Josephine Jenkins v. Samuel Jenkins
-- June 10, 2011
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
The plaintiff wife initiated this action by way of a complaint filed on March 3, 2009, seeking the dissolution of the parties' marriage, based on irretrievable breakdown.
A fully contested trial was held before the undersigned on January 18, January 24, January 28, February 25 and March 4, 2011. Both the plaintiff and the defendant were represented by counsel. The parties submitted an agreement regarding custody of the minor child and a parenting plan which this court accepted. Both parties appeared and testified at trial. The court also heard testimony from several other witnesses.
The court has fully considered the criteria of Connecticut General Statutes sections 46b–81, 46b–82, 46b–84, 46b–56, 46b–56c and 46b–62 as well as the evidence, applicable case law, the demeanor and credibility of the parties and their witnesses and arguments of counsel in finding the facts and in reaching the conclusions reflected in the orders in this decision.
The court finds that it has jurisdiction of this matter and that all statutory stays have expired. It also finds the following by a fair preponderance of the evidence: The plaintiff, whose maiden name was Josephine Franco, and the defendant were lawfully married on December 31, 1995 in Simsbury, Connecticut. Both parties have continuously resided in the state of Connecticut for at least one year. The marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably with no possibility of reconciliation. There is one minor child born to the parties: Samuel Preston Jenkins, born October 1, 1998. The plaintiff has two children who are grown, ages twenty-seven and twenty-two. Neither party has received state or local financial assistance during the course of the marriage.
The defendant is in good physical health. His employment includes owning and managing a company called Corporate Connections. This company provides office furniture to clients and manufactures cubicles. On occasion, the defendant also buys and sells high-end vehicles and barters by exchanging goods for services.
The defendant's testimony was not credible with respect to his earnings from this company. The defendant's financial affidavit reflects earnings from employment at approximately $30,000.00 per year. At the same time, the court heard credible testimony that the defendant claimed to earn between $75,000.00 and $100,000.00 per year on an application for a dating service. The court also heard credible testimony and reviewed exhibits of the defendant's purchases and sales that reflect a higher income. Further, the defendant has continued to buy and sell expensive cars and dirt bikes during the pendency of this action. He has also used the corporation credit card for personal expenses and the company has paid his personal bills on a regular basis. He has not provided a balance sheet that is credible.
At the time of the filing of the divorce, the defendant withdrew money from the bank, dissipating at least one account, sent the plaintiff flowers and spent the money on their son. He indicated to the plaintiff that he was not going to work and that he would earn no more money until after the divorce. The defendant continued to buy cars while still owing taxes and bought a Volvo two weeks prior to the start of trial. He currently owns two jeeps and two older corvettes.
During the parties' marriage, the defendant engaged in the habitual use of marijuana. This activity ceased when the plaintiff filed the dissolution action. In response to learning of the plaintiff's infidelity, the defendant painted a red letter “A” on the garage door for the neighbors to see and told the children not to call their mother “mom” but to call her a “whore.” On another occasion, in the child's presence, the defendant pushed the plaintiff against the sink and held an unlighted lighter under her nose.
The defendant has historically paid the mortgage on the family home, provided for his family and paid for expensive vacations for the family. During the marriage, the defendant supported the plaintiff's two children from a prior marriage. At the time of the parties' separation, the defendant cared for the plaintiff's son for over one year in the family home.
The plaintiff is in reasonably good health. Prior to the marriage, the plaintiff was employed as a nail technician. She then worked in the defendant's business, organizing records for the bookkeeper, managing the payroll and paying taxes. In 2003, at the defendant's urging, the plaintiff obtained her real estate license, and in the years following she was employed by a series of real estate agencies/companies. She is currently employed as a realtor and is a member of Show Ready Experts, a staging company, earning her periodic but not significant income.
The court heard extensive testimony regarding the plaintiff's earnings and money management. In anticipation of this trial, the plaintiff has been noncompliant or not timely with production requests for information. She has failed to disclose assets. She has been evasive with respect to her earnings and with respect to monies in her possession and in her accounts. More specifically, after failing to comply with court orders to produce financial records and after submitting a sworn financial affidavit, it was learned that the plaintiff had received substantial sums from several real estate sales in the three preceding months prior to trial and had failed to disclose these sums.
The plaintiff was not forthcoming on other aspects of her financial affidavit as well, omitting thousands of dollars in furs, jewelry and other valuables. Her testimony that while “financially desperate,” she had “misplaced” $6,522.00 from a personal injury settlement, and her claims of ignorance on the tax issues and the defendant's stock trading were simply not credible.
In June of 2009, three days after the defendant filed motions in court, the plaintiff sought a restraining order against the defendant which was subsequently denied by the court, Dyer, J. When the plaintiff left the marital home, she removed items that were not agreed to by the parties.
This court heard extensive testimony about the plaintiff's inappropriate relationship with a business colleague during the marriage. While the plaintiff claimed that her relationship with this third party did not cause the marriage to break down, this court finds that at best, the plaintiff engaged in a very personal and flirtatious relationship with a business colleague which evolved into an extramarital affair. This certainly contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.
Throughout the marriage, the parties vacationed, lived in a home with a swimming pool, bought each other expensive gifts, and by both parties account, life was “really good.” During this period, the parties engaged in a lifestyle that can only be deemed “fiscally irresponsible.” They did not maintain regular records regarding income or financial transactions and they failed to file annual income tax returns or pay the required taxes. The end result has been a significant joint tax liability owed to the Internal Revenue Service and to the State of Connecticut.
There was persuasive testimony about sums of money that have been earned by the plaintiff but are unaccounted for. The plaintiff indicated that she was “working in cash” since the IRS became involved. She also indicated that she had sums of cash hidden in her bible, the amount of which changed from testimony at her deposition to testimony at trial.
