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Sandra L. Pendergraft v. Michael William Watts

November 3, 2011

SANDRA L. PENDERGRAFT PLAINTIFF APPEAL BY STATE OF OHIO, CUYAHOGA SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AGENCY APPELLANT
v.
MICHAEL WILLIAM WATTS DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division Case No. D-282266

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth A. Rocco, J.:

Cite as Pendergraft v. Watts,

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

JUDGMENT:

REVERSED AND REMANDED

BEFORE: Rocco, J., S. Gallagher, P.J., and Blackmon, J.

{¶1} The state of Ohio, Cuyahoga Support Enforcement Agency ("CSEA"), appeals from an order of the domestic relations division of the common pleas court ("the DR court") that partially granted CSEA's motion to show cause, and determined the arrearage due on a previous child support order. The DR court found that the obligor, defendant-appellee Michael William Watts, was in arrears in the amount of $5,060.74 and ordered him to continue to make support payments of $60 per month as well as $40 per month payments on the arrearage.

{¶2} In CSEA's original appeal from the foregoing order, relying on Pula v. Pula-Branch, Cuyahoga App. No. 93460, 2010-Ohio-912, (authored by Christine T. McMonagle, P.J.), this court held that the DR court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a UIFSA*fn1 petition, and therefore vacated the DR court's order. Pendergraft v. Watts, Cuyahoga App. No. 93808, 2010-Ohio-3196 ("Pendergraft I"). CSEA appealed this court's decision in Pendergraft I to the Ohio Supreme Court. On the authority of its decision in Pula v. Pula-Branch, 129 Ohio St.3d 196, 2011-Ohio-2896, 951 N.E.2d 72, the

4

supreme court reversed this court's decision in Pendergraft I and remanded for consideration of the merits of CSEA's appeal.

{¶3} CSEA asserts in seven assignments of error that the DR court abused its discretion when it adopted the magistrate's decision, because the magistrate acted improperly, both in failing to find Watts in contempt of court and in finding him in substantial compliance with the support order. This court agrees. Consequently, the DR court's order is reversed, and this case is remanded for further proceedings.

{¶4} The underlying facts of this case were set forth in Pendergraft I, at ¶2-6 as follows.

{¶5} "Sandra L. Pendergraft petitioned the domestic relations division of the common pleas court in September 2001 to register a North Carolina child support order for enforcement. The voluntary support order attached to the petition obligated Watts to pay $60 per month for the support of his child; the petition indicated that $1,142 was past due pursuant to this order. Watts did not object to the registration. On December 26, 2001, the domestic relations court registered the North Carolina order and ordered Watts to pay current support of $60 per month plus $40 per month toward the arrearage.

{ΒΆ6} "In September 2005, CSEA filed a motion to show cause why Watts should not be held in contempt for ...


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