Powers v. Hiranandani

Decision Date26 May 2020
Docket NumberAC 40470
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties Colleen POWERS v. Kaveesh HIRANANDANI

Samuel V. Schoonmaker, with whom, on the brief, was Wendy Dunne DiChristina, for the appellant (defendant).

Tara C. Dugo, Stamford, with whom were Haseeb Khan and, on the brief, Norman A. Roberts, Stamford, for the appellee (plaintiff).

Lavine, Keller and Devlin, Js.

LAVINE, J.

The defendant, Kaveesh Hiranandani, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dissolving his marriage to the plaintiff, Colleen Powers. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court (1) lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the real property it awarded to the plaintiff, (2) issued orders with respect to real property that were predicated on a mistake and are impossible to execute, (3) abused its discretion by dividing the real property between the parties without determining its value, (4) abused its discretion by failing to divide the parties’ personal property, (5) improperly ordered him to pay a percentage of the cost of all future extracurricular activities of the parties’ child, and (6) abused its discretion by issuing financial orders in excess of his ability to pay. We agree with the defendant's fourth claim, but disagree with the remainder of his claims. We, therefore, reverse in part the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings.

The Gordian knot at the heart of this appeal centers on the real property that the defendant inherited from his deceased brother, Monesh Hiranandani (Monesh). The facts regarding the property may be summarized as follows. In 2003, the defendant and Monesh together purchased and mortgaged residential properties in Stamford known as 63 Lantern Circle (Lantern Circle) and 17 Bend of River Lane (Bend of River). The defendant resided at Lantern Circle, which later became the parties’ marital home. Monesh resided at Bend of River, which was his marital home. The defendant owned 99 percent of his Lantern Circle residence and Monesh owned 1 percent of it. Monesh owned 99 percent of his Bend of River residence and the defendant owned 1 percent of it. Monesh and his wife became estranged and, on October 17, 2013, Monesh executed a will (2013 will) in which he devised his interest in both Lantern Circle and Bend of River to the defendant. Monesh died in April, 2014. His widow contested the 2013 will in the Probate Court. The plaintiff commenced the present dissolution action on November 12, 2014. Following a protracted trial,1 the court dissolved the parties’ marriage on August 5, 2016, and ordered the defendant to transfer all of his rights, title and interest in Lantern Circle to the plaintiff by September 1, 2016. At the time of dissolution, the widow had withdrawn her challenge to the 2013 will, but Monesh's estate was insolvent and had not yet been settled. Although the defendant had inherited real property from Monesh, including Monesh's 1 percent interest in Lantern Circle, the Probate Court had not yet ordered the distribution of the property in the estate. The defendant's inheritance, therefore, had not yet come into his possession at the time of dissolution.

The trial court issued a memorandum of decision on August 5, 2016, in which it made the following relevant factual findings.2 The parties were married in March, 2010, and resided at Lantern Circle. Their only child was born in August, 2013. The plaintiff is a college graduate, who, at the time of the marriage, was employed full-time at an annual salary of approximately $150,000. After the birth of the parties’ child, the plaintiff worked part-time, but she has not been employed since December, 2013. At the time of trial, the forty-three year old plaintiff resided with the parties’ child at Lantern Circle.

The defendant, who was forty-five at the time of trial, suffers from a medical condition that has caused a discrepancy in the length of his legs and causes soreness in his joints. He has a degree in economics and was self-employed as a consultant, earning between $70,000 and $80,000 per year until the end of 2012, when he left his employment to help care for Monesh, who had been diagnosed with cancer

. The defendant attributed his extended unemployment to his time spent taking care of Monesh, grieving Monesh's death and the parties’ marital separation, and the demands of the court process. He was living in an apartment in Stamford at the time of trial.

The court found that the parties’ marriage was deeply troubled. The parties did not know basic things about one another, including their health, education, and financial affairs. Because they did not communicate, the plaintiff did not know that the defendant had failed to file income tax returns for a number of years and he did not know that the plaintiff had filed separate income tax returns.

Each of the parties testified as to what he or she considered to be the other party's disturbing conduct. The defendant testified that the plaintiff continued to wear an engagement ring given to her by her former fiancé who died unexpectedly and used a greeting that the fiancé had recorded on the parties’ landline. According to the defendant, the plaintiff did not set up a nursery for their child and twice had signed a lease for an apartment to move out of Lantern Circle with the child.

