Ramin v. Ramin

Decision Date20 February 2007
Docket NumberNo. 17319.,No. 17316.,17316.,17319.
Citation915 A.2d 790,281 Conn. 324
PartiesMelissa K. RAMIN v. Kurt P. RAMIN.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Kenneth J. Bartschi, with whom were Brendon P. Levesque and, on the brief, Daniel J. Krisch, Hartford, Thomas P. Parrino and Susan A. Moch, Westport, for the appellant (plaintiff).

James Ryan Mulvey, Danbury, for the appellee (defendant).

BORDEN, NORCOTT, KATZ, PALMER, VERTEFEUILLE, ZARELLA and SULLIVAN, Js.*

BORDEN, J.

The plaintiff, Melissa K. Ramin, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dissolving her thirty year marriage to the defendant, Kurt P. Ramin. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court: (1) improperly failed to adjust her proportionate share of the defendant's retirement assets after acknowledging an error in its initial determination of their value; (2) improperly relied on Maguire v. Maguire, 222 Conn. 32, 608 A.2d 79 (1992), in ordering her to be fully responsible for her own attorney's fees because she had sufficient liquid assets; and (3) abused its discretion when it failed: (a) to hold the defendant accountable for his discovery misconduct by awarding the plaintiff attorney's fees or giving her a larger share of the marital assets as an offset; (b) to hold the defendant accountable for an allegedly fraudulent debt of $190,000 on his financial affidavit; and (c) to rule on her motion for contempt and sanctions based on the defendant's repeated failure to comply with the court's discovery orders. The plaintiff further contends that, if we conclude that the trial court properly followed existing precedent under Maguire, we should recognize an expansion of Maguire to apply to the facts of the present case. We conclude that the trial court improperly failed to rule on her motion for contempt and sanctions based on the defendant's repeated failure to comply with the court's discovery orders. Furthermore, we conclude that the facts of the present case justify an expansion of the Maguire rule. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to the financial orders.1

The record reveals the following relevant facts. The parties were married on December 30, 1972.2 In 1997, the parties effectively separated when the defendant was transferred by his employer to London, England, and the plaintiff remained at the marital home in Weston. In September, 1999, the plaintiff commenced this action seeking dissolution of the marriage and other relief.

The trial court concluded that the evidence supported the plaintiff's claim that the defendant "used at least $395,000 in marital assets, including a partial distribution from his capital deposit account ($174,023), a payment of special compensation ($208,725), and a joint income tax refund ($12,736), for the purchase of such things as a BMW automobile, an apartment in Dusseldorf, Germany, and to maintain his lifestyle in Europe." (Emphasis in original.) The court also found that the defendant had attempted to "keep these assets out of reach by placing title in the names of other persons" and that the plaintiff had expended "enormous sums for attorney's fees, in large part to trace these assets, with limited success." The court further found that each party had sufficient assets to pay for their respective attorney's fees.

