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Valerie Woronka v. William Woronka

January 31, 2011

VALERIE WORONKA
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
WILLIAM WORONKA DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Civil appeal from the Stark County Court ofCommon Pleas, Domestic Relaltions Division, Case No. 2006-DR-1016

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

Cite as Woronka v. Woronka, 2011-Ohio-498.

JUDGES:

Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J.

Hon. Sheila G. Farmer, J.

Hon. John W. Wise, J.

OPINION

CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING

JUDGMENT: Reversed and Remanded

DATE OF JUDGMENT ENTRY: January 31, 2011

[Cite as Woronka v. Woronka, 2011-Ohio-498.]

{¶1} Defendant-appellant William J. Woronka appeals a judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, of Stark County, Ohio, which construed the separation agreement appellant entered into with plaintiff-appellee Valerie Woronka. Appellant assigns a single error to the trial court:

{¶2} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN MODIFYING THE SEPARATION AGREEMENT, WHICH WAS ADOPTED BY THE PARTIES AND INCORPORATED BY THE COURT."

{¶3} The record indicates the parties ended their marriage in October, 2006, and executed a separation agreement. The agreement provided in pertinent part: "11. Husband and Wife consent and agree that Wife is to receive one-half of IBEW 401(K) by use of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)."

{¶4} On June 17, 2010, the court conducted a hearing on a request for clarification of the QDRO and the divorce decree. The trial court found the attorney representing the company clarified that appellant's IBEW pension account is a Security Plan Pension, and that a separate 401(K) Plan exists, but it has no value. The court found the pension accrued during the marriage and has an approximate value of $30,000.

{¶5} The trial court stated it lacks authority to modify the division of marital property contained in the final decree, but it does have the power to clarify and construe the property division in order to effectuate its judgment. The court found the parties clearly contemplated an equal division of the marital portion of the pension. The court found the decree incorrectly referred to the pension as a 401 (K) rather than the Security Plan. The court clarified the 2006 decree to require an equal division of the marital portion of appellant's IBEW Security Plan through means of a QDRO.

{¶6} Unfortunately, the beginning of the hearing was conducted off the record, and the documents and transcript before us contain little information. The transcript refers to correspondence between the parties' counsels which was not offered into evidence and is not part of the record on appeal.

{¶7} Appellant concedes the trial court had jurisdiction to clarify and construe the original property division, but argues the court's order does not construe the original property division, but rather modifies it. The trial court cited our decision in Schneider v. Schneider, Stark App. No. 2009-CA-00090, 2010-Ohio-534. In

Schneider, the divorce decree awarded the ex-wife 50% of the marital portion of the ex-husband's accrued benefits in a pension, but when the ex-husband retired he discovered appellee was receiving one-half of the entire pension, not one-half of the portion earned during the marriage.

{¶8} The trial court found the ex-wife was entitled to one-half of the total pension. This court disagreed. We cited Bond v. Bond (1990), 69 Ohio App. 3d 225, which states a trial court has broad discretion in clarifying ambiguous language considering not only the intent of the parties, but the equities involved. We found the divorce decree stated it divided the marital assets and the marital property, and therefore the benefits to which the ex-wife was entitled must be determined by the amount of time the parties were married.

{ΒΆ9} Appellant cites us to Ruthrauff v. Ruthrauff, Stark App. No. 2009-CA- 00191, 2010-Ohio-887. In Ruthrauff, the parties' separation agreement provided for equal distribution of the husband's retirement benefits from U.S. Army. The decree was granted in 1985. When the ex-husband retired from the military in 2003, the ex-wife began receiving half of the total benefits. The trial court found the terms of the separation agreement were clear and unambiguous, and refused to modify the award. We found if the language of a written instrument is clear and unambiguous, the interpretation of the instrument ...


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