LARISSA D. BROWN Appellant
PATRICK N. ALLALA Appellee
APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. DR 2007-08-2575
LYNDA HARVEY WILLIAMS, and AVIVA L. WILCHER, Attorneys at Law, for Appellant.
PATRICK N. ALLALA, pro se, Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
(¶1} Appellant Larissa Brown appeals from the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse and remand the matter for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
(¶2} Ms. Brown and Patrick Allala are the parents of Z.B., born September 8, 2006. Ms. Brown and Mr. Allala have never been married. Mr. Allala is a non-U.S. citizen who originally came to this country under a student visa. Beginning in 2007, Mr. Allala was ordered to pay $335.00 per month plus processing fees in child support. In 2008, Ms. Brown moved to modify child support and establish a parent/child relationship. Ultimately, Ms. Brown was designated the residential parent of Z.B. in 2009. Beginning in May 2009, Mr. Allala's child support was increased to $536.75 per month plus processing fees.
(¶3} In November 2011, the Summit County Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSEA") conducted an administrative review of the child support award and recommended that child support be modified to $580.27 per month. Mr. Allala requested a modification hearing. CSEA conducted an administrative hearing pursuant to R.C. 3119.63. The hearing officer found that Mr. Allala was a non-U.S. citizen who was working for Akron Children's Hospital under a H1B sponsorship work visa; however, his employment was terminated when the work visa expired. Mr. Allala was unable to secure other employment because he could not get sponsorship for a work visa. The hearing officer discussed Mr. Allala's efforts to secure employment and/or a visa.
(¶4} After hearing the testimony, the hearing officer recommended that child support be reduced to zero for the time period Mr. Allala remained unemployed. Accordingly, CSEA filed a recommendation in the trial court that support be modified to zero. To that filing, CSEA attached a completed child support worksheet reflecting the information that resulted in the initial pre-hearing $580.27 per month child support award recommendation. Ms. Brown filed objections to CSEA's recommendations in the court of common pleas and a hearing was held before a magistrate. The magistrate concluded that, given Mr. Allala's then-present inability to find work, he was unable to contribute financially to Z.B.'s care. The magistrate issued a decision finding that, effective December 1, 2011, Mr. Allala's child support obligation was suspended through November 30, 2012, or until Mr. Allala obtained employment, whichever occurred first. Effective December 1, 2012, or when Mr. Allala obtained employment, Mr. Allala was again obligated to pay $536.75 per month in child support plus processing fees. No child support worksheet was attached to the magistrate's decision. The trial court adopted the magistrate's decision that same day and entered judgment. Ms. Brown filed objections to the magistrate's decision. The trial court overruled Ms. Brown's objections and ordered that Mr. Allala's child support obligation be terminated "until such time as [Mr. Allala] either obtains employment in the United States or is no longer residing in the United States." The trial court did not attach a child support worksheet to its entry. Ms. Brown has appealed, raising five assignments of error for our review.
(¶5} Generally, "[w]hen reviewing an appeal from the trial court's ruling on objections to a magistrate's decision, this Court must determine whether the trial court abused its discretion in reaching its decision." Daniels v. O'Dell 9th Dist. Summit No. 24873, 2010-Ohio-1341, ¶ 10. "In so doing, we consider the trial court's action with reference to the nature of the underlying matter." Tabatabai v. Tabatabai, 9th Dist. Medina No. 08CA0049-M, 2009-Ohio-
3139, ¶ 18. "It is well established that a trial court's decision regarding child support obligations falls within the discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent a showing of an abuse of discretion." Pauly v. Pauly, 80 Ohio St.3d 386, 390 (1997).
ASSIGNMENT OF ...