Wendt v. Wendt

Decision Date05 September 2000
Docket Number(AC 18388)
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Lavery, C. J., and Spear and Mihalakos, JS. Kathleen A. Hogan, with whom, on the brief, were Arnold H. Rutkin and Sarah S. Oldham, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Kurt W. Hansson, with whom were Louis K. Fisher and, on the brief, John S. McGeeney and James R. Bliss, for the appellee (defendant).



The plaintiff in this action for the dissolution of a marriage appeals from the judgment of the trial court. The plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) utilized dates prior to the date of the dissolution of the marriage in making various calculations and divisions regarding contingent and deferred assets of the marriage, (2) divided the defendant's supplementary pension plan, (3) excluded from division the passive appreciation of various assets that occurred while the action was proceeding, (4) concluded that General Statutes § 46b-81 was interpreted consistently with article first, § 20, of the constitution of Connecticut, (5) considered sources outside the record in reaching its decision, (6) excluded evidence and testimony regarding the values of termination and severance packages, and (7) demonstrated gender bias in favor of the defendant. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts are relevant to the resolution of this appeal.1 As of the date of the articulated memorandum of decision, the defendant, Gary C. Wendt, was the chairman, president and chief executive officer of GE Capital Services, Inc. (GECS), with principal offices in Stamford. GECS is the largest division of General Electric Corporation (GE), which is believed to be one of the largest corporations in the world. The plaintiff, Lorna J. Wendt, has been throughout most of the parties' marriage a mother, homemaker and corporate wife who entertained GE customers and other business associates in various social and business settings. The plaintiff was neither employed nor paid by GE or GECS.

The plaintiff and the defendant were married in 1965. Thereafter, the plaintiff worked as a music teacher in Massachusetts while the defendant studied for his master's degree in business administration at Harvard University. The plaintiff stopped working as a music teacher after the first of the parties' two daughters was born in December, 1968.

After working in various positions, the defendant joined GECS in July, 1975, as the vice president of the real estate department. The defendant's employment with a major international corporation triggered an increased workload and extensive social duties. Entertainment grew more formal and on a larger scale, and the plaintiff commonly hosted events.

The defendant met with continuous success at GECS, successfully rescuing various financially troubled divisions within GECS, which gave him increased prominence within GE and culminated in his promotion to chief executive officer of GECS. The plaintiffs entertainment duties increased with the expansion of the defendant's corporate responsibilities. She traveled extensively with the defendant to numerous countries. During these years, she raised the children, cleaned house, paid bills, attended various functions and participated in their local church. Both parties acknowledged that the other party substantially contributed to instilling in their children high moral and family values.

As chief executive officer, the defendant proved to be highly effective and was well deserving of his high level of compensation. The defendant's career as chief executive officer is marked with success after success. The defendant also participated in the parties' family life and in raising their two children. He drove the children to camp and college, helped with homework, attended school functions, cared for them when they were sick, and helped them plan for college and graduate school. The defendant was active in civic affairs and received awards for his accomplishments.

Eventually, the marriage eroded and the parties were separated on December 1, 1995. The plaintiff filed a dissolution complaint on December 19, 1995. During an eighteen day trial, virtually every aspect of the parties' financial relationship over the thirty-two and one-half year marriage was examined. There were more than 100 exhibits, and numerous witnesses and multiple expert witnesses. Briefs of counsel, and citations to foreign cases and law review articles added an additional 1500 pages of material for the court to review. On December 3, 1997, the court entered orders regarding property distribution, alimony and related financial matters. A subsequent memorandum of decision more than 500 pages long containing comprehensive factual findings and legal analysis was issued on March 31, 1998. The plaintiff appealed on May 8, 1998. Additional facts will be discussed where necessary to the issues on appeal.


The plaintiff claims that the court improperly valued various contingent and deferred assets of the marriage. We disagree.

"Our standard of review is well settled. We review financial awards in dissolution actions under an abuse of discretion standard.... [T]o conclude that the trial court abused its discretion, we must find that the court either incorrectly applied the law or could not reasonably conclude as it did.... [T]he factual findings of a trial court on any issue are reversible only if they are clearly erroneous.... A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when there is no evidence in the record to support it ... or when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.... [W]here the factual basis of the court's decision is challenged we must determine whether the facts set out in the memorandum of decision are supported by the evidence or whether, in light of the evidence and the pleadings in the whole record, those facts are clearly erroneous." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Wilkes v. Wilkes, 55 Conn. App. 313, 317, 738 A.2d 758 (1999); Schult v. Schult, 40 Corm. App. 675, 682, 672 A.2d 959 (1996), aff'd, 241 Conn. 767, 699 A.2d 134 (1997).


The plaintiff claims that the court improperly valued and divided assets of the marriage as of the date of the parties' separation, December 1, 1995,2 instead of the date of dissolution, December 3, 1997, as it is required to do. We disagree.

