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Smith v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District

September 30, 2003

NANCY JANE SMITH, Plaintiff-Appellee,
STEPHEN LINDSEY SMITH, Defendant-Appellant.


COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Randall G. Burnworth


David T. Evans, Presiding Judge

{¶1} Defendant-Appellant Stephen Lindsey Smith appeals the judgment of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, which awarded Plaintiff-Appellee Nancy Jane Smith $1, 000 per month in spousal support. Appellant argues that the spousal support award is excessive and not supported by the evidence presented at the support hearing.

{¶2} For the reasons that follow, we disagree and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lower Court Proceedings

{¶3} In December 2001, Plaintiff-Appellee Nancy Jane Smith sought a divorce from her husband of approximately thirty-two years, Defendant-Appellant Stephen Lindsey Smith. Subsequently, appellant filed his answer, and the trial court entered temporary orders, which in part granted appellee $1, 000 per month in spousal support, of which $500 was to be withheld from appellant's employment income and $500 withdrawn from joint funds held in a savings account. Thereafter, appellant filed an amended answer and counter-claim for divorce.

{¶4} In June 2002, the trial court held a hearing in this matter, at which both parties testified. The parties settled all issues concerning the property division and presented that agreement to the trial court during the hearing. Further, appellee withdrew her complaint for a divorce, while the case proceeded on appellant's counter-claim. The testimony at the hearing established that appellant is a union employee in the heating and air conditioning industry whose current earnings approximate $35, 000 per year plus benefits. The testimony also demonstrated that appellee currently works at Marietta College in the housekeeping department about twenty-five hours per week, earns $6.00 per hour, and receives no benefits through her employment. However, through the majority of the parties' marriage, appellee was a stay-at-home mother, and appellant's earnings approximated $40, 000 per year. Furthermore, both parties are in their early fifties.

{¶5} Following the hearing, the trial court ruled from the bench, granting the parties a divorce and ordering that appellant pay appellee $1, 000 per month in spousal support and half of appellee's cost of obtaining COBRA insurance coverage.

{¶6} Subsequently, appellant moved the trial court for findings of fact and conclusions of law, and the parties filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court issued its own findings of fact and conclusions of law and a journal entry reflecting its judgment.

The Appeal

{¶7} Appellant timely filed his notice of appeal and presents the following assignment of error for our review: "The Trial Court erred when it ordered the Defendant/Counter-claimant [sic] to pay $1, 000.00 per month as and for spousal support, as well as one-half of the Plaintiff's insurance coverage under COBRA when his expenses exceeded his income by approximately $310.00 per week."

I. Standard of Review

{¶8} A trial court has broad discretion when determining an appropriate amount of spousal support. See Kunkle v. Kunkle (1990), 51 Ohio St.3d 64, 67, 554 N.E.2d 83; Bolinger v. Bolinger (1990), 49 Ohio St.3d 120, 122, 551 N.E.2d 157; Holcomb v. Holcomb (1989), 44 Ohio St.3d 128, 131, 541 N.E.2d 597. However, the relevant factors set forth in R.C. 3105.18(C)(1)(a)-(n) must guide the trial court's discretion. See Cherry v. Cherry (1981), 66 Ohio St.2d 348, 355, 421 N.E.2d 1293. This Court must give deference to a trial court's decision regarding spousal support unless the trial court abused its discretion. See Blakemore v. Blakemore (1983), 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 450 N.E.2d 1140, syllabus; see, also, Bechtol v. Bechtol (1990), 49 Ohio St.3d 21, 24, 550 N.E.2d 178. An abuse of discretion involves more than an error of judgment or law; it implies an attitude on the part of the trial court that is unreasonable, unconscionable, or arbitrary. See Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d at 219; Masters v. Masters, 69 Ohio St.3d 83, 85, 1994-Ohio-483, 630 N.E.2d 665. When applying the abuse of discretion standard, a reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the trial court. See In re Jane Doe 1, 57 Ohio St.3d 135, 137-138, 566 N.E.2d 1181, citing Berk v. Matthews (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d ...

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