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Walters v. Walters

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District

June 17, 2013

VERONICA WALTERS nka WILSON, et al., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
RAYMOND WALTERS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Case No. 89DR346.

For Plaintiffs-Appellees: Attorney Mary Corabi, (For Veronica Walters nka Wilson), Attorney M. Catherine Savage-Dylewski

For Defendant-Appellant: Attorney Lydia Spragin

Hon. Joseph J. Vukovich Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite

OPINION

VUKOVICH, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant Raymond Walters appeals the decision of the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court, which issued an order relative to his child support arrearage prohibiting him from any voluntary act or omission tending to diminish any property, benefit or value coming to him from any source, including benefits that may come due to him through the estate of his mother, his mother's prior employer, or the Social Security Administration. The court also ordered him to deliver to appellee Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSEA") all things of value received from or through the estate of his mother or from his mother's employer.

{¶2} Appellant contends that the domestic relations court did not have the authority to issue such an order for various reasons. He also contends that the order improperly interferes with his ability to act as administrator of his mother's estate by ordering him to deliver all things of value to CSEA. Appellant additionally alleges that a caseworker's testimony contained inadmissible hearsay. Finally, he complains that the judge who signed the amended ex parte restraining order had previously disqualified himself from the case. For the following reasons, appellant's assignments of error are overruled, and the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

{¶3} Appellee Veronica Wilson ("the obligee") was granted a divorce from appellant Raymond Walters in 1989. She received custody of the parties' two children. No child support order was initially entered due to appellant's unemployment. In 1991, a child support order in the amount of $534.71 per month began but was suspended in 1992 when appellant lost his job. At that time, the court ordered appellant to seek work and to immediately provide notice of employment to CSEA.

{¶4} Nothing further occurred in the case until 1997, when appellant reportedly telephoned from Saudi Arabia to report new employment but then failed to respond to further requests for information from CSEA. Said agency then filed a motion asking that the prior child support order be reactivated and a motion for contempt. Due to the inability to serve appellant, the cause was not heard until December of 2003.

{¶5} Thereafter, a child support order was issued in the amount of $401.76 per month beginning June 30, 1997 and increasing to $460.71 per month on May 13, 2003. Appellant was ordered to pay $92 per month toward his arrearage. A warrant was also issued for his arrest on the contempt charge. Upon the graduation of the oldest child, appellant's child support obligation was reduced to $230.36 per month in mid-2005. At that time, CSEA filed another motion for contempt and a motion for judgment on the arrears.

{¶6} On October 5, 2005, a judgment was entered on the arrearage of $40, 318.47. The court also found appellant in contempt and sentenced him to thirty days in jail with twenty days suspended upon the condition that he make his support payments. This order noted that appellant was required to report all sources of income and ownership of all assets including any inheritance over $500. As he did not reliably make his support payments, he was later ordered to complete the suspended twenty days in jail. When the second child graduated in 2006, appellant's current support was terminated, and his monthly payments were redirected toward the arrearage.

{¶7} On December 28, 2011, appellant filed a motion to modify his arrearage payments, stating that he had become permanently disabled and that his sole source of income was $777 per month in Social Security Disability payments. The court held an evidentiary hearing on this motion. In a May 14, 2012 judgment entry, the court modified his monthly payment toward the arrearage from $783.21 per month to $130.16 per month.

{¶8} In the meantime, appellant opened a probate claim and successfully sought to be appointed administrator of his mother's estate. Appellant's mother had died, leaving appellant and two brothers as next of kin. On May 1, 2012, a CSEA caseworker overheard appellant in the hallway of the courthouse yelling that CSEA should not be able to collect his inheritance and instructing the estate's attorney to put everything in his brother's name. That attorney then mentioned on the record to the probate court that there was a possibility that appellant would renounce his interest in the estate. When CSEA asked the probate court for assistance in collecting the arrearage, the probate court advised that it would leave the matter to the domestic relations court.

{¶9} That same day, CSEA filed a motion with the domestic relations court asking for an ex parte restraining order and a permanent injunction to prohibit appellant from transferring his interest in his mother's estate and to require him to apply his inheritance toward his arrearage. An ex parte order was entered on May 1, 2012, prohibiting appellant from renouncing any interest in his mother's estate, pending a full hearing on the matter.

{¶10} An amended motion was filed the next day adding some details and further asking that appellant be restrained from foregoing his right to receive fees as the administrator of the estate. The court granted the amended motion for an ex parte restraining order on May 2, 2012, adding that appellant was also temporarily enjoined from foregoing payment for acting as administrator.

{¶11} The evidentiary hearing was held on May 14, 2012. The CSEA caseworker testified that, while she was outside of the courtroom waiting for the probate hearing, she saw appellant speaking to the estate's attorney in a very loud manner. She disclosed that appellant was swearing at the attorney and saying that CSEA should not be permitted to take his inheritance. She testified that appellant mentioned putting the inheritance in his brother's name and making sure that everything was out of his name so CSEA would have nothing to take from him. (Tr. 25).

{¶12} Appellant testified that he had a problem with the court prohibiting him from renouncing any interest in the estate because it sounds "strange." (Tr. 54). He stated that the obligee and his brother were "conspiring to do what they can do to help this court steal out estate matters from myself." (Tr. 55). But, he then said that he had no problem with the estate assets being distributed to pay off his arrearage. (Tr. 56). He claimed that he never talked about renouncing his interest as testified to by the caseworker and that he had never even discussed it as an option. (Tr. 56-58). He did acknowledge, however, that the estate's attorney mentioned it on the record at the probate hearing. (Tr. 58).

{¶13} The obligee testified that appellant told her that he did not owe her anything "and he wanted me just to not accept the child support order, to say I don't want any claim to it." He insisted that she was not entitled to any part of his mother's estate. (Tr. 61). Even before his mother died, he told the obligee that he would do anything so she would not get an interest in his mother's house, once saying he would burn it down. (Tr. 62).

{¶14} On May 25, 2012, the domestic relations court entered an "Order Relative to Arrearages." The court found that a substantial child support arrearage existed in the case and that appellant was likely to engage in conduct that would diminish his ability to pay. The court stated that it appeared appellant was in the process of renouncing his interest in his mother's estate and that he was thus also likely to block any interest in benefits from his mother's former employer. The court then prohibited appellant "from any voluntary act or omission tending to diminish any property, benefit or value coming to him from any source." The court specified ...


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