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Greg Pinzone v. Lisa Marie Pinzone

December 24, 2012

GREG PINZONE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LISA MARIE PINZONE, ET AL., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Civil Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, Case No. 08 DR 000785.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas R. Wright, J.

Cite as Pinzone v. Pinzone,

OPINION

Judgment: Affirmed in part; reversed in part and remanded.

{¶1} This is an accelerated-calendar appeal, taken from a final judgment of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division. In that judgment, the trial court disposed of two motions regarding whether appellee, Lisa Marie Pinzone, had complied with provisions of the parties' separation agreement. As the primary basis for the appeal, appellant, Greg Pinzone, challenges the trial court's ruling that he did not have standing to compel appellee to make certain payments owed to his parents under the agreement.

{¶2} The underlying divorce proceeding was initiated by appellant in December 2008. Approximately two years later, immediately before the final hearing on the merits of the divorce, the parties were able to negotiate a separation agreement that eventually was incorporated into the final divorce decree. This agreement contained a provision governing the payment of a marital debt owed to appellant's parents:

{¶3} "The parties further agree that the parties have a marital debt held with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pinzone, in the current amount of Two Hundred Forty-One Thousand Eight Hundred Dollars ($241,800.00). The parties hereby agree that this debt shall be split in equal shares wherein Husband shall be responsible for $120,900.00 of the debt, and Wife shall be responsible for $120,900.00. Said debt shall be repaid at the monthly amount of $275.00 by Wife on a monthly basis, commencing January 1, 2011, and repaid at the rate of $375.00 by Husband on a monthly basis. The parties acknowledge and specifically agree that this debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy and shall survive any bankruptcy filing of any nature whatsoever by either Husband and/or Wife. Each party shall pay their respective monthly payment directly to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pinzone on or before the 1st of each month, commencing January, 2011."

{¶4} Despite the fact that the separation agreement was executed in November 2010, the final divorce decree was not issued until April 2011. In addition to expressly incorporating the separation agreement, the decree had a separate order that required appellee to pay $450 in attorney fees to appellant's trial counsel.

{¶5} Even before the final divorce decree had been released, appellant filed a motion to show cause as to why appellee should not be found in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of the separation agreement. Specifically, the motion stated that, even though the agreement had provided that the respective monthly "debt" payments to appellant's parents were to begin in January 2011, appellee had failed to make any payment through March 2011. In conjunction with the motion, appellant made a request to be reimbursed for the attorney fees associated with this matter.

{¶6} Approximately 40 days after the issuance of the final decree, appellant submitted a second contempt motion regarding appellee's compliance. As the grounds for this motion, appellant asserted that appellee had not made the required payment of attorney fees to his trial counsel, in accordance with the decree. Like the first contempt motion, the second motion also requested a separate award of attorney fees associated with the disposition of the contempt issue.

{¶7} The Ohio Supreme Court, in Harris v. Harris, 58 Ohio St.2d 303, syllabus paragraphs 1 and 2, clarified the following:

{¶8} "1. A property settlement provision contained in a separation agreement, which is subsequently incorporated into a divorce decree, or a decree of dissolution, is enforceable by contempt proceedings.

{¶9} "2. For purposes of enforcing a decree entered in a domestic relations proceeding, provisions relating to the division of property as contained within a separation agreement do not constitute a 'debt' within the meaning of that term as used in the constitutional inhibition against imprisonment for debt."

{ΒΆ10} Therefore, the trial court in a case such as this clearly has the authority to issue an order of contempt for failure of appellee to comply with the terms ...


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