In sum, the defendant clearly has multiple sources of income that are difficult to track. At the same time, the plaintiff has not been forthcoming in discovery compliance or with the court with respect to her earnings. While this court can find that both parties lack credibility in their testimony with respect to their earnings, their income appears to be on parity with one another.
The parties own several properties. The first property, 85 Lawton Road, located in Canton, Connecticut, is the marital home. Its value is $321,500.00. The down payment of $40,000.00 for the purchase of this property came from stocks and bonds from the defendant's family. The plaintiff has made no contribution, financial or otherwise, towards the upkeep of this property during the two-year pendency of the dissolution action.
The second property, 6 Carolina Drive is located in Montville, Connecticut. This is a condominium that was purchased by the defendant prior to the marriage. Its value is $89,000.00 with a value at the time of the marriage of $38,000.00 with an increase in marital value of $51,000.00. This property has historically produced rental income.
The third property is located at 96 Granby Street located in Bloomfield, Connecticut. This property is a 24,164 square foot commercial property, which was purchased by the parties in 2000 for just over $100,000.00. This purchase was made with 85% owner financing. It is also the property which houses the defendant's business, Corporate Connections. The mortgage was bought out by the defendant's mother. The defendant also receives rental income of $1,000.00 per month from another tenant, in that building and storage income from a company called “Sincerely Yours,” both totaling approximately $25,000.00 per year in rental income.
Each of the properties has been appraised and, with the exception of the Granby Street commercial property, there is no dispute as to their value. There was extensive expert testimony on the value of the Granby Street property. This property is situated on land that was environmentally contaminated at the time of purchase and continues to be so. There was also extensive testimony on the nature and ramifications of the contamination. The property has been transferred twice with the contamination in existence, the first transfer being a “shell transfer.” It has been utilized as an active commercial site during this period. At the same time, the cost to remediate the property would be approximately equal to its remediated value. At present, there are no current orders from any environmental agencies that mandate an environmental clean-up although the site must be cleaned within eight years of filing.
In addition to the contamination issue, any value that this property may have is further financially compromised by an outstanding $45,000.00 property tax bill owed to the town of Bloomfield. Based upon the expert testimony of the property's condition and various liabilities and recognizing the contribution of the defendant's family in buying out the mortgage, the court finds that the Granby Street property has little to no marital value.
For all of the foregoing reasons, and taking into account any prior court orders regarding credits to be given at the time of this court's final judgment, this court enters the following orders:
Child Support. The shared parenting plan and the parties' parity in income justifies a deviation from Guideline child support. Therefore, no child support is ordered with respect to either party.
Extracurricular expenses. Each party shall provide up to $1,500.00 annually for extracurricular expenses for the minor child.
Child tax exemption. The parties shall alternate the tax exemption for the child so long as the child is eligible. The plaintiff shall have the exemption in odd years, the defendant in even years.
Health insurance. The parties shall provide health and dental insurance as available through their place of employment if it is at reasonable cost to them. If not, they should apply for the HUSKY plan or its equivalent. Any unreimbursed expenses (including health, dental, orthodontia and psychological) shall be divided equally between the parties.
Post-majority educational support: Pursuant to Conn. Gen.Stat. § 46b–56c, this court finds that it is more likely than not that the parties would have contributed to the post-majority educational support of the minor child and will therefore retain jurisdiction on this issue.
Life insurance: Each party shall provide a minimum of $100,000.00 of life insurance until the child attains the age of twenty-three years, listing the child and the other parent as co-beneficiaries.
Tax Liabilities. The defendant shall be responsible for any tax debt owed by the parties to the IRS or to the town of Bloomfield. Any liabilities incurred since the date of the filing of the dissolution that have already not addressed by the IRS or the state of Connecticut shall be the responsibility of the respective party who has incurred that liability.
Alimony. $1.00 per year is ordered as to each party and is modifiable only in the event that the terms of this judgment are not fulfilled.
Assets and Property distribution
Corporate Connections. The defendant shall retain his business free and clear of any claim of the plaintiff. He shall provide the plaintiff with one-third of the rental income from tenants in the Bloomfield property for a period of one year.
85 Lawton Road. The defendant is awarded the Lawton Rd. property in Canton, Connecticut. The plaintiff shall transfer any right, title and interest she may have in this property to the defendant.
The defendant shall refinance the marital home within a period of one year, removing plaintiff's name from the mortgage. He shall be given credit for the $40,000.00 down payment paid by stocks and bonds from his family. After payment of outstanding mortgage debt on this property and any remaining attorney or guardian ad litem fees, the plaintiff shall receive 50% of the remaining equity in the home.
96 Granby Road. The defendant is awarded the Granby Rd. property in Bloomfield, Connecticut which is the site of his business, and which produces rental income.
6 Carolina Drive. The plaintiff is awarded the Carolina Dr. property in Montville, Connecticut. The defendant shall transfer any right, title and interest that he may have in this property to the plaintiff. She shall then refinance the property within a period of one year from the date of judgment in order to remove the defendant's name from the mortgage or in the alternative, place the property on the market for sale.
Automobiles. The defendant shall retain any bartered vehicles and the two jeeps, truck, and corvettes. The plaintiff shall retain her vehicle.
Miscellaneous property. The plaintiff shall return the defendant's watch to him. She shall retain Limoges and Faberge eggs, her tennis bracelet and the ladies watches in her possession. She shall also retain any furs and jewelry in her possession.
Attorneys Fees. Each party shall be responsible for their own attorneys fees, transcript fees and expert witness fees. Any outstanding attorney or guardian ad litem fees shall be paid at the closing, prior to any distribution of the equity in the marital home.
BY THE COURT,
Prestley, Linda Pearce, J.