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Grenga v. Bonacci

December 2, 2008

TERRY GRENGA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BONACCI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



CHARACTER OF PROCEEDINGS: Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, Case No. 04JI769.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vukovich, J.

OPINION

JUDGMENT: Reversed and Remanded.

JUDGES: Hon. Joseph J. Vukovich, Hon. Cheryl L. Waite, Hon. Mary DeGenaro.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant Christopher Bonacci (the father) appeals the decision of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court calculating his child support obligation regarding his child who resides with plaintiff-appellee Terry Grenga (the mother). In resolving this appeal two issues are addressed: (1) whether the juvenile court improperly failed to attach a statutory child support worksheet to its judgment when it modified the magistrate's decision; and (2) whether an obligor can receive an adjustment to income on line 8 of the child support worksheet as a result of another child living with him under a shared parenting agreement with a different obligee and simultaneously receive an adjustment on line 9 as a result of the $2,400 per year he nonetheless pays in child support for that other child.

{¶2} As to the first issue, we conclude that the juvenile court erred when it modified the magistrate's figures without attaching its own child support worksheet. In addressing the second issue, we hold that under the plain language of the statute, the trial court also erred in proceeding as though line 8 and line 9 are options from which the court can choose. As such, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and this case is remanded for the filing of a new child support worksheet based upon proper application of the law.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

{¶3} On June 1, 2007, the mother filed a motion to modify the father's $130.60 monthly child support obligation because the father became more gainfully employed. A hearing was held on the matter before a magistrate. On September 5, 2007, the magistrate granted the motion to modify child support and ordered the father to pay $277.45 per month to the mother. The magistrate found that the mother earned $38,000 per year while the father earned $20,800 per year. Under the income adjustment in line 8 of the child support worksheet attached to the magistrate's decision, the magistrate credited the father with $6,800 for two other children living with him.

{¶4} The father filed timely objections on the ground that the magistrate failed to give him credit on line 9 for child support he paid for one of those other children living with him and included in line 8. The objections stated that he paid $500 per month in child support, but he later amended his objections to state the correct figure of $200 per month.

{¶5} The impetus for this amendment was the mother's response to objections where she produced the shared parenting decree regarding the father's obligation to that other mother and where she pointed out that he paid only $200 per month for this other child. (This decree also showed that the father was granted physical custody of the other child more than half the time.) The mother's response additionally suggested that there was no evidence of a child support obligation presented at the magistrate's hearing.

{¶6} When the court informed the parties that no transcript of the magistrate's hearing was available because the recording of such hearing was inaudible, the father filed an affidavit of evidence on November 19, 2007, regarding his testimony at such hearing. In pertinent part, he disclosed that two children lived with him and that for one of these children he paid support of $204 per month including the processing fee.

{¶7} On November 20, 2007, the father filed a brief urging that the court is obligated to review each line of the statutory child support worksheet and cannot choose between line 8 or line 9. Oral arguments were held on December 18, 2007. The mother never filed any documents contesting the father's legal arguments, nor did she file her own affidavit of evidence concerning the father's testimony at the magistrate's hearing.

{ΒΆ8} On February 27, 2008, the juvenile court released it judgment, ordering the father to pay $268.32 per month in child support. In considering the deductions to income, the court credited the father with $3,400 for one other child living with him (coinciding with line 8) and $2,400 for child support paid for another child (coinciding with line 9). Even though the total deductions to the father's income went down by $1,000 compared to the magistrate's decision, the court's monthly child support figure decreased from $277.45 to $268.32 (rather than increasing to approximately $289 as it would have had the court substituted its revised figures for the magistrate's figures in the ...


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