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Casablanca v. Casablanca

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 18, 2019

Hector L. CASABLANCA
v.
Anolan CASABLANCA

         Argued March 19, 2019

         Appeal from the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the court, Suarez, J.;

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          Brandon B. Fontaine, with whom, on the brief, was C. Michael Budlong, Hartford, for the appellant (defendant).

         Steven R. Dembo, with whom were Caitlin E. Kozloski, Hartford and, on the brief, P. Jo Anne Burgh, Glastonbury, for the appellee (plaintiff).

         Alvord, Keller and Beach, Js.

         OPINION

         ALVORD, J.

         [190 Conn.App. 608] In this marital dissolution action brought by the plaintiff, Hector L. Casablanca, the defendant, Anolan Casablanca, appeals from the judgment of the trial court resolving certain postjudgment motions. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court erred by (1) granting the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to execute the plaintiff’s proposed qualified domestic relations order (QDRO)[1] and (2)

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granting the plaintiff’s motion in limine to preclude the defendant from offering parol evidence in support of her motion to open the dissolution judgment. We conclude, contrary to the decision of the trial court, that the provision of the dissolution settlement agreement at issue in this case is ambiguous. Thus, we determine that the court should have considered extrinsic evidence of, and made additional factual findings regarding, the parties’ intent in agreeing to this provision before it denied the defendant’s motion to open the judgment and adjudicated the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant to sign the proposed QDRO. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court and remand this case for further proceedings.

          The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. The parties were married on July 23, 2005. The parties’ marriage was dissolved on January 21, 2016. On that date, the parties entered into a separation agreement (agreement). Article 11 of the agreement (retirement asset provision), titled "Retirement/Stock Accounts," provided: "The husband shall transfer to the wife, via QDRO, fifty (50%) percent of the value of the marital portion of his benefit under the City of Hartford [190 Conn.App. 609] Municipal Retirement fund, valued as of date of dissolution, minus the amount of the wife’s Social Security Benefit. The assigned benefit shall be paid as a separate interest payment over the life of the wife. The husband shall retain his Mass. Mutual 457 Plan and wife shall make no claim to same. Attorney Jeffrey Winnick shall prepare said QDRO(s) and the parties shall be equally responsible for the cost of same." The court, Suarez, J., found the agreement fair and equitable and incorporated its terms into the dissolution judgment. Attorney Winnick subsequently prepared a proposed QDRO and transmitted it to the parties. The defendant refused to sign it.

         On May 23, 2016, the defendant filed the first of a series of motions to open the dissolution judgment.[2] On October 25, 2016, the plaintiff filed a motion captioned "motion to compel," which sought a court order requiring the defendant to execute the proposed QDRO.[3] On February 14, 2017, the defendant filed the operative motion to open the dissolution judgment on grounds of mutual mistake and unilateral mistake, and on the basis of equitable principles. Specifically, she contended that the relevant part of the retirement asset provision, the phrase " ‘minus the amount of the wife’s Social Security Benefit,’ was entered upon mutual mistake of the parties." In her memorandum of law in support of the motion, the defendant maintained that [190 ...


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