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Sherman v. Sherman

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District

August 14, 2013

JACK SHERMAN, JR., Plaintiff-Appellee,
SCARLETT A. SHERMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

Civil Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division Trial No. DR-1101969

Buechner Haffer Meyers & Koenig Co., LPA, Gloria S. Haffer and Robert J. Meyers, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

Cohen Todd Kite & Stanford, LLC, and Jeffrey Rollman, for Defendant-Appellant.


Fischer, Judge

(¶1} Defendant-appellant Scarlett Sherman appeals from the decree of divorce entered by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, terminating her marriage to plaintiff-appellee Jack Sherman, awarding Scarlett spousal support and dividing the parties' assets and debts. Because we determine that her five assignments of error lack merit, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

History of the Parties

(¶2} The parties married on March 1, 2004; however, their romantic relationship preceded that date. According to Scarlett, she and Jack were engaged to be married twice-once in 1982 and once in 1988. With regard to the 1982 engagement, Scarlett and Jack lived together during that period of time, but Jack ended their relationship abruptly. The two reunited in 1988 while Jack was running for a judgeship on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, and they became engaged again. Scarlett spent a great deal of time assisting Jack in his election efforts, including attending parades and campaign events. Although Jack lost the election, he was appointed to a federal magistrate position, and Scarlett assisted the FBI in its investigation of Jack in connection with that appointment. Scarlett claims that Jack abruptly ended their relationship again after his appointment. Jack did not have the same recollection of their past. He downplayed the seriousness of their romantic involvement, and he denied that they were ever formally engaged at either time.

(¶3} After 16 years without communicating, Jack contacted Scarlett "out of the blue." He had recently retired from the federal judiciary, and he wanted to rekindle their romance. The two married shortly thereafter. The parties had no children and enjoyed a nice standard of living, which included three vacations per year, and theater and symphony tickets. Scarlett worked part-time for LensCrafters when she married Jack, but she retired early in 2009 at Jack's request so that she could be home in the evenings and on weekends and so they could travel more.

(¶4} In July 2011, Jack asked Scarlett to lunch, and when they finished eating, he handed her a type-written letter stating that he wanted a divorce. Jack's request for a divorce came as a surprise to Scarlett. The parties remained together in the marital household for several days, until an incident occurred that frightened Jack, and he left the home. Eventually, a domestic violence order was issued, at which point Scarlett moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, to live with her sister.

The Divorce Action

(¶5} Jack filed a complaint for divorce in September 2011. At the time of trial on the merits of the divorce action, Jack was 74 years old and Scarlett was 58 years old. Jack testified at length regarding his assets. He testified that he had approximately $480, 000 in assets when he married Scarlett. Part of that included an IRA funded with money that he had earned from working prior to the marriage, and he had not added to the IRA since the marriage. The other assets were held at various credit unions and banks. All of the funds that had been deposited into those accounts, and which remained in the accounts at the time of trial, were derived from Jack's premarital employment, his retirement benefits, or a certificate of deposit that he had inherited upon his parents' deaths. At all times during the marriage, Jack and Scarlett had kept separate accounts and did not comingle funds.

(¶6} As to Jack's debt, he testified that he had bought a condominium after he and Scarlett had separated. He had withdrawn $200, 000 from his savings account to buy the property and had borrowed $20, 000 to fund the balance of the purchase price. Jack also owed close to $51, 000 on a boat that he had purchased prior to the marriage.

(¶7} At the time of trial, Jack also received approximately $200, 000 per year in retirement benefits. This included his pensions from the Judicial Retirees System, the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, and TIAA-CREF, as well as Social Security benefits.

(¶8} Jack also testified that Scarlett had defaced 200 pieces of his personal memorabilia, including books, photographs, and newspaper clippings, by writing hateful comments on them with black marker. Jack testified that he would like to restore at least 100 of the items, and he presented the testimony of Jennifer Burt from Wiebold Studio, which specializes in antique restoration. Burt testified that Jack had brought a box full of the damaged personal items to the studio and that some of the items could not be restored. Some of the others could be restored, but at ...

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