M. Higgins, with whom, on the brief, was Leonard M. Braman,
for the appellant (plaintiff).
C. Boyer, for the appellee (defendant).
D. Barndollar filed a brief for the Connecticut Bar
Association as amicus curiae.
Campbell D. Barrett, Jon T. Kukucka and Johanna S. Katz filed
a brief for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy
of Matrimonial Lawyers as amicus curiae.
Palmer, Eveleigh, McDonald, Robinson, D'Auria and
Espinosa, Js. [*]
General Statutes § 46b-86 (a), unless a dissolution decree
provides otherwise, the trial court may at any time modify
any final order for the periodic payment of alimony upon a
showing of a substantial change in the circumstances of
either party, but may not modify any assignment of the estate
or a portion thereof of one party to the other party. In this
certified appeal, the plaintiff, Gail Reinke, appeals from
the judgment of the Appellate Court, which reversed the trial
court's decision to modify the property distribution
orders in a prior judgment dissolving her marriage to the
defendant, Walter Sing. The plaintiff claims that the
Appellate Court incorrectly concluded that, under §
46b-86 (a), in the absence of a finding of fraud, the trial
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify the prior
judgment. We agree and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of
the Appellate Court.
opinion of the Appellate Court sets forth the following
relevant facts and procedural history. ‘‘The
parties were married in 1989 and had two children. The
plaintiff [holds] a bachelor's degree and previously had
been employed in a number of well paying jobs. During the
marriage, she became a homemaker; she also worked part-time
‘from time to time.' The defendant [holds] a degree
in mathematics, and he worked throughout the marriage, most
recently as a self-employed consultant.
marriage was dissolved by the trial court, Hon. Dennis F.
Harrigan, judge trial referee, on October 2, 2007. The
parties entered into a ‘Stipulation for Judgment, '
which was incorporated into the judgment of dissolution. On
May 3, 2010, the plaintiff filed a motion to open the
judgment of dissolution on the basis of fraud, claiming that
the defendant failed to disclose some of his assets on the
financial affidavit relied [on] at the time of the
dissolution. On September 28, 2010, the trial court,
Shay, J., opened the judgment ‘by oral
agreement of both parties, without a finding of fraud, '
in order to reassess the financial orders.
a trial, the court issued its decision on August 23, 2013.
The court found that the defendant's income actually had
been twice the amount that the defendant disclosed at the
time of the original dissolution, and the lesser amount had
been relied on in formulating the terms of the initial
stipulation and judgment. The court also found that the
defendant had underreported the values of his investment
accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, and
anticipated tax refund; he also underreported the value of
the plaintiff's share of a condominium in New Jersey. The
court, therefore, ordered the amount and term of the alimony
altered, the amounts the defendant owed to the plaintiff with
respect to various marital assets and retirement accounts
altered, and awarded the plaintiff attorney's fees. On
September 27, 2013, the court issued a correction to its
memorandum of decision; the correction fixed a calculation
error, but the court declined to amend its prior award of
attorney's fees.'' (Footnote omitted.) Reinke
v. Sing, 162 Conn.App. 674');">162 Conn.App. 674, 675-76, 133 A.3d
plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court, which, in a per
curiam opinion, sua sponte ‘‘ordered the trial
court to articulate whether, in granting the motion to open
‘without a finding of fraud, ' it found there was
no fraud or was simply not making a finding regarding fraud.
The trial court issued an articulation . . . stating that, at
the time the judgment was opened, it made no finding one way
or the other, but that, after hearing the evidence, it found
that the plaintiff had failed to prove fraud by clear and
convincing evidence. Both parties submitted supplemental
briefs in response to ...