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Lanzillotta v. Lanzillotta

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District

September 20, 2013

JENNIFER A. LANZILLOTTA, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
JEFFREY A. LANZILLOTTA, Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Hamilton County TRIAL NO. DR-1000288 Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division.

The Farrish Law Firm and Michaela M. Stagnaro, for Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

Donovan Law and Michael P. McCafferty, for Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

OPINION

Sylvia S. Hendon, Presiding Judge.

(¶1} Jennifer Lanzillotta and Jeffrey Lanzillotta have both appealed from the trial court's judgment entry granting their decree of divorce. Because the trial court failed to consider Jennifer's overtime pay when determining her income for purposes of calculating child and spousal support, and because the court failed to consider the tax consequences of its property division award, we remand this cause for the trial court's reconsideration of these issues. The judgment entry and decree of divorce issued by the trial court is otherwise affirmed.

Factual Background

(¶2} Jennifer and Jeffrey were married on July 6, 1996. The termination date of their marriage was March 14, 2010. Three children were born of the marriage. The parties agreed on most parenting issues and submitted a shared parenting plan to the court, which was incorporated into its final entry and decree of divorce. The parties also agreed on a myriad of property issues and submitted a joint property stipulation. Various other property matters were tried before the court. The trial court's final entry resolved the property issues, granted the parties a decree of divorce, and incorporated the parties' shared parenting plan.

Jennifer's Appeal

A. Property Distribution

(¶3} Jennifer argues in her first assignment of error that the trial court failed to equitably divide the parties' property. A trial court has broad discretion in determining an equitable division of property in divorce proceedings, and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Kenning v. Gundrum, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-060921, 2007-Ohio-4706, ¶ 5. An abuse of discretion "connotes more than an error of law or of judgment; it implies an unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable attitude on the part of the court." Pembaur v. Leis, 1 Ohio St.3d 89, 91, 437 N.E.2d 1199 (1982).

(¶4} Jennifer first argues that the trial court incorrectly determined her interest in the parties' marital home. The parties had stipulated that Jeffrey was to retain the home following the divorce, but had not agreed upon Jennifer's equity interest in the home. In addition to the first mortgage on the home, the parties had obtained an equity line of credit. When determining Jennifer's equity interest, the trial court had subtracted both the first mortgage and the balance on the equity line of credit from the home's fair market value. The court then additionally subtracted Jeffrey's uncontested premarital interest in the home. The court divided the resulting value in half to determine each party's separate interest in the property. The trial court further ordered that Jennifer and Jeffrey were each responsible for half of the debt remaining on the equity line of credit. Jennifer argues that the trial court ordered her to pay twice for the equity line debt because her value in the home had already been reduced by the debt.

(¶5} We are not persuaded by Jennifer's argument. The trial court correctly determined the parties' equity in the home by subtracting both the first mortgage and the equity line debt from the home's fair market value. And because the equity line debt had been incurred on marital expenses, the trial court correctly ordered the parties to equally share responsibility for this debt. Jennifer's argument fails to recognize that the trial court's entry treats both parties equally with respect to the equity line debt. Both parties' equity in the home was decreased by this debt, and both parties were ordered to shoulder the debt equally. We note that even if the trial court had not subtracted the balance of the equity line debt from the home's fair market value when determining the parties' equity interest, the overall equalization payment between the parties would remain the same because each party's equity interest would have increased by the same amount.

(¶6} Jennifer next argues that the trial court erred in its valuation of her engagement ring and by deeming the ring a marital asset. She contends that this issue was not properly before the trial court for review because the parties had submitted a property stipulation to the court that did not list the engagement ring as a disputed item. Jeffrey argues that because the ring had been purchased in part with funds from the equity line of credit, which the parties agreed was a disputed issue, valuation and division of the ring was properly before the trial court for its consideration. We are persuaded by Jeffrey's argument and find that issues concerning the engagement ring were properly before the trial court for review.

(ΒΆ7} Testimony provided at the property division hearing indicated that Jennifer's engagement ring had been either lost or stolen during the marriage. Jeffrey testified that the parties had received approximately $2, 700 in insurance proceeds for the ring, and that they had paid an additional four to six thousand dollars for Jennifer to obtain a new ring. He indicated that he was not in favor of spending this additional money on the ring. Jeffrey further testified that the new ring had been appraised for $9, 500. The trial court allowed his testimony but declined to admit the appraisal into evidence. Jennifer testified that she and Jeffrey had been in agreement that she should "upsize" her ring after the original was lost. She testified that, including the insurance ...


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