Puris v. Puris

Decision Date23 February 1993
Docket NumberNo. 10604,10604
Citation30 Conn.App. 443,620 A.2d 829
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesBeverly PURIS v. Martin PURIS.

Gordon H. Marsh, New York City, pro hac vice, with whom, were Miles F. McDonald, Jr., Greenwich, and, on the brief, Pamela S. Valentine, New York City, for appellant (defendant).

William T. Fitzmaurice, with whom were Laura Welch Ray and, on the brief, Samuel V. Schoonmaker III, Stamford, for appellee (plaintiff).


HEIMAN, Judge.

The defendant appeals challenging the financial orders rendered by the trial court incident to the judgment dissolving his marriage to the plaintiff. On appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court improperly (1) allocated more than $4,000,000 of debts to the defendant under the statutory criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-81, 1 (2) awarded to the plaintiff alimony of $276,000 per year, under the statutory criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-82, 2 (3) valued one of the parties' residences, (4) awarded the plaintiff a Nantucket residence, and (5) awarded counsel fees of $50,000 to the plaintiff under the statutory criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-62. 3 We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts are necessary for a resolution of this appeal. In May, 1963, the plaintiff and defendant married at Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since 1986, they both have resided continuously in this state. Both parties are fifty-three years old and are in good health. Their marriage lasted for twenty-seven years before it irretrievably broke down through no fault of either party. The plaintiff instituted the dissolution action in 1990, nearly two years after the defendant had left the marital home.

Throughout the marriage, the plaintiff assumed the role of homemaker, raising two children who are both over the age of eighteen, and supporting the defendant in his business endeavors. The defendant is the president of an advertising agency, Ammirati & Puris, Inc., in New York.

The trial court examined the parties' various assets. It found that they owned a family home in Greenwich (Greenwich property) that they purchased in 1986 for approximately $1,850,000, with a mortgage debt of $356,105, and extensively remodeled at a cost of over $2,000,000. The court determined that the fair market value of this property was $2,500,000. 4 It ordered the defendant to convey his right, title and interest in the property subject to the mortgage debt to the plaintiff, who would be solely responsible for paying that debt.

The court also found that the plaintiff held legal title to property in Nantucket (Nantucket property) and the defendant held legal title to property, an apartment, in New York (New York property). The Nantucket property was unencumbered and the parties agreed that it had a fair market value between $625,000 to $675,000. The court permitted the plaintiff to retain the entire interest in this property. The New York property was subject to a mortgage debt of approximately $965,000. The defendant purchased the property in 1990 at a cost of $2,650,000 and testified that his total investment in that property including furnishings and remodeling was $3,850,000. The court stated in its memorandum of decision that the defendant's appraiser would testify that this property has a fair market value of $2,750,000. The court permitted the defendant to retain the entire interest including the furnishings in the New York property.

The court found that the parties' other assets included a joint account (Neuberger & Berman account), with an estimated value of approximately $3,519,000, a profit sharing plan solely in the defendant's name which had a value of $505,000, the furniture and furnishings of the Nantucket property, automobiles, bank accounts, and other personal property listed in their respective affidavits. The court ordered that the Neuberger & Berman account be equally divided in kind between the plaintiff and the defendant to avoid taxes and equally distributed the cost basis proportionately between the plaintiff and defendant and that the furniture and furnishings in the Nantucket property be equally divided.

The court also distributed to the parties the following assets. The court awarded the plaintiff the furniture and furnishings contained in the Greenwich property, a 1989 automobile, and a Connecticut Bank and Trust money market and checking account. In addition, the trial court awarded the plaintiff alimony commencing on September 1, 1991. The defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff the sum of $23,000 per month or $276,000 per year until the plaintiff dies, remarries, or cohabitates. 5 The defendant was also ordered to provide the plaintiff with COBRA coverage through his company for three years with the plaintiff responsible for the cost of the medical coverage provided to her. The defendant was further ordered to maintain a $3,000,000 life insurance policy for the benefit of the plaintiff as long as the defendant has alimony obligations, 6 and to pay $50,000 to the plaintiff as attorney's fees.