The court ordered the marriage dissolved. In accordance with its findings, the court also made the following financial orders: (1) that commencing September 1, 2003, the defendant make monthly payments to the plaintiff in the amount of $5000, until the death of either party, the remarriage of the plaintiff, or August 31, 2007, whichever shall occur sooner; (2) that the defendant convey his interest to the plaintiff, via quitclaim deed, in the jointly owned marital home in Weston; (3) that the defendant convey his interest to the plaintiff, via quitclaim deed, in jointly owned real estate at 750 State Street in Eaton Rapids, Michigan; (4) that the defendant retain his interest in inherited real property in Liebenwalde, Germany; (5) that the defendant retain his interest in an apartment in Dusseldorf, Germany; (6) that each party retain personal property and home furnishings in their respective residences; (7) that each party retain their respective automobiles; (8) that each party retain, except as otherwise set forth in the court's orders, their respective savings, checking and money market accounts; (9) that the defendant retain his shares of The Translation Group, Ltd., stock, moneys held by Martina Meyer, shares of Smith Barney stock held by Theodora Landgren and gold coins from a Mexican directorship; (10) that the plaintiff retain her jewelry and personal effects and her Merrill Lynch investment account; (11) that the defendant's PriceWaterhouseCoopers Keough plan, his PriceWaterhouseCoopers 401(k) plan, his PriceWaterhouseCoopers retirement benefits accumulation plan and his PriceWaterhouseCoopers qualified XC retirement plan be apportioned between the parties, with the plaintiff receiving 65 percent of each plan and the defendant receiving 35 percent of each plan; (12) that effective September 1, 2003, the defendant pay to the plaintiff 35 percent of the monthly payments he receives under his nonqualified PriceWaterhouseCoopers retirement plan; (13) that each party receive 50 percent of the defendant's PriceWaterhouseCoopers nonqualified XC NET P & PA retirement plan and that, in the event that the defendant should predecease the plaintiff, she will receive 100 percent of any portion of the survivor benefit vested and accrued as of the date of the court's order; (14) that the defendant, beginning December 1, 2007, pay to the plaintiff 35 percent of the gross monthly payment he receives pursuant to an annuity created with the undistributed balance of his deposit capital plan through PriceWaterhouseCoopers; (15) that the plaintiff retain her interest in her Louis Dreyfus Holding Company 401(k) plan, her Louis Dreyfus Holding Company pension plan, and her Merrill Lynch individual retirement account; (16) that the defendant retain his interest in the Emery Industries, Inc., pension plan, the Fidelity Investments individual retirement account, and the Smith Barney individual retirement account; (17) that the parties divide equally the balance of the Scot Equities Fund(s); (18) that the defendant maintain the existing decreasing term life insurance and name the plaintiff his beneficiary as long as his alimony obligation exists; and (19) that each party be responsible for their respective attorney's fees and costs incurred in connection with this action.

The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court from the judgment of the trial court. Thereafter, the defendant moved to reargue and the trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for articulation and granted a hearing on the defendant's motion to reargue. Following the hearing, the trial court denied the defendant's motion for reargument and clarified its original decision. The plaintiff then filed a separate appeal after the trial court's ruling on the motion to reargue. The Appellate Court subsequently granted the plaintiff's motion to consolidate the two appeals. Thereafter, we transferred the consolidated appeals to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199(c) and Practice Book § 65-1.

I

We first consider the plaintiff's claim that the trial court abused its discretion in declining to rule on her motion for contempt and sanctions, filed in court on August 14, 2002, based on the defendant's repeated failure to comply with the court's discovery orders. Because we conclude that the trial court had no discretion to mark the plaintiff's motion "off" the calendar, we agree with the plaintiff that the court's action was improper.

The following additional facts are relevant to our resolution of this claim. On August 2, 2000, the plaintiff filed her first discovery request for disclosure of facts and production of records. After the defendant failed to comply with her request, the plaintiff filed a motion for contempt. On October 23, 2000, the court ordered the defendant to comply with the discovery request. When the defendant produced, in response to the court's order, a computer disk that the plaintiff claimed was incomplete and indecipherable, the plaintiff filed a second motion for contempt on January 29, 2001. The parties then entered into a stipulation, which was made an order of the court on March 26, 2001, providing that the defendant would sign, acknowledge and deliver an authorization to release personal information to the plaintiff's attorney. Although the defendant subsequently signed an authorization allowing his employer to release information to the plaintiff's attorney, she was unsuccessful in obtaining information from the employer, and the defendant failed to produce the requested documents and information. Because the defendant persisted in his noncompliance with discovery requests, on July 6, 2001, the plaintiff filed a third motion for contempt, prompting the court to issue an order, dated July 23, 2001, directing the defendant to provide answers to the production requests within thirty days of the court's order. The court additionally imposed $2500 in sanctions against the defendant for his failure to comply with previous discovery requests and orders. On August 22, 2001, the defendant provided the plaintiff with documents purporting to be complete disclosure. The plaintiff advised the defendant in writing in September, 2001, that the production was incomplete, and on October 18, 2001, the plaintiff provided the defendant with a detailed list of the documents still missing from disclosure and made a formal written demand for the $2500. The plaintiff then filed her fourth motion for contempt on January 7, 2002, which led the court to impose $40,000 in attorney's fees and sanctions against the defendant. On February 22, 2002, the parties participated in...

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