Mensah v. Mensah
There is a heightened duty of disclosure in marital dissolution cases. The trial court dissolved the 1991 marriage of the plaintiff, Isabella Mensah, and the defendant, Charles Mensah, that produced three children. The plaintiff, employed by the U.S. Postal Service, occasionally earned additional income as a day trader. The defendant derived income from two businesses—a delivery business and a business purchasing motor vehicles in the U.S. for shipment to, and sale in, Ghana. The parties invested in three properties in Ghana during the marriage. Their marital home in Connecticut had little or no equity at the time of trial. Numerous motions for contempt and to compel were filed. The court entered orders, including that neither party was to receive alimony, custody of the minor child was with the plaintiff and the defendant was to pay $283 per week as child support. The plaintiff was awarded the marital home and ordered to hold the defendant harmless on the mortgage and any current liens. The defendant retained interest in the Ghana properties and his businesses. Each retained their own retirement accounts. The defendant was awarded $40,000 as his share of the equity in the plaintiff's pension, thrift savings and bank accounts. Both parties appealed. The defendant's motion for appellate attorneys' fees was granted for $29,366.30. The plaintiff amended her appeal. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment as to financial orders for lack of an evidentiary basis. The order granting the defendant appellate attorneys' fees was vacated. The trial court expressly stated that the parties, particularly the defendant, failed to provide the requisite discovery information as to the amount and sources of their income. The defendant failed to produce any income documentation whatsoever for his businesses during the eight months prior to trial. The trial court expressly found that the defendant systematically concealed his actual income and assets. The plaintiff needed the information to prepare and try her case. The court needed the information to enter orders that were not based on speculation and conjecture. The orders on alimony and dividing the marital estate, without sufficient financial information, lacked the requisite evidentiary basis. The ruling on appellate attorneys' fees lacked a reasonable basis in facts and could not stand.