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Pietrantano v. Pietrantano

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

September 30, 2013

LINDA J. PIETRANTANO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
MICHAEL A. PIETRANTANO, Defendant-Appellee.


Crossman Law Firm, LLC, F. Ann Crossman, Michelle Maciorowski, for plaintiff-appellee

Trotter Law, LLC, Janaya L. Trotter, for defendant-appellant



(¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Michael A. Pietrantano ("Husband'), appeals a decision of the Warren County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division, denying his motion for a reduction in spousal support. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

(¶ 2} After a 36-year marriage, Husband and Linda J. Pietrantano ("Wife") filed for divorce in July 2010. During the pendency of the divorce proceedings, Husband was working as a sales engineer in Nashville, Tennessee, and received an annual base salary of $95, 000. In addition, Husband resided in a fully-furnished apartment paid for by his then-employer. However, on January 1, 2011, Husband's pay structure changed and Husband's annual base salary decreased from $95, 000 to $54, 000 plus commissions at a rate of 18 percent and bonuses.

(¶ 3} On February 15, 2011, a final divorce hearing was held, approximately one month after Husband's base salary had been reduced to $54, 000. At the hearing, both Husband and Wife testified that they anticipated Husband would still be able to earn $95, 000 per year even though his base salary had decreased by $41, 000. The trial court issued its final decree of divorce on April 7, 2011 (the "Final Decree"), wherein the parties agreed to an equalization of income. As to the issue of spousal support, the Final Decree provided as follows:

Husband's previous pay through his current employer has been a base pay of $95, 000.00 per year plus commissions. Due to internal changes in compensation at his employment, Husband's base pay is now $54, 000.00 per year plus commissions. Commissions are paid on a monthly basis. The intent of the parties is to equalize the income until such time as Husband has received a total gross income in a calendar year of $95, 000.00. Until that time, Husband's spousal support to Wife shall be one-half of the base pay which is $27, 000.00 per year gross, or $2, 250.00 per month gross plus one-half of the gross commissions. * * *
Further, once Husband has earned $95, 000.00 in total gross income, which includes base pay, commissions and/or any bonuses for the calendar year, potential income shall be imputed to Wife, and (sic) the current minimum wage standard, which at present is $15, 392.00 per year, for purposes of calculating additional spousal support. * * *
Therefore, the parties agree * * * that Wife is entitled to 50% of the gross amount of any income earned by Husband up to $95, 000.00. At such time as Husband earns $95, 000.00, the sum of $15, 392.00 in income shall be imputed to Wife if Wife is not earning income or earning income less than $15, 392.00. * * *
Husband's current income is $54, 000.00 per year base salary plus commissions. Wife has no income. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Husband shall pay to Wife the sum of $2, 250.00 per month effective March 1, 2011 and on the first of every month thereafter until such time as his base salary increases.

(¶ 4} On March 31, 2011, Husband was laid off from his job. The layoff occurred one week prior to the issuance of the Final Decree but after the final hearing had been held and the matter had been submitted to the trial court. Husband received unemployment compensation from April 2011 until November 2011, at which time he was able to secure new employment in Colorado as a commercial sales engineer. Husband's new employment included an annual base salary of $65, 000 plus a commission rate of "four percent of gross margin profit dollars generated to the company." As of April 2012, Husband's year-to-date income generated from commissions is $182.

(¶ 5} Husband's new employment does not pay housing expenses. Therefore, Husband is now responsible for monthly rent, insurance, and utility expenses for an apartment which he was required to furnish at his own expense. However, Husband's new employer reimburses Husband for business mileage on his vehicle at the federal rate and for 70 percent of his business expenses.

(¶ 6} Due to the change in his salary and living expenses, Husband moved for a reduction in spousal support on March 28, 2012. A hearing on the matter was held June 15, 2012 (the "Spousal Support Hearing"), after which the magistrate denied Husband's motion. Upon a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law, the magistrate issued a decision determining that "the change in Husband's income was contemplated at the time of the final hearing, due to the agreement of a percentage of income being 50% of any gross income agreed to by the parties, as opposed to an agreement of a set amount." Further, the magistrate found that any increase in Husband's living expenses "appeared to be voluntary in nature."

(¶ 7} Husband objected to the magistrate's decision and, on December 21, 2012, the trial court overruled, in part, and sustained, in part, Husband's objections and otherwise adopted the decision of the magistrate.[1] The trial court found there was no substantial change in circumstances to warrant a modification of spousal support. In reaching this conclusion, the trial court determined that, based upon the unambiguous language of the Final Decree-specifically the fact that Husband's annual salary was identified as $54, 000 and not $95, 000-any change in Husband's ...

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