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Varoglu v. Sciarrino

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

September 25, 2018


          Argued April 16, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action 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. Michael E. Shay, judge trial referee; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Kevin F. Collins, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Norman A. Pattis, with whom, on the brief, was Joseph Sciarrino, for the appellee (defendant).

          Lavine, Keller and Bishop, Js.


          PER CURIAM.

         The plaintiff, Lale Varoglu, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dissolving her marriage to the defendant, Joseph Sciarrino. The plaintiff claims that the court erred in finding certain facts and in fashioning its orders pertaining to the distribution of the equity in the marital home by failing to apply the ‘‘preservation'' criteria in General Statutes § 46b-81 (c). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.[1]

         The plaintiff brought this proceeding to dissolve her marriage to the defendant. Following a trial, the court found the following relevant facts as set forth in its May 17, 2016 memorandum of decision. The court stated: ‘‘The plaintiff . . . and the defendant . . . were married in Westport . . . on August 5, 2012. This is a second marriage for the [defendant]. No children have been born to the [plaintiff] since the date of this marriage . . . . The parties have lived separate and apart since April 5, 2014, when the [defendant] left the marital home . . . in Westport, which the [plaintiff] continues to occupy. The [defendant] currently occupies a two bedroom apartment in Stamford. . . .

         ‘‘The principal bone of contention is the equitable distribution of the marital home at 2 Ledgemoor Lane in Westport, which was purchased by the parties [on] March 1, 2010, prior to their marriage for $1, 950, 000. . . . The [defendant] contributed the sum of $1, 535, 670 toward the purchase price, which sum represented his share of the net proceeds from the sale [of] some Nantucket property, which was part of a previous divorce settlement. The [plaintiff] contributed approximately $418, 000. Title to the property was taken in the name of 2 Ledgemoor Lane, LLC, in which the [defendant] held a 65 percent interest and the [plaintiff] held a 35 percent 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 percent to 22 percent. The fact that title is held in the name of a limited liability corporation is a complicating factor. The [defendant] 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 [plaintiff's] counsel, he also admitted that another purpose was to insulate him from outstanding claims by the [Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Revenue Services], and First County Bank. The parties worked out an arrangement to maintain the property, whereby the [defendant] would contribute $4000 per month and the [plaintiff] would contribute $2000. This arrangement continued until April, 2014, when the [defendant] left the marital home. . . .

         ‘‘On June 3, 2010, with the agreement of the [defendant], the [plaintiff], borrowed $350, 000. . . . at which time . . . 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 percent in favor of the [plaintiff] and 25 percent in favor of the [defendant], which is the situation as of trial. . . . 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 operative agreement was not amended except as to ownership. . . . The [defendant] testified that the parties had an agreement that $100, 000 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 . . . the [plaintiff] gave the [defendant] $12, 000 in cash, to replace that sum he claimed was stolen by a household employee, but more important[ly], she purchased a condominium [in] Crested Butte, Colorado, which she has valued at $162, 000 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. . . .

         ‘‘As to the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, the [defendant] told the [plaintiff] that he had begun an extramarital affair . . . approximately seven months after their marriage . . . . He told the court that ‘things were not working out for him.' In fact, at one point, he suggested to [the plaintiff] that the girlfriend could move into the marital residence with them. . . . [H]e testified that the [plaintiff] had ‘aggressively interjected herself in his finances,' and that had ‘made him nervous.' The [defendant's] claim simply does not hold water. For one thing, the [defendant'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 [defendant] fails to see the irony in his position, where, in essence, the [plaintiff] 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 in his dental practice would not have happened . . . . 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.'' As a result, the court found that ‘‘the marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably, and . . . the [defendant] is primarily at fault for said breakdown.''

         The court ordered that ‘‘[t]he entity know as LV Solutions, LLC, of which the [plaintiff] is the sole member, and which, in turn, is the owner of real estate [in] Crested Butte, Colorado, shall remain the property of the [plaintiff], subject to any existing liens or other indebtedness, free and clear of any claims by the [defendant]. . . . The [plaintiff] shall have exclusive possession of the real estate located at 2 Ledgemoor Lane, Westport, Connecticut, subject to any existing indebtedness, and she shall be responsible for the payment of all mortgages, liens, taxes, and insurance, and shall indemnify and hold the [defendant] harmless from any further liability thereunder. As to said real estate, the parties shall list [the home] for sale no later than July 1, 2016, with a mutually acceptable broker . . . . Unless the parties shall otherwise agree, they shall accept any bona fide offer without unusual conditions, which is within 5 percent of the listing price. Upon sale of the property, from the proceeds shall be paid the customary and ordinary costs associated with a sale of real estate, including broker and attorney fees, conveyance taxes, and any mortgages and liens. After the payment of these sums, the net proceeds shall be divided 60 percent to the [defendant] and 40 percent to the [plaintiff]. In addition, in order to ...

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