January 17, 2019
for the dissolution of a marriage, and for other relief,
brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New
Britain, and tried to the court, Pinkus, J.;
judgment dissolving the marriage and granting certain other
relief, from which the defendant appealed to this court;
thereafter, the court, Connors, J., denied the
defendant's motion for articulation; subsequently, this
court granted the defendant's motion for review but
denied the relief requested therein. Reversed in part;
E. Mortimer, for the appellant (defendant).
Katarzyna Maluszewski, for the appellee (plaintiff).
Lavine, Prescott and Elgo, Js.
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."
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 foreclose 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, 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
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
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. In January, 2016, the plaintiff, who had
resided in Connecticut for at least one year, commenced the
underlying action for dissolution of marriage.
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 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 regarding the testimony of witnesses. Although
the plaintiff claims that completed child support guideline
worksheets were provided to the court by the parties, she
concedes that they were never made a part of the record.
There are no completed child support guideline worksheets in
the trial court file.
remainder of the court's decision consists of nineteen,
separately numbered orders. In addition to orders dissolving
the parties' marriage and incorporating by reference the
parties' parenting plan,  the court ordered the defendant
to pay the plaintiff "$204 per week as child support in
accordance with the child support guidelines" and
"$100 per week as alimony for a period of three years
from the date of [the] judgment . . . [to] terminate upon the
death of either party or the plaintiffs remarriage . . .
[and] subject to the provisions of [General Statutes] §
46b-86 (b)." The parties were ordered to share equally
in the cost of their children's extracurricular
activities and healthcare. The court awarded the parties'
delicatessen business and marital residence in Plainville to
the plaintiff without assigning a value to those assets, and
ordered the defendant to sign all necessary paperwork to
transfer his interest in those properties to the plaintiff.
The court allowed the defendant to retain "any interest
he may have" in a rental property owned by his family in
Queens, New York. The court did not identify what interest,
if any, the defendant had in the property or assign a value
to that interest, although the record indicates that these
issues were hotly contested at trial.
court ordered that the parties be responsible for the debts
listed on their respective financial affidavits, with the
exception of the balance on two credit cards, for which they
would be equally responsible. Each party was awarded whatever
personal property currently was in his or her possession,
including automobiles, and each was permitted to retain his
or her own bank accounts except for certain joint accounts
with Farmington Bank, which were awarded to the plaintiff.
The court ...