The plaintiff testified that she lived in fear of the defendant. She did not set up the child's nursery because she was afraid of the defendant's verbal abuse if she touched his belongings in the room. She twice signed a lease for an apartment intending to leave the marriage, only to return. The plaintiff presented evidence that the defendant was verbally abusive toward her, including three audiotapes on which the defendant could be heard making vicious, vituperative, and obscene comments about the plaintiff. The plaintiff produced photographs depicting damage the defendant had caused to the walls of Lantern Circle. The defendant acknowledged his voice on the audiotapes and admitted that he had damaged the walls of Lantern Circle. According to the defendant, he was in a period of personal crisis when the tapes were recorded and he caused the wall damage, but he could not remember the incidents. The court found that the plaintiff testified credibly about the defendant's verbal abuse and that the defendant was more responsible than the plaintiff for the breakdown of the marriage.3

With respect to the parties’ assets, the court made the following findings. The defendant owned 99 percent and Monesh owned 1 percent of Lantern Circle. When Monesh died in 2014, he devised his 1 percent interest in Lantern Circle to the defendant. The parties stipulated that the fair market value of Lantern Circle was $510,000. The defendant's April 11, 2016 financial affidavit stated that Lantern Circle was encumbered by a $367,921 mortgage, leaving a net equity of $142,079. Although the plaintiff and the parties’ child resided at Lantern Circle, the defendant continued to pay the mortgage and bills with funds he had borrowed from his mother, Mohini Hiranandani (Mohini). In addition, the court found that Monesh also had devised his 99 percent interest in Bend of River to the defendant. In his April 11, 2016 financial affidavit, the defendant listed Bend of River as an asset and valued it at $767,656.89 as of the date of Monesh's death in 2014 . The affidavit stated that Bend of River was encumbered by a mortgage of $600,350.

The court dissolved the parties’ marriage on the ground of irretrievable breakdown and found that it was in the child's best interest for the plaintiff to have sole legal custody and final decision-making authority in consultation with the defendant. The court issued extensive orders regarding the location of the child's residence vis-à-vis the defendant, visitation with the defendant, and the financial responsibilities of the parties with respect to the child.4

Those child-related financial orders, except the order related to the child's extracurricular expenses, are not at issue in the present appeal.

With regard to the division of the marital assets, the court ordered the defendant to ‘‘transfer to the plaintiff all of his rights, title and interest in’’ Lantern Circle on or before September 1, 2016. Until he transfers Lantern Circle to the plaintiff, the defendant ‘‘shall be solely responsible for all future costs associated with said property including the mortgage(s), taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and the like and shall indemnify and hold the plaintiff harmless therefrom. Upon such transfer, the plaintiff shall be solely responsible for all future costs associated with said property including the mortgage(s), taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and the like and shall indemnify and hold the defendant harmless therefrom.’ The court ordered the defendant to retain ownership of Bend of River free and clear of any claim by the plaintiff.

As to their personal property, the court ordered the plaintiff to retain her jewelry listed on her financial affidavit. The parties were to divide the home furnishings listed on the plaintiff's April 11, 2016 financial affidavit to their mutual satisfaction. The court also ordered the parties to retain their respective financial accounts and assume liability for their respective debts. See footnote 2 of this opinion.

On August 24, 2016, the defendant filed a motion for reargument or reconsideration, asking the court to value his interest in Bend of River and reconsider its order that he transfer his interest in Lantern Circle to the plaintiff, among other things. The court reconsidered its decision and modified its order only with respect to the defendant's request regarding Mother's Day visitation. The defendant appealed.

On December 15, 2017, the defendant filed a motion for articulation stating that the court ‘‘did not find that [he] owns’’ Lantern Circle and Bend of River or that ...

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2 cases
  • In re Buckingham
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • 26 d2 Maio d2 2020
    ... ... In ruling on a 197 Conn.App. 378 probate appeal, the Superior Court exercises the powers, not of a constitutional court of general or common law jurisdiction, but of a Probate Court." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) ... ...
  • Bevilacqua v. Bevilacqua
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • 10 d2 Novembro d2 2020
    ... ... [t]he trial court's findings [of fact] are binding upon this court unless they are clearly erroneous ... " (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Powers v. Hiranandani , 197 Conn. App. 384, 39495, 232 A.3d 116 (2020). With respect to ownership of the Bahamian properties, the court awarded those ... ...

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