Aliano v. Aliano
|18 February 2014
|148 Conn.App. 267,85 A.3d 33
|Terry ALIANO v. Michael ALIANO.
|Connecticut Court of Appeals
OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE
John F. Morris, Hartford, for the appellant (plaintiff).
Timothy P. Lenes, for the appellee (defendant).
DiPENTIMA, C.J., and SHELDON and FOTI, Js.
The plaintiff, Terry Aliano,1 appeals from the denial of her postdissolution motion for contempt filed against the defendant, Michael Aliano. On appeal, she claims that the court improperly found that the defendant's failure to pay a lump sum financial award was not wilful noncompliance with the terms of the parties' dissolution judgment. We disagree, and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.
The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our discussion. The parties were married on February 24, 2007. In March, 2010, the plaintiff commenced an action seeking a dissolution of the marriage. On November 2, 2011, following a bifurcated trial, the court issued two memoranda of decision; one addressing custody and access regarding the parties' minor child and one addressing the various financial issues.2 The court found that the defendant was the president and chief executive officer of a number of family businesses founded by his deceased father, Ronald Aliano (decedent). The estate of the decedent was the subject of a probate dispute involving a woman who claimed to be an heir of the decedent. Nevertheless, the defendant was expected to “inherit a significant portion of the estimated $10 million estate.” The court issued a number of financial orders, including awarding alimony to the plaintiff for a limited time period and dividing the parties' property. With respect to the defendant's expected inheritance from the decedent's estate, the court ordered in paragraph 12 of its decision: “The [defendant] shall make a payment to the [plaintiff] in the amount of $100,000 within 30 days of his receiving his inheritance so long as such receipt is in excess of $250,000.”
On June 21, 2012, the plaintiff filed a motion for contempt, alleging that the defendant had wilfully failed, refused or neglected to pay her the $100,000 as required by the court's judgment. She further claimed that In addition to seeking a finding of contempt and payment of the $100,000, the plaintiff requested that the court order the defendant to pay statutory interest pursuant to General Statutes § 37–3a and attorney's fees related to the prosecution of her contempt motion.3
The court held a hearing on July 16, 2012, where the plaintiff called as a witness Andrew Messier, the executor of the decedent's estate and the trustee for two of the trusts associated with the estate. Messier testified that the defendant received 50 percent of the shares of stock of an ambulance company owned by the decedent. The value of the stock received by the defendant was $2,350,000. This was the only distribution from the estate to the defendant.
The plaintiff testified that she had not received the $100,000 payment and that the defendant had not informed her of his receipt of a portion of his inheritance. The defendant testified that he had not received any cash or negotiable instruments from the decedent's estate and that a trial was pending in the Probate Court regarding all of the other assets of that estate. The defendant stated that he anticipated receiving a substantial amount of cash from the decedent's estate. During cross-examination, in response to a question about whether he had ever made an effort to communicate with the plaintiff about the inheritance issue, the defendant stated: He then iterated that he had not received his total inheritance, and the portion that he had was in the form of stock.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the court stated:
Counsel for the plaintiff inquired whether the court was clarifying the dissolution judgment so that the $100,000 obligation would be triggered only if the defendant received an inheritance of cash. The court responded: The plaintiff's counsel then questioned whether the court was altering the terms of the dissolution judgment, to which the court responded, “[t]hat's not what I am doing.” The following colloquy then occurred between the plaintiff's counsel and the court:
The plaintiff then filed the present appeal, arguing that the court's order was clear and unambiguous and that the court abused its discretion by modifying the property order and by failing to find the defendant in contempt. Because the trial court had vacated all of its findings underlying the order, vacated the order, and then denied the motion for contempt without providing the reasoning for doing so, we issued the following order on November 5, 2013: “Pursuant to Practice Book §§ 61–10(b) and 60–5, the trial court ... is hereby sua sponte ordered to articulate, within thirty days of this order, the factual findings and legal basis underlying its denial of the motion for contempt.” 4
On November 21, 2013, the court issued its articulation regarding the denial of the plaintiff's motion for contempt. The court stated that The court also articulated that the defendanthad not received any other distribution from the Probate Court, he did not possess $100,000 of cash at the time of the hearing on the contempt motion and therefore was unable to pay that sum to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff presented no evidence that the defendant had inherited any cash or that “the stock in a closely held family business was liquid or otherwise readily convertible into dollars or that there existed a market for said shares.” The court also determined that its order was ambiguous because it did not state whether the $250,000 trigger to pay $100,000 to the plaintiff must be in “actual dollars or other assets valued at $250,000.” It further concluded that ...
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...the trial court could reasonably have concluded as it did." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Aliano v. Aliano , 148 Conn. App. 267, 277, 85 A.3d 33 (2014). Although the plaintiff claims on appeal that she is entitled to attorney's fees and costs pursuant to the agreemen......
Aliano v. Aliano
...of the petition.Timothy P. Lenes, in opposition. The plaintiff's petition for certification for appeal from the Appellate Court, 148 Conn.App. 267, 85 A.3d 33, is ...