Michael J. O'Brien v. Kathleen E. O'Brien

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Superior Court of Connecticut.

Michael J. O'Brien v. Kathleen E. O'Brien

FA084023596S

    Decided: March 11, 2014

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

The plaintiff, Michael J. O'Brien and the defendant, Kathleen E. O'Brien, whose birth name was Kathleen E. Dodd, were married in Garden City, New York on August 17, 1985.   There are three children issue of the marriage, Madeline M. O'Brien born August 9, 1994, William D. O'Brien born July 2, 1996 and Avery V. O'Brien born May 19, 2000.   The parties originally tried the issues before the court (Owens, J.) in 2009.   The Appellate Court reversed the decision in 2012 and remanded the matter for a new trial on all financial issues.   The plaintiff filed a motion to modify the parenting plan dated June 13, 2013.   During the trial, which was conducted by the court on February 10, 11, 14, 18 and 19, 2014, the parties submitted a parenting plan which was approved by the court.   The court listened to and observed the witnesses and reviewed the exhibits.   In addition, the court carefully considered the criteria set forth in the relevant Connecticut General Statutes and case law in reaching the decisions reflected in the orders below.

Both parties graduated from Cornell University.   The plaintiff also has a law degree, which was obtained during the early years of the marriage.   He is now, and was at the time of the first trial Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Omnicom Group, Inc., a Fortune 200 company.   Previously he was a successful attorney in private practice with three different law firms.   The defendant previously worked in banking and was also successful.   When she left Credit Suisse in 2003 she was a managing director and was earning in excess of one million dollars a year.   The defendant was also briefly involved as an executive recruiter in 2007 and 2008 and in 2013 was a participant in a returnship program at JP Morgan Chase.   The defendant claims that she worked, even after her three children were born, so that the plaintiff could become established in his career.   The court finds her testimony credible that she left her career in 2003 to spend time raising the children and that this was a joint decision with the plaintiff.

The plaintiff has a base salary of $700,000 and receives annual cash bonuses and noncash stock awards.   His cash earnings since 2004 have averaged in excess of 1.2 million dollars a year.   In addition he had income from stock sales.   The court finds it likely that the plaintiff will continue to receive noncash compensation in the future and that as a result he has a greater opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets and income than the defendant.   The plaintiff presented expert testimony that as a result of the returnship the defendant has a present earning capacity of $143,000.   The court finds this amount to be her earning capacity.

Much time was spent on the breakdown of the marriage.   While the court cannot find that the plaintiff engaged in an adulteress relationship, it is clear that he became less committed to the marriage over a several year period prior to the commencement of this action.   The defendant, while perhaps ignoring signs that the marriage was failing, was committed to saving the relationship.

The parties lived a very comfortable if not lavish life style.   Since 2001, they resided in a large house in Greenwich.   They traveled frequently with the children.   The children attended private schools.   The parties often entertained.   Money was never an issue until the commencement of this action.

In making its orders, the court has valued the assets as of the date of dissolution.   The parties have presented a stipulation dated February 18, 2014 which values many of the assets as of the date of dissolution.   That stipulation is incorporated herein by reference.   Any asset that has no current value, but had a value at the time of dissolution, was taken into account in the orders entered by the court.   The court is making its orders on the net income of the parties.

Just prior to the present trial, the defendant learned of the existence of a pension with her previous employer, Credit Suisse.   This information was immediately conveyed to plaintiff's counsel.   The court finds the defendant's testimony credible that she was unaware of the existence of this asset prior to the time it was disclosed to the plaintiff.

During the pendency of the action, and while the automatic orders were in effect, the plaintiff sold 28,127 shares of Omnicom Group, Inc. stock and exercised 75,000 Omnicom Group, Inc. stock options without court order or consent from the defendant.   While the options had not yet vested at the time of the original trial, they were awarded prior to the dissolution.   The result of the sales was a significant loss to the marital estate.   The court finds that these transactions did in fact violate the automatic orders.   The plaintiff testified that he was acting on advice of counsel.   As a result he is not found to be in contempt;  however the court has taken into account these transactions in making its awards.

