KELLI R. LUNDY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
MARK E. LUNDY, Defendant-Appellee.
Civil Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, Case No. 2011 DR 321.
Thomas E. Schubert, 138 East Market Street, Warren, OH 44481 (For Plaintiff-Appellant).
Rhonda L Granitto Santha, 6401 State Route 534, Farmington, OH 44491 (For Defendant-Appellee).
DIANE V. GRENDELL, JUDGE.
(¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, Kelli R. Lundy, now known as Kelli El Gazzer, appeals from the judgment of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, finding her in contempt, ordering her to serve 30 days in the Trumbull County Jail, and awarding attorney fees to defendant-appellee, Mark E. Lundy. The issues to be determined by this court are whether the merits of an underlying order leading to a contempt violation can be challenged on an appeal from a contempt finding, whether an order is vague when it does not state the ending date of the order, and whether attorney fees can be awarded when no evidence is presented as to whether they are reasonable. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the lower court.
(¶ 2}On June 29, 2001, El Gazzer filed a Complaint in Divorce from her husband, Mark E. Lundy.
(¶ 3} On June 5, 2002, a Journal Entry (Decree of Divorce) was filed, granting El Gazzer and Lundy's divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. The Entry designated El Gazzer as the residential parent of the couple's three children, and ordered Lundy to pay child support.
(¶ 4}On November 12, 2002, El Gazzer filed a Motion to Modify Child Support, asserting that Lundy's income had increased. On December 17, 2002, a Magistrate's Decision was filed, raising the amount of support owed by Lundy from $700 to $816 per month. The Decision also stated that "Defendant [Lundy] [is] to claim all 3 children for tax purposes." This was adopted by the trial court in a Judgment Order on the same date.
(¶ 5} Following a Motion filed by El Gazzer, on January 6, 2004, the trial court issued a Judgment Order relating to the parties' retirement benefits, ordering that El Gazzer be responsible for providing health insurance and that Lundy pay all uninsured health care expenses for the children. An Agreed Judgment Entry was filed on the same day, relating to Lundy's parenting time.
(¶ 6}On June 17, 2005, the court issued an Order finding that a Motion for Modification of Child Support filed by Lundy had been withdrawn.
(¶ 7} On March 21, 2006, a Request for Approval of Administrative Hearing Recommendation was filed with the trial court, in which the Trumbull County Child Support Enforcement Agency recommended that Lundy's child support obligation be modified to $644 per month. This was adopted by the trial court on March 23, 2006.
(¶ 8} On January 26, 2010, Lundy filed a Motion to Show Cause, requesting that El Gazzer be ordered to show why she should not be held in contempt of court for claiming the three children as dependents for tax purposes in the tax year of 2007. Lundy asserted that, pursuant to the December 17, 2002 Order, he is entitled to claim the children as dependents, and asked that El Gazzer be required to file an amended tax return.
(¶ 9} On March 26, 2010, El Gazzer responded and stated that she believed the order allowed Lundy to claim the children as dependents for only one year.
(¶ 10} On April 21, 2010, a Magistrate's Decision was filed, as well as a Judgment Order by the court adopting the Decision. The court found that Lundy "was awarded the tax exemption for all three (3) children." The court held the Motion in abeyance, allowing El Gazzer to file amended tax returns for any years she claimed the children as dependents. The Order stated that the failure to file such returns would result in a finding of contempt, and set a compliance hearing on a future date.
(¶ 11} Pursuant to El Gazzer's request, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law were issued, in which the magistrate found that El Gazzer admitted to claiming the children as dependents on her 2007 taxes, and under the trial court's December 17, 2002 Order, Lundy was entitled to claim the children as dependents. These findings and conclusions were approved by the court.
(¶ 12} Subsequently, El Gazzer filed Objections to the Magistrate's Decision and argued that the trial court's December 2002 Order was vague and void, since it did not determine whether allowing Lundy to claim the children as dependents was in their best interest. On November 5, 2010, the trial court issued a Judgment Order, overruling the Objections.
(¶ 13} El Gazzer's subsequent appeal was dismissed by this court for lack of a final appealable order in Lundy v. Lundy, 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2010-T-0123, 2011-Ohio-2332, since no finding of contempt had been made. Id. at ¶ 4.
(¶ 14} On September 20, 2011, a Magistrate's Decision was issued, finding El Gazzer in contempt, ordering her to serve 30 days in jail, and to pay attorney fees in the amount of $500. The court allowed her to purge the contempt by filing amended tax returns. The decision was adopted by the trial court in a November 3, 2011 Order, and El Gazzer filed similar objections, which were again overruled.
(¶ 15} On September 30, 2011, El Gazzer filed a Proposed Statement of Proceedings of the September 20, 2011 Compliance Hearing. It stated that no record or evidence was taken, that El Gazzer had not filed amended tax returns, and Lundy's counsel requested attorney fees. ...