Connecticut Trial Court Official Decisions


MORRIS v. MORRIS, No. FA-01-0384330-S (May 30, 2006) JANET
MORRIS v. KEVIN MORRIS. 2006 Ct. Sup. 10180 No.
FA-01-0384330-S Connecticut Superior Court Judicial
District of Fairfield at Bridgeport May 30, 2006

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the


On September 4, 2003, the Court issued a Memorandum of
Decision dissolving the marriage of the parties, awarding
alimony and distributing their property. The Defendant was
ordered to pay to the Plaintiff alimony in the amount of
$6,000.00 per month for 12 months beginning October 1, 2003
and concluding on September 1, 2004. Additionally, the
Defendant was to pay to the Plaintiff 50% of any bonus that
he receives during the course of his employment. (Emphasis
added.) Beginning in October 2004 until October 2006, the
Defendant was ordered to pay alimony in the amount of
$4,000.00 per month and 40% of any bonus received.
(Emphasis added.)

In 2004, the Defendant paid to the Plaintiff 50% of his
annual review bonus, but did not share his “gold star”
bonus which he received in May 2004. In September 2004, the
Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Payment of Alimony and
for Sanctions, Postjudgment. The plaintiff’s Motion asked
the Court to confirm that “any” bonus included any bonus,
not just the annual review bonus. On November 9, 2004,
orders were entered granting Plaintiff’s motion, stating
that “any bonus includes all monies received in the form of
a bonus.” The orders also directed the Defendant to comply
with requests for documentation confirming monies paid to
him in the form of salary and bonuses. Though the Defendant
tendered a check to the Plaintiff that purportedly
represented 50% of the gross annual performance bonus, he
did not provide the supporting documentation confirming
that such amount was proper. Since November 2004, the
Defendant has been paying to the Plaintiff her share of the
bonus as ordered; however, he has failed to provide the
supporting documentation, despite numerous requests by
Plaintiff’s counsel.

Faced with the Defendant’s unwillingness to cooperate, the
Plaintiff served the Defendant’s employer, Microsoft
Corporation, CT Page 10181 with a subpoena for the
Defendant’s employment records. The Defendant then filed
the first of many protective orders to preclude the
Plaintiff from obtaining this information. Microsoft,
however, had provided the records before the protective
order was filed. The records revealed that the Defendant
understated his annual performance bonus for 2004 by
$7,470.62. The records also revealed that the Defendant had
received a “gold star” bonus of $8,395.00. Pursuant to
court orders, the Defendant was obligated to pay the
Plaintiff 50% of that “gold star” bonus, but failed to do

The Defendant’s defiance of the court orders continued on
two separate occasions when he withheld certain money from
the bonus payments he was obligated to make. First, he
withheld $3,000.00 in January 2005 as a credit to himself
claiming that he discovered an overpayment of alimony in
November 2003. Then, he withheld $4,046.57 in October 2005,
advising the Plaintiff in writing that he intended to use
those funds to pay the future educational expenses of their
son. The Defendant failed to provide the Plaintiff with the
supporting documentation regarding the validity of these
two withholdings, despite numerous requests. Rather, the
Defendant has been stonewalling his conduct with Motions
for Protective Order.

A hearing on the Motions for Contempt and Protective order
was held on March 20, 2006 and continued on to March 28,
March 30, and March 31. On March 28, 2006, a stipulation
was entered into and submitted to the court which addressed
the issue of certain monies held in escrow, monies due to
Plaintiff from the Defendant’s 2005 exercises of Microsoft
stock options, and procedure as to the future exercises of
stock options. The stipulation left unresolved certain
issues: 2003 stock awards, 2004 stock awards, continuing
authorizations allowing the Plaintiff to communicate
directly with Microsoft and obtaining all the necessary and
supporting documentation, child’s college education
expenses, wrongful withholding of certain amounts from 2004
and 2005 alimony bonus payments, and Plaintiff’s attorneys

Plaintiff’s Motion for Contempt is properly before this
court. This court reiterates that the Defendant has
continuously disregarded its orders. In fact, the Defendant
has been found in contempt previously for failing to
maintain car insurance as ordered. This court must also
note that there have been post-judgment patterns of
obstruction and obfuscation regarding CT Page 10182
discovery and depositions. The Defendant has filed 7 Motions
for Protective Order. The thrust of Defendant’s objections
claim a “fishing expedition” and that the requests are a
form of harassment. The evidence produced at the
postjudgment hearings on this matter clearly demonstrates
that most of the information requested was essential so
that the Plaintiff could determine whether or not the terms
of the judgment of dissolution were being complied with.
The Defendant takes the position that he shall make the
determination of what he will or will not provide.
(Emphasis added.) Ultimately, he provided very little
absent Plaintiff’s aggressive pursuit. This conduct has
been carefully considered in the determination of attorneys

In Connecticut, a court order must be followed until it
has been modified or successfully challenged. Eldridge v.
Eldridge, 244 Conn. 523, 530 (1998). The Defendant has no
authority to engage in “self-help” absent a successful
motion for modification of a court order. To constitute
contempt, a party’s conduct must be willful. Behrns v.
Behrns, 80 Conn.App. 349, 352 (2002), cert. denied, 261
Conn. 911. The Plaintiff introduced an abundance of
evidence demonstrating the willfulness of the Defendant’s
disregard for court orders, thus satisfying her burden of
proof. The court is satisfied with the Plaintiff’s proof
that the Defendant withheld money from the Plaintiff’s
alimony bonus payment on two separate occasions without
seeking the court’s permission. Accordingly, this court
finds the Defendant in contempt of court orders.