ORDERS

1. The parenting plan of the parties dated February 17, 2014 is incorporated by reference in this judgment.

2. The plaintiff shall pay $1,248 per week to the defendant, retroactive to September 18, 2009, as child support in accordance with the guideline worksheet submitted by him.

This amount shall be adjusted when the plaintiff is obligated to pay child support for only one child.

3. The plaintiff shall pay to the defendant retroactive to September 18, 2009 alimony as follows:

a.  Commencing October 1, 2009 for a period of seven years the monthly sum of $45,000 due and payable on the first day of each month;

b. Commencing October 1, 2016 for a period of seven years the monthly sum of $37,500 due and payable on the first day of each month;

c. Commencing October 1, 2023 for a period of seven years the monthly sum of $25,000 due and payable on the first day of each month.

The alimony shall not be modifiable as a result of the defendant earning $143,000 or less from employment.   The alimony shall terminate upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the defendant.   The alimony is subject to the provisions of CGS § 46b–86(b).  In the event any adjustments are required due to prior orders, said payments are to be made within forty-five (45) days from the date of this judgment.

4. The plaintiff shall convey all his right title and interest in and to 50 Upland Road to the defendant.   The defendant shall be solely responsible for the mortgage, taxes, insurance and all other expenses related to this property.   The defendant shall remove the plaintiff from any obligation due on the mortgages within forty-eight (48) months of the date of this judgment or immediately place the property for sale.

5. The balance of the proceeds from the sale of the Salisbury, Connecticut house shall be divided equally between the parties.

6. The balances of all the Merrill Lynch accounts (as set forth in the party's stipulation dated February 18, 2014) including account # A65 shall be divided equally between the parties.

7. The plaintiff shall receive $250,000 from Credit Suisse First Boston Account.   The balance shall be retained by the defendant.

8. The defendant shall retain her Citibank money market account and checking account without any claim from the plaintiff.

9. The defendant shall receive $250,000 cash from the Fidelity Account (4067).   The balance of the cash shall be retained by the plaintiff.

10. The plaintiff shall transfer to the defendant 12,500 shares of Omnicom Group, Inc. stock.   The plaintiff shall retain all other Omnicom Group, Inc. stock, deferred stock, restricted stock units and options.

11. Each party shall retain their private equity interests as set forth in the party's stipulation dated February 18, 2014.

12. Each party shall retain their respective retirement accounts without any claim by the other.

13. The plaintiff shall retain his membership in the Stanwich Country Club and the bond related thereto.

14. The plaintiff shall retain the note due from his brother Thomas O'Brien.

15. Each party shall retain their own automobiles;  the defendant shall retain the proceeds from any automobile sold by her.   The plaintiff shall receive the 2007 Sea Ray boat.

16. The remaining personal property has previously been divided and is subject to the stipulation of the parties dated February 18, 2014.

17. Each party shall be responsible for the debts shown on their financial affidavits.

18. The plaintiff agreed and the court orders that he will be solely responsible for the minor children attending a private elementary school or a private secondary school, all education-related expenses and all expenses related to camp and extracurricular activities.

19. The plaintiff has also agreed and the court orders that he will be solely responsible for the college expenses of each child until the child attains the age of twenty-three (23) or completes a four-year undergraduate degree, whichever event occurs first.   The UConn limitation shall not apply.   The plaintiff shall be entitled to use each child's 529 account and/or custodial account towards that child's education.   The plaintiff shall make the investment decisions with respect to these accounts.

20. The plaintiff shall maintain medical insurance for each minor child for as long as that child qualifies for child support or educational support.   The parties shall be equally responsible for all unreimbursed medical and dental for the children.   Hereinafter the defendant shall pay for the cost of her medical insurance.

21. For as long as the plaintiff has an alimony or child support obligation he shall maintain life insurance in the amount of $2,500,000 naming the defendant as irrevocable beneficiary.   The life insurance trust shall be terminated as soon as practicable after the life insurance set forth above is secured.   The parties shall cooperate to surrender the whole life policy in the trust and the cash surrender value shall be equally divided by the parties.

22. Each party shall be responsible for the payment of their own counsel and expert fees.

23. Any outstanding motions not specifically dealt with herein are denied.

Pinkus, J.

Pinkus, Barry C., J.

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