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Zaniewski v. Zaniewski

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 4, 2019

Malgorzata ZANIEWSKI
v.
Cezary ZANIEWSKI

         Argued January 17, 2019

         Appeal from the Superior Court, Judicial District of New Britain, Barry C. Pinkus, J., Susan A. Connors, J..

Page 621

          James E. Mortimer, for the appellant (defendant).

          Katarzyna Maluszewski, for the appellee (plaintiff).

         Lavine, Prescott and Elgo, Js.

          OPINION

         PRESCOTT, J.

Page 622

          [190 Conn.App. 387] The defendant, Cezary Zaniewski, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dissolving his marriage to the plaintiff, Malgorzata Zaniewski. The defendant claims on appeal that the court improperly (1) failed to use the parties’ net incomes in calculating its orders of child support and alimony, (2) ordered the defendant to pay alimony in an amount that exceeds his ability to pay, and (3) abused its discretion by crafting inequitable property distribution and alimony orders that ‘‘excessively and unjustifiably favored the plaintiff."

          The trial court’s memorandum of decision fails to set forth the factual basis for its financial orders. The trial judge who authored the decision retired shortly after issuing its decision, rendering fruitless the defendant’s proper and timely efforts to remedy the decision’s lack of findings in order to secure appellate review of his claims. In many cases, an inadequate record would fore-close appellate review of an appellant’s claim. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of the record in the present case arises not from any fault attributable to the defendant, [190 Conn.App. 388] but from the trial court’s issuance of a memorandum of decision that contained virtually no factual findings that would permit us to review appropriately the defendant’s appellate claims. Although we are cognizant that the trial court is entitled to great deference in crafting financial orders in marital dissolution actions, we nevertheless conclude under the unique circumstances presented here that equity requires a new trial. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to the financial orders and order a new trial.

          The matter was tried before the court over the course of three days, ending on November 22, 2016. On November 25, 2016, the court issued a four page memorandum of decision dissolving the parties’ marriage on the basis of irretrievable breakdown.

         The trial court’s decision contains only the following uncontested facts. The parties were married in New York in 2005. They have two minor daughters who were issue of the marriage.[1] In January, 2016, the plaintiff, who had resided in Connecticut for at least one year, commenced the underlying action for dissolution of marriage.

          The memorandum is devoid of any relevant factual findings, and the court’s legal analysis is limited to the following statement: "The court listened to and observed witnesses, and reviewed the exhibits. In addition, the court carefully considered the criteria set forth in the Connecticut General Statutes in reaching the decisions reflected in the orders below." The court did not discuss the respective financial circumstances of the parties, including any findings regarding their income or earning potential. The court made no findings with respect to the value of any marital assets, and provided no analysis or rationale for its division of the marital property or its other financial orders. The court [190 Conn.App. 389] did not indicate whether either party was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage or shared fault. The court made no explicit credibility determinations ...


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