Where the Court has made a finding of contempt, it has the
authority to impose sanctions that include both fines and
legal fees. C.G.S. § 46b-87. Moreover, because the
award of attorneys fees pursuant to § 46b-87 is
punitive, rather than compensatory, the court may consider
the Defendant’s behavior as an additional factor in
determining the necessity and the amount of the attorneys
fees. Esposito v. Esposito, 71 Conn.App. 744, 750 (2002).

The Defendant’s indulgence in self-help coupled with his
failure to provide the Plaintiff with supporting
documentation justifying his actions has led to extensive
litigation. Accordingly, the Plaintiff has incurred
substantial attorneys fees in connection with the
Defendant’s derogation. At the hearing, the Defendant
maintained that attorneys fees are inappropriate because he
thought the matter was settled on at least three prior
occasions. The Defendant later admitted that, CT Page
10183 in December 2005, he unilaterally terminated
settlement negotiations by ordering his attorney to stop
discussions and leave the meeting. If the Defendant had
complied with the court orders from the outset, this court
would not have before it 12 various motions pending. As
such, an award of Plaintiff’s attorneys fees is not only
appropriate, but mandated.


1. Defendant’s 6th and 7th Motions for Protective Order
are hereby denied.

2. Plaintiff’s Objections to Defendant’s 6th and 7th
Motions for Protective Order are hereby granted.

3. Plaintiff’s Motion for Contempt, Postjudgment dated
March 20, 2006, is hereby granted.

4. The Defendant’s August 31, 2004 Microsoft stock award
of 1,624 shares is a component of his bonus compensation.
Plaintiff is entitled to 50% of the gross value of the
stock award at such time as the shares vest.

5. The Defendant shall execute a continuing authorization
allowing the Plaintiff to communicate directly with
Microsoft. This authorization shall include all
information relating to Defendant’s compensation, bonus
payments, or other awards, and the components of
Defendant’s bonus awards, including stock options/awards
for services rendered, grants of stock or deferred
compensation awarded as part of any bonus, agreements to
defer or accelerate bonus payments or alter the form
thereof, transactions summaries for stock awards, vesting
schedules or other related documents.

6. The Defendant shall provide all documentation
concerning the components of his 2005 stock award of
$17,667.72 as reflected on his December 31, 2005 pay stub

7. The Defendant shall transfer to the Plaintiff a
one-half interest in all Microsoft shares awarded to the
Defendant pursuant to his August 29, 2003 stock CT Page
10184 award.

The award was received prior to the date of dissolution
and, in its Memorandum of Decision, the court ordered the
Defendant to transfer to the Plaintiff a one-half interest
in his Microsoft options. The Defendant testified during
these proceedings that his stock awards were the same as
his option awards.

8. The Defendant shall provide Plaintiff with 50% of all
stock awarded to him pursuant to his August 31, 2004 stock
award or gross value thereof. As that award was made
during the time when the Plaintiff was to receive 50% of
the Defendant’s bonus compensation, she is entitled to 50%
of the 2004 award upon vesting.

9. In the event that the Defendant has received or will
receive stock awards as a component of his bonus or award
compensation during the alimony term, the Defendant is to
provide the Plaintiff with 40% of the gross value of the
stock awards in accordance with the vesting schedule of
the options.

10. This Court takes Judicial Notice of the published
annual rates for undergraduate tuition, fees, room and
board for a full-time, in-state student at the University
of Connecticut as published on the official UConn website
for the academic years: 2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006.

11. With regard to the educational expenses of the
parties’ child, Bryan, within ninety (90) days the
Defendant shall provide copies of all UGMA statements from
December 2003 through the date of his appearance, provide
a complete accounting of the disposition of the funds
withdrawn from Bryan’s UGMA accounts, provide
documentation supporting the Defendant’s reimbursements to
himself from Bryan’s UGMA accounts or from money taken
from the Plaintiff’s bonus check.

a. The Defendant is ordered to reimburse the Plaintiff
for her expenditures on Bryan’s behalf to CT Page 10185
the extent that he reimbursed himself.

b. This Court retains jurisdiction to determine whether a
modification of the parties’ obligations for Bryan’s
educational support pursuant to the terms of the judgment
may be warranted under the circumstances.

12. With regard to monies due to the Plaintiff for 2004,
the Defendant is to immediately pay to the Plaintiff the
following sums:

50% of Gold Star bonus ($8,395): $4,198.00 Underpayment
of review bonus alimony: $3,735.00 Credit for
over-withheld taxes: $5,546.00 50% of Stock award vested
in 2004: $3,986.00 __________ TOTAL: $17,465.00

Less 2004 alimony paid in January 2005: ($4,933.00)
__________ Funds due to Plaintiff for 2004: $12,532.00

13. The Defendant is to immediately pay to the Plaintiff
the $4,047.00 wrongfully withheld from Plaintiff’s 2005
alimony bonus payment.

14. The Defendant is to immediately pay to the Plaintiff
the $3,000.00 wrongfully withheld from Plaintiff’s 2004
alimony bonus payment.

15. The Defendant is to pay to the plaintiff $30,000.00
for attorneys fees incurred as a result of this protracted
and unnecessary litigation.

CT Page 10186