While not specifically valuing the defendant's interest, the court permitted the defendant to retain his entire interest in Ammirati & Puris, Inc. The court noted that "irrespective of which expert the court chooses to believe, [Ammirati & Puris, Inc.,] provides the defendant with a source and flow of income with which to pay an award of alimony...." The court also allowed the defendant to retain his profit sharing plan at Ammirati & Puris, Inc., which the court found to be worth $505,000, three automobiles, and the personal property listed on his affidavit. Under the court's order, each of the parties would be responsible for the various debts and liabilities listed on their respective affidavits. 7 I

The defendant claims that the trial court improperly allocated more than $4,000,000 of debts to him under the statutory criteria set forth in General Statutes § 46b-81. The defendant speculated that the trial court attempted to distribute the assets equally between the parties, but failed in its application by saddling the defendant with this debt. He also asserts that the trial court failed to find the value of his interest in Ammirati & Puris, Inc. We are unpersuaded that the trial court abused its discretion.

We review financial awards in dissolution actions under an abuse of discretion standard. Rostain v. Rostain, 214 Conn. 713, 715-16, 573 A.2d 710 (1990). Our role as an appellate court is not to retry the facts of the case, substitute our judgment for that of the trial court, or articulate or clarify the trial court's decision. Id., at 716, 573 A.2d 710. In reviewing the trial court's decision under this standard, we are cognizant that "[t]he issues involving financial orders are entirely interwoven. The rendering of a judgment in a complicated dissolution case is a carefully crafted mosaic, each element of which may be dependent on the other...." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Sunbury v. Sunbury, 210 Conn. 170, 175, 553 A.2d 612 (1989); Mulholland v. Mulholland, 26 Conn.App. 585, 590, 602 A.2d 1054 (1992). When reviewing claims that the trial court abused its discretion in making these awards, "every reasonable presumption should be given in favor of its correctness.... [T]he ultimate issue is whether the court could reasonably conclude as it did." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut National Bank v. Investors Capital Corporation, 29 Conn.App. 48, 55, 613 A.2d 1370, cert. denied, 224 Conn. 902, 615 A.2d 1044 (1992); Rostain v. Rostain, supra.

The defendant fails to direct us to any case that requires, as a matter of law, that the trial court separately value each asset. This court has stated that "[a] trial court must consider a number of factors in distributing the assets of the parties, and it may exercise broad discretion in considering the statutory criteria enumerated in § 46b-81(c).... The court need not recite each factor in its decision ... or give equal weight to each of the criteria ... or set forth the weighing process employed by the court when considering all relevant statutory criteria.... It is sufficient that the memorandum of decision at least reflect a proper consideration and weighing of the factors set forth in the statute." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Miller v. Miller, 22 Conn.App. 310, 314, 577 A.2d 297 (1990); cf. Mitchell v. Mitchell, 24 Conn.App. 343, 346, 588 A.2d 242 (1991) (trial court not obligated to make express findings on each of the enumerated criteria in General Statutes § 46b-82, but the court's memorandum of decision must at least reflect that those criteria were considered and weighed in view of the particular circumstances). Here, the trial court found that Ammirati & Puris, Inc., provided the defendant with a source and flow of income. It factored that function into its decision. The court was not required to assign a value to the stock in Ammirati & Puris, Inc., but was required to consider it only when applying the statutory criteria and distributing the assets of the parties. See Miller v. Miller, supra, 22 Conn.App. at 314-15, 577 A.2d 297. In Miller v. Miller, supra, we stated that "[o]ur case law is clear that a trial court is free to weigh the relevant statutory criteria without having to detail ... what importance it has assigned to the various statutory factors...." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) If the defendant was uncertain as to the method by which the trial court valued and distributed the property, he should have filed a motion for articulation and provided us with an adequate record for review. See Practice Book §§ 4051 and 4061. Construing every reasonable presumption in favor of the correctness of the court's weighing of the statutory criteria set forth in ...

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  • Wendt v. Wendt
    • United States
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    ...seek an articulation, she cannot now claim, on the basis of her assumptions, that the court acted improperly. See Puris v. Puris, 30 Conn. App. 443, 450, 620 A.2d 829 (1993). Even if, arguendo, we somehow credit the plaintiffs "offset" assumption, the award and its valuation was not an abus......
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