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LaBorne v. LaBorne

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 23, 2019

RIITTA LABORNE
v.
JOHN C. LABORNE

          Argued October 24, 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, Emons, J.; judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other relief; thereafter, the court, Tindill, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to open the judgment; subsequently, the matter was tried to the court, Colin, J.; judgment for the plaintiff, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Reversed; further proceedings.

          Norman A. Roberts II, with whom, on the brief, was Tara C. Dugo, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Alvord, Bright and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          BEACH, J.

         The plaintiff, Riitta LaBorne, appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered following a postdissolution hearing. The plaintiff claims that the court erred in (1) failing to value the parties' assets as of the date of the dissolution, (2) basing its alimony orders on the parties' gross income, rather than net income, and (3) concluding that the defendant, John C. LaBorne, was permitted to withdraw funds from his retirement account for the purpose of paying alimony. We agree and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our decision. The parties were married in 1990 and have two sons. During the pendency of the dissolution proceedings, initiated in 2010, both parties submitted financial affidavits. In his affidavits, dated in 2011 and 2012, the defendant listed financial assets not exceeding $2000.

         On March 22, 2012, the court, Emons, J., dissolved the parties' marriage. In its judgment of dissolution, the court ordered that the parties share legal custody of their minor child. The court ordered the defendant to ‘‘pay to the plaintiff 35 [percent] of his gross annual income in excess of $150, 000 per year'' and to provide the plaintiff ‘‘unallocated alimony and child support in the amount of $5500 per month.'' The court awarded all marital assets to the plaintiff.

         In September, 2012, the plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion for contempt in which she alleged that the defendant failed to make that month's required payment. The defendant responded with a motion to modify the orders regarding payments. The plaintiff amended her motion for contempt and alleged that the defendant had violated several additional court orders.

         In the course of discovery on the pending motions, the defendant produced a copy of his 2013 income tax return, in which he reported that he withdrew $142, 500 from an individual retirement account (IRA). After discovering this asset, the plaintiff filed a motion to open the judgment of dissolution on the basis of fraud. The plaintiff alleged, in relevant part, that the defendant never disclosed his IRA on any financial affidavit prior to the dissolution judgment, that between 2013 and 2014 the defendant withdrew ‘‘more than $300, 000 in liquid assets'' from his IRA, and that the defendant's alleged failure to disclose the IRA materially affected the court's orders.[1] The plaintiff requested a preliminary hearing and the right to conduct discovery in preparation thereof.

         While the motion to open was pending, the plaintiff filed a motion requesting that the court order that the defendant pay Meyers, Harrison & Pia, a forensic accounting firm (accounting firm), for an analysis of the defendant's financial transaction history. On January 12, 2015, the parties entered into a stipulation in which they agreed that the defendant was not to withdraw money from his IRA other than to pay alimony or reimbursable expenses.[2] The court, S. Richards, J., approved the stipulation. Thereafter, the court, Tindill, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to open the judgment on the basis of fraud. The plaintiff filed a motion for clarification, seeking to limit the scope of retrial to ‘‘discovery of and distribution of marital assets as of the date of the dissolution of marriage . . . .'' The court denied this motion, stating that ‘‘[j]udgment is opened as to all matters.''

         The plaintiff then filed a new motion requesting an order that there be no withdrawals whatsoever from the IRA prior to the retrial.[3] The plaintiff indicated that at retrial she would seek to have the IRA restored to its value as of the date of the dissolution trial and to be awarded the entire amount of the IRA.

         On May 27, 2015, the court held a hearing on the plaintiff's motions for forensic accounting fees and to prohibit any further withdrawals from the defendant's IRA until the issuance of court orders after retrial. After hearing argument from counsel, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for forensic accounting fees. The court then turned to the plaintiff's motion regarding the IRA. The defendant testified as to the current value of his IRA, withdrawals he made from his IRA since entering into the January 12, 2015 stipulation, and the values of his other assets and debts.

         The court determined that since the parties entered into the January 12, 2015 stipulation the defendant spent $37, 875 from his IRA. The court determined that $20, 625 was withdrawn to pay alimony and $4403 was spent on reimbursable expenses. The court further determined that the defendant could not account for the approximately $3450 per month ($13, 800 over four months) that he had spent on personal living expenses. The court orally granted the plaintiff's motion to prohibit any further withdrawals from the defendant's IRA until the court ruled on the matter at retrial.

         Prior to the retrial of the dissolution financial orders, the plaintiff requested that the accounting firm determine the amount the defendant withdrew from his IRA between June 6, 2013, and December 31, 2015, and to determine what the value of the IRA would have been, had the funds not ...


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