"In a dissolution action, marital property is valued as of the date of dissolution, not the date of separation. Tobey v. Tobey, 165 Conn. 742, 748-49, 345 A.2d 21 (1974); Cuneo v. Cuneo, 12 Conn. App. 702, 533 A.2d 1226 (1987). [This] requirement is simply part of the broader principle that the financial awards in a marital dissolution case should be based on the parties' current financial circumstances to the extent reasonably possible." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Zern v. Zern, 15 Conn. App. 292, 296, 544 A.2d 244 (1988); see also General Statutes § 46b-81.

The plaintiffs claim fails because the court did exactly what § 46b-81 and interpreting cases require: The court valued the marital property at the date of dissolution. As the court stated in its memorandum of decision: "This court has attempted to value the assets as of the date of the decree, December 3, 1997. By dividing a majority of the assets in kind, the court believes it has accomplished that result. The contingent resources were divided by a coverture factor using the date of separation due to the lack of plaintiffs `contributions' after the parties' separation. The use of this coverture factor divides the assets as of the date of separation. These assets were valued as of the date of the decree and merely divided as of the date of separation." (Emphasis added.)

Our careful examination of the court's findings of fact reveals that the court's decision was not improper. First and foremost, the court explicitly stated that it valued the assets as of the date of the dissolution decree. This statement even serves as a heading for one of the subsections of the court's memorandum of decision. Indeed, with respect to GE stock, which constitutes the majority of the value of the assets in this case, the court expressly stated that it would divide the stock, along with cash and mutual funds, "as of their date of decree value."

A review of the court's reasoning reveals a careful and thoughtful discussion of the proper distribution of the assets and that valuation occurred at the date of the decree.3 It is black letter law that Connecticut is an equitable distribution property state; Krafick v. Krafick, 234 Conn. 783, 792, 663 A.2d 365 (1995); and that this approach to property division "does not limit, either by timing or method of acquisition or by source of funds, the property subject to a trial court's broad allocative power." Id.; Tyc v. Tyc, 40 Conn. App. 562, 565-66, 672 A.2d 526, cert. denied, 237 Conn. 916, 676 A.2d 398 (1996); annot., Divorce: Equitable Distribution Doctrine, 41 A.L.R.4th 481 (1985).4

The plaintiff makes much of the fact that the court looked to the date of separation when considering the ultimate distribution of the assets. This consideration by the court was not improper. The principle that requires the court to value assets as of the date of dissolution does not absolutely preclude the court from considering the significance of the date of separation. "Although § 46b-81 indicates that it is the date of dissolution, rather than the date of separation, on which the parties, marital assets are to be determined ... the date of separation may be of significance in determining what is equitable at the time of distribution. In distributing property pursuant to § 46b-81, the court is instructed to consider the contribution of each spouse in the acquisition, preservation and...

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72 cases
  • Lynch v. Lynch
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 30, 2014
    ...of the claim will be deemed abandoned and will not be reviewed by this court.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Wendt v. Wendt, 59 Conn.App. 656, 690, 757 A.2d 1225, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 918, 763 A.2d 1044 (2000). We accordingly will not address this part of the plaintiff's claim beca......
  • Reville v. Reville
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2014
    ...to 2001, the Appellate Court had held that employment benefits were not property due to their unvested status. In Wendt v. Wendt, 59 Conn.App. 656, 674–76, 757 A.2d 1225, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 918, 763 A.2d 1044 (2000), the Appellate Court upheld the trial court's ruling that certain pens......
  • Reville v. Reville
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2014
    ...to 2001, the Appellate Court had held that employment benefits were not property due to their unvested status. In Wendt v. Wendt, 59 Conn. App. 656, 674-76, 757 A.2d 1225, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 918, 763 A.2d 1044 (2000), the Appellate Court upheld the trial court's ruling that certain pen......
  • Friezo v. Friezo, 17456.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 6, 2007
    ...has not previously had occasion to discuss the present issue, the Appellate Court addressed it comprehensively in Wendt v. Wendt, 59 Conn.App. 656, 680-88, 757 A.2d 1225, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 918, 763 A.2d 1044 (2000). Notwithstanding the trial court's negative characterization of Wendt,......
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2 books & journal articles
  • § 7.11 Employee Stock Options
    • United States
    • Full Court Press Divorce, Separation and the Distribution of Property Title CHAPTER 7 Property Acquired or Improved with Both Separate and Marital Property
    • Invalid date
    ...924 A.2d 19 (2007).[864] Nelson v. Nelson, 177 Cal. App.3d 150, 222 Cal. Rptr. 790 (1986).[865] See, e.g.: Connecticut: Wendt v. Wendt, 757 A.2d 1225 (Conn. App. 2000). Nebraska: Davidson v. Davidson, 254 Neb. 656, 578 N.W.2d 848 (1998). New York: DeJesus v. DeJesus, 90 N.Y.2d 643, 665 N.Y.......
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    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 75, 2001
    • Invalid date
    ...514 (1972). 104 60 Conn. App. at 10-11. 105 Id. at 16-17. 106 Id. at 16. 107 Horton & Cormier, 1999 Review, supra note 1 at 152. 108 59 Conn. App. 656, 687, 757 A.2d 1225, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 918, 763 A.2d 1044 (2000). The authors represent the defendant. 109 59 Conn. App. at 694-97. 11......

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