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Barbara J. Haskett v. James M. Haskett

January 22, 2013

BARBARA J. HASKETT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES M. HASKETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Civil Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, Case No. 07 DR 000703.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Jane Trapp, J.

Cite as

Haskett v. Haskett,

OPINION

Judgment: Affirmed.

{¶1} Appellant, James M. Haskett, appeals from two judgment entries of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, denying his motions to terminate spousal support and to modify parental rights and responsibilities. His motions were primarily based on allegations that Mrs. Haskett had entered in a marriage-like relationship with another man. The trial court held a trial on both matters and found that appellee, Barbara Haskett, had not in fact entered into a marriage-like relationship with this other man. The trial court further found that no change of circumstances had occurred to warrant a reallocation of parental responsibilities. Because the trial court's findings are supported by competent, credible evidence, we affirm the decision of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division.

Substantive Facts and Procedural History

{¶2} Barbara Haskett filed a complaint for divorce in October 2007. In the interim period between the complaint for divorce and the final decree, the Hasketts lived separately. But, two months before the final decree and a shared parenting plan were filed on October 26, 2010, Mrs. Haskett and her male friend, Terry Lewis, began to live together, joined by the Haskett children. Mrs. Haskett and Mr. Lewis jointly signed a lease and lived together for just over a year. Mrs. Haskett and Mr. Lewis split the rent and shared household expenses, occasionally engaging in sexual activity. Mrs. Hasket described the relationship as one more akin to roommates than spouses.

{¶3} The Hasketts have shared parenting of their two children, but Mrs. Haskett is the residential parent for school purposes.

{¶4} A mere nine days after the final decree, Mr. Haskett filed motions to modify parental rights and responsibilities and to terminate spousal support. Mr. Haskett alleged that Mrs. Haskett had entered into a marriage-like relationship with another man, triggering a termination of the spousal support clause contained in the divorce decree. The trial court dismissed these motions on April 22, 2011, "due to a failure of service upon the Plaintiff to invoke the continuing jurisdiction of the Court." Mr. Haskett had incorrectly served Mrs. Haskett pursuant to Civ.R. 5, instead Civ.R. 4, as required by Civ.R. 75(J).

{¶5} On April 26, 2011, Mr. Haskett re-filed his motions, serving Mrs. Haskett pursuant to Civ.R. 4, instead of Civ.R. 5. One month later, Mr. Haskett served discovery upon Mrs. Haskett pursuant to Civ.R. 4. Mr. Haskett did not serve Mrs. Haskett's attorney until July 8, 2011, as indicated by his notice of service filed that day. Mrs. Haskett filed her discovery responses on July 6, 2011. Believing that Mrs. Haskett had failed to timely respond to his discovery requests, Mr. Haskett filed motions to confirm admissions and for an in camera interview of the minor children. In response to the request for in camera interview, Mrs. Hasket filed a motion for appointment of a Guardian ad Litem ("GAL"), 14 days prior to trial. The trial court granted Mrs. Haskett's motion, appointing a GAL for the limited purpose of being present during the interview.

{¶6} On September 12, 2011, the trial court held both an in camera interview with the children and a trial, at which both Mr. and Mrs. Haskett testified. At the completion of trial, Mrs. Haskett moved the trial court to dismiss both motions. The trial court immediately dismissed the motion to reallocate parental rights and responsibilities, stating that Mrs. Haskett "believes a change has not occurred in the circumstances of the children, the child's residential parent or either parent, which is required by statute and the evidence overwhelmingly supports [the] motion [to dismiss]." The trial court did not issue a ruling on the motion to terminate spousal support that day.

{¶7} Subsequently, the trial court issued two judgment entries. The first reiterated the denial of the motion to reallocate parental rights and responsibilities, and stated that the "Court finds Father failed to sustain his statutory burden of proof to show a change in circumstances occurred pursuant to Rev. Code 3109.04(E)(1)(a) set forth hereinabove, as to Father, Mother or the children to warrant modification of the Shared Parenting Plan. * * * The in camera review was held prematurely, and is irrelevant since the consideration of the children's best interest was not required by statute."

{¶8} The second judgment entry denied the motion to terminate spousal support, and stated that the "Court finds Father did not sustain his burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that Mother was living in a state akin to marriage with Mr. Lewis from August 15, 2010 to September 3, 2011. Finally, the Court notes Mother's acquiring a roommate to share expenses began more than two months prior to the decree of divorce even being filed."

{¶9} Mr. Haskett timely appealed and now brings the following assignments of error:

{¶10} "[1.] The trial court committed prejudicial error when it ruled that service pursuant to Civ.R. 75(J) and Civ.R. 4 was insufficient to obtain personal jurisdiction over Appellee for motions to terminate spousal support and to modify parental rights and responsibilities."

{ΒΆ11} "[2.] The trial court committed prejudicial err [sic] by refusing to consider Appellee's admissions that she had entered into a marriage ...


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