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New York Times
By Michael Gold
He threatened to kidnap their children and take them overseas, she said. She threatened to have the mafia break his legs, he countered.
He drove an S.U.V. toward her, swerving away at the last minute, she said. She had mental health issues and couldn’t keep their children safe, he claimed.
The recent disappearance of Jennifer Dulos, a 50-year-old Connecticut mother who was reported missing shortly after dropping off her five children at school on May 24, has quickly cast a light on her 13-year marriage to Fotis Dulos, and the bitter legal battle more than two years long to end it.
The authorities arrested Mr. Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend, Michelle C. Troconis, 44, last weekend in connection with Ms. Dulos’s disappearance and accused them of hindering the investigation and tampering with evidence.
During the investigation, the police have uncovered details of the acrimonious nature of the couple’s divorce proceedings.
But court documents show that the discord was even greater than previously revealed, and depict a marriage that not only soured but became downright toxic.
At one point, Ms. Dulos said that she was concerned about Mr. Dulos’s “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior.”
As their legal fight dragged on, court proceedings became an endless litany of complaints, both serious and mundane.
Ms. Dulos’s lawyer, Wayne D. Effron, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment, and Mr. Dulos’s divorce lawyer, Michael Rose, declined to comment.
As of Wednesday, 12 days after she was reported missing from her home in New Canaan, Conn., Ms. Dulos’s whereabouts remained unknown. Investigators were searching for evidence more than 70 miles from her home at a garbage plant in Hartford, where they previously had found items stained with her blood in garbage bins.
Mr. Dulos, a luxury real estate developer, remained in custody at a state jail on a $500,000 bond.
Mr. Dulos’s lawyer in the criminal case, Eugene Riccio, declined to comment.
Ms. Dulos filed for divorce in June 2017, and immediately sought an emergency custody order for the couple’s five children. She feared Mr. Dulos might harm her or the children, according to a court filing.
She also said that Mr. Dulos, who was born in Turkey and raised in Greece, had threatened to kidnap their children and take them overseas.
Mr. Dulos responded by calling his wife’s accusations baseless, saying she seemed delusional and that her use of anti-depressants made her unfit to have sole custody over their children.
Thus began an acrimonious, drawn-out end to a marriage that had begun almost 13 years earlier. The couple was married in New York in August 2004, according to court papers. Both had attended Brown University in Rhode Island; he graduated a year ahead of her.
After college, Ms. Dulos returned to New York City, where she was raised and where her parents lived. A writer, she co-founded a theater group in the early 1990s and also got her master’s degree in writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, according to blog posts she penned on Patch.com.
The couple relocated to Connecticut in 2004, according to public records. Between 2006 and 2010, they had two sets of twins and a fifth child.
One year after the birth of their last child, Ms. Dulos launched a blog. In posts from 2011 and 2012, which can be viewed through an archived version of the site’s RSS feed, she chronicled the daily trials of parenting, but also spoke fondly of her children and husband.
While they were living in Farmington, the marriage became strained, according to court papers, and both Mr. and Ms. Dulos said in filings in 2017 that they had decided to separate.
In March of that year, according to court documents, Ms. Dulos had found out that Mr. Dulos had been having an extramarital affair with Ms. Troconis for about a year, which Mr. Dulos did not dispute.
The couple decided that Ms. Dulos and the children would move to her parents’ home in Pound Ridge, N.Y., a small town in Westchester County, the court documents said.
The couple made plans to enroll their children in a private school in New Canaan, about 75 miles from the home in Farmington, according to court filings.
Disagreements soon followed.
During this period, Ms. Dulos rented a house in New Canaan, according to court documents.
In court filings, Ms. Dulos said that Mr. Dulos vacillated between “telling me our marriage is over” and threatening that he would never allow for a divorce.
She also said that she had become concerned over Mr. Dulos’s recent purchase of a handgun that he kept in their house; she worried he might use it to harm her or their family.
In court documents, Mr. Dulos rejected Ms. Dulos’s characterizations of his behavior. He never threatened her, he said, and intended to settle their divorce amicably.
He also said that he had purchased the gun to ensure his family’s safety, with her knowledge.
Mr. Dulos also denied that he had ever threatened to kidnap the children. He said that it was Ms. Dulos who had absconded with the children, taking them to New Canaan without telling him.
As their custody battle dragged on, both Mr. Dulos and Ms. Dulos filed numerous petitions and motions accusing each other of ignoring court orders, disparaging each other in front of the children and countless other perceived slights.
In one filing, Mr. Dulos sought to have Ms. Dulos admonished for keeping information from him, such as the fact that she’d chosen a new pediatrician for the children and had signed up one of their sons for an ice hockey team.
In another, Ms. Dulos accused Mr. Dulos of not giving the children a proper bedtime. She also amended her filings to document seemingly every occasion the children spent time with Ms. Troconis, something court orders initially forbade.
Both parents also filed numerous motions saying that the other was disparaging them. Ms. Dulos said her husband had called her insane in front of her children, saying she was an unfit mother who “should be locked away.”
Mr. Dulos accused her of calling him a “psychopath” who didn’t care about his children and didn’t work hard enough to make money for the family.
At one point, he said in a court filing, Ms. Dulos told the children that “your father likes Farmington because he is not that smart; successful people live in New Canaan.”
John Slowiaczek, a divorce lawyer and former president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said that the vitriolic language was typical of many divorce cases and that the high number of filings was not unusual in cases involving wealthy spouses.
“You can file as many pleadings as you want, and nobody can stop you,” he added.
Even with Mr. Dulos in jail, the custody battle between the two raged on. On Monday, the same day that Mr. Dulos was arraigned, Judge Donna Heller of State Superior Court in Stamford issued an emergency order revoking his visitation rights.
The next day, Ms. Dulos’s mother, Gloria Farber, filed a motion seeking to get custody of her grandchildren.
According to court documents, all five children have been staying with Ms. Farber in New York City since Ms. Dulos disappeared.
Nate Schweber and Susan Beachy contributed reporting.