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Wolyniec v. Wolyniec

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 26, 2019


          Argued December 11, 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. Stanley Novack, judge trial referee; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief; there- after, the court, Colin, J., granted in part and denied in part the defendant's motion for contempt; subsequently, the court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff's motion to enforce the dissolution judgment; thereafter, the court denied the plaintiff's motion for contempt, and the plaintiff appealed to this court; subsequently, the court denied the plaintiff's motion to reargue, and the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Krzysztof Wolyniec, self-represented, with whom, on the brief, were Tara C. Dugo and Norman A. Roberts, II, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Lavine, Alvord and Moll, Js.


          ALVORD, J.

         In these consolidated appeals, the plaintiff, Krzysztof Wolyniec, appeals from the judgments of the trial court rendered on several postjudgment motions filed by him and the defendant, Marlena Wolyniec.[1] On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court erred by (1) ordering that the defendant may continue to reside at the plaintiff's Darien residence until he satisfies his acknowledged arrearage in unallocated alimony and child support, [2] and (2) failing to find that the defendant's motion for contempt as to the arrearage in unallocated alimony and child support was barred by the equitable doctrine of laches. We are not persuaded by either claim and, accordingly, affirm the judgments of the court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. The parties were married on July 3, 1993, and they have two children. On January 30, 2007, the court rendered judgment dissolving the parties' marriage. The judgment incorporated by reference the parties' stipulation of the same date (stipulation).

         As to family support, the stipulation provided that the plaintiff, commencing February 1, 2007, was to pay to the defendant unallocated alimony and child support in the sum of $10, 000 per month, until her death, remarriage, or until May 30, 2016, which date fell shortly after the parties' younger child reached the age of eighteen. The plaintiff also agreed to purchase a house in Darien (Darien residence) for the use of the defendant and the parties' two children.[3] The defendant agreed to vacate the Darien residence on March 1, 2016, or six months following the date the residence no longer served as the primary residence of the defendant and a minor child, whichever shall occur first.[4] The parties agreed that the plaintiff's ‘‘obligation to pay for said house is in the nature of alimony and as such is modifiable.'' The parties further agreed that ‘‘[i]n accepting the amount of unallocated alimony and support as provided for herein, the [defendant] is relying upon the [plaintiff's] securing of this house for her use and the use of the children. Should the [defendant] not have the use of said home for herself and the children, such fact shall be deemed a substantial change in circumstances warranting modification of the unallocated alimony and support herein.''

         As to the division of marital property, the stipulation provided that each party would retain the property appearing on their respective financial affidavits, the plaintiff would pay to the defendant the sum of$400, 000, and the plaintiff would purchase a new Volvo automobile for the defendant.

         On May 6, 2016, the defendant filed a motion for contempt, claiming that the plaintiff owed an unallocated alimony and child support arrearage of $202, 146.25, and the plaintiff filed an objection. On June 13, 2016, the plaintiff filed a motion for contempt, arguing that the defendant wilfully remained in the Darien residence beyond March 1, 2016, in violation of the express terms of the stipulation incorporated into the dissolution judgment.[5] On the same day, he also filed a motion to enforce the judgment of dissolution; that motion asserted many of the same facts as his motion for contempt and requested that the court order the defendant to vacate the Darien residence.

         The court held an evidentiary hearing on the parties' motions on March 7, 2017. At the beginning of the hearing, the parties introduced into evidence an ‘‘agreement as to facts at hearing'' (agreement). The parties recognized that the dissolution judgment required the plaintiff to pay the defendant $10, 000 monthly in unallocated family support commencing in February, 2007, and ending in May, 2016. The parties further agreed that the ‘‘dissolution of marriage judgment was never modified by the court.'' According to the agreement, the plaintiff acknowledged that he owed $122, 145.25 in family support arrearage. Attached to the agreement was a yearly summary of family support owed and paid. The parties further agreed that the ‘‘defendant was to vacate [the] plaintiff's residence in Darien on March 1, 2016, which she has not done. [The] [d]efendant currently resides in the Darien home.'' Lastly, the parties agreed that the defendant had paid for three years of tuition, room, and board at Emory University for the parties' older child.[6]

         During the hearing, [7] the self-represented plaintiff sought to inquire of the defendant as to whether she was aware that the plaintiff's income had dropped substantially in 2010. In response to the objection of the defendant's counsel on grounds of relevance, the plaintiff represented to the court that the parties had reached, postjudgment, the following oral agreement: ‘‘[W]e agreed that I will lower the alimony payment for a period [un]til the older [child] goes to college and then I'll cover all the . . . college costs after the expiration of the agreement. And that was precipitated by the fact that my income dramatically dropped, and I was- otherwise I intended to file for modification.'' The plaintiff further inquired of the defendant whether it was true that the parties had entered into such an oral agreement in 2010, although he described the terms of the agreement differently, asking whether they had agreed that he would reduce the unallocated support until the older child entered college, at which time he would ‘‘return to paying-paying the full amount, and then after the conclusion of the divorce decree I will pay . . . for the last years of the older one's and the full . . . college cost of the younger one.''

         The defendant gave various answers to questions asking whether such an oral agreement existed, testifying:

‘‘[Y]ou have so many versions of all your agreements through our relationship that . . . I lost track with all your agreements''; ‘‘[i]t's difficult to sift through what you say to me. You were promising me lots of things through our . . . marriage and after divorce. I cannot say what is true, what is false''; ‘‘[i]t's difficult to say that this is agreement because all our relationship is like I do what you say''; and ‘‘[w]e agreed about lots of things that didn't come up as a true, so at the certain moment in my life I stopped paying attention what you say. I just do . . . what is necessary to survive for my kids and me until the moment that I can start working and be independent person, and for my kids to go to college and be independent. Until then-I cannot say that I agreed; you forced me to agree about lots of things.''

         The defendant testified at the hearing that she did not have much money left and did not have funds to pay for an apartment. She testified that she would be able to move out of the Darien residence if the plaintiff satisfied the support arrearage.

         Following the hearing, on March 13, 2017, the court issued three orders. With respect to the defendant's motion for contempt, the court granted it in part and denied it in part. As to the plaintiff's claim of an oral agreement regarding his family support obligation, the court found that ‘‘[t]he credible evidence introduced at the hearing is insufficient for the court to find that such an agreement ever existed or, if it did exist, its specific terms.'' The fact that the defendant waited to file the motion for contempt, despite a period of the plaintiff's failing to pay the family support order in full, led the court to infer that the parties had some discussion that impacted the plaintiff's decision not to pay the full amount of support. Thus, the court found that the plaintiff's noncompliance was not wilful and that the defendant ‘‘failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the plaintiff wilfully and intentionally violated the alimony order.'' The court ordered the plaintiff to pay the undisputed family support ...

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