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Slaughter v. Hoover-Grier

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

May 11, 2017

Darius T. Slaughter, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jasmyn K. Hoover-Grier, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch C.P.C. No. 15JU-7543.

          On brief: Don Roberts Law Offices, and David R. Plumb, for appellant.

          Argued: David R. Plumb.

          DECISION

          HORTON, J.

         {¶ 1} Jasmyn Hoover-Grier ("Jasmyn") appeals from the entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch, overruling her objections to a magistrate's decision to recalculate her income on a child support order and deny her request to retroactively date the order. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse and remand.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         {¶ 2} A.H. was born to Jasmyn on January 26, 2012. The Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSEA") issued an initial administrative order for child support and medical support on May 26, 2015. The CSEA determined that Darius Slaughter ("Darius") was the father of AH. and had a duty of support as the child support obligor. The order required Darius to pay child support in the amount of $850.84 per month during any months in which AH. was covered under private health insurance, or $909.19 per month during periods of non-coverage. The monthly amounts were calculated on a child support computation worksheet attached to the order and were based on annual gross income amounts of $21, 164 for Darius and $9, 391.20 for Jasmyn. The worksheet listed an adjustment to Jasmyn's income based on annual child care expenses in the amount of $8, 341.20. The order also informed the parties of the right to object by filing an action under R.C. 2151.231. (May 26, 2015 Order.)

         {¶ 3} Darius objected by filing a form captioned "Complaint to Set Support (Objection to CSEA Administrative Order)" in the trial court on June 12, 2015. His objection stated the following: "I disagree with the monthly child support payment and would like to file for objection." (Compl.)

         {¶ 4} Jasmyn filed an "Answer/Cross-Claim" on June 24, 2015, stating the following objection: "I object because I want the support order to be from the day [A.H.] was born. He knew about her before then and was getting her since that day." (Answer.)

         {¶ 5} The magistrate held a hearing on the parties' objections on August 10, 2015. Jasmyn was not represented by counsel. Because Darius did not appear, the magistrate dismissed his objection without prejudice and stated that she would "proceed on" Jasmyn's objection. (Aug. 10, 2015 Tr. at 5.)

         {¶ 6} At the hearing, Jasmyn testified that she worked between 20 and 30 hours each week at a retail store where she was paid $8.60 an hour and that she had no other income. (Tr. at 6.) She paid $225 per week for day care expenses for A.H. (Tr. at 9.) When the magistrate noted that the day care expenses appeared to be equal to or exceeded her income, Jasmyn stated that her mother helped her "a little bit" by giving her $100 every other week, and that she paid no rent because she lived at home. (Tr. at 9-11.) Jasmyn also stated that she was on her mother's insurance. (Tr. at 11.) Jasmyn brought statements from the day care center and her tax return. The magistrate noted that Jasmyn's tax return did not report any itemized deduction for child care expenses, as she had filed the return with Form 1040EZ, the IRS form that only allows a standard deduction with no itemization. (Tr. at 12.)

         {¶ 7} The magistrate issued a decision on August 12, 2015, that contained a number of findings and orders. First, it stated that Darius' objection was dismissed "due to his failure to appear, " and that Jasmyn's objection was granted. (Mag.'s Decision at 1.) Second, the decision modified the effective date of the child support order to November 20, 2014. Third, the monthly amount owed by Darius was lowered to $312.02 per month during months in which A.H. was covered under private health insurance and $357.50 per month during periods of non-coverage. Fourth, in an attached child support computation worksheet, Jasmyn's annual gross income was recalculated as $17, 888.00, and the adjustment to her income for annual child care expenses was entirely eliminated. (Mag.'s Decision at 2.)

         {¶ 8} Jasmyn objected to the magistrate's decision on three grounds. First, she argued that it was an error to omit the child care expenses in the new computation. Jasmyn argued that the magistrate had "refused to consider the daycare statements" that she had brought to the hearing as evidence of child care expenses. (Aug. 24, 2015 Obj. to Mag.'s Decision.) Second, Jasmyn argued that the child support order should have been retroactively dated to January 26, 2012, the date of A.H.'s birth, and not November 11, 2014, because she had contacted CSEA before A.H. turned three and Darius had known that he was A.H.'s father since the child's birth. Third, Jasmyn objected to the recalculation of her income, which raised it to $17, 888.00. She noted that she was a full-time university student who also worked part-time, and that the pay stub she had provided to the magistrate stated that her cumulative pay as of July 25, 2015 was only $5, 983.80. Id.

         {¶ 9} The trial court held a hearing on Jasmyn's objections on March 2, 2016, at which she was represented by counsel. After her attorney summarized Jasmyn's objections to the magistrate's decision, copies of her W2s and documentation of child care expenses were introduced as exhibits. (Mar. 2, 2016 Tr. at 10.) Jasmyn testified once again. The trial court asked her about "the apparent disparity" between her income and the amount of child care expenses she claimed to be paying. (Tr. at 12.) Jasmyn testified that while her income went towards day care expenses, she had also begun to receive some child support payments, and her mother sometimes assisted her as well. (Tr. at 12-13.) The trial court asked Jasmyn how much money her mother gave her to assist with child care expenses. When Jasmyn replied that she couldn't "say off the top of [her] head, " the trial court judge said that she did not need to provide a figure. (Tr. at 13.)

         {¶ 10} In a decision dated June 1, 2016, the trial court overruled Jasmyn's objections and approved and adopted the magistrate's decision in part. In the decision, the trial court made three key rulings. First, the trial court declined to use any child care expenses to reduce the amount of Jasmyn's income, determining that Jasmyn had "no personal expense for daycare for the minor child." (June 1, 2016 Entry at 2.) The trial court reached this conclusion based on the following findings: Jasmyn's "mother pays the child care, " Jasmyn's tax return did not show a deduction for child care expenses, and Jasmyn had provided "no canceled checks or money order stubs to prove that she is the person actually paying for the child's daycare." Id.

         {¶ 11} Second, the trial court declined to retroactively date the child support order under R.C. 3111.13(F)(3)(a) because Jasmyn had failed to "provide any evidence that she had out of pocket medical expenses" or lost wages "due to the pregnancy, " stating that it could not "make a retroactive award for expenses that were not actually incurred." (Entry at 3.)

         {¶ 12} Third, the trial court overruled Jasmyn's objection to the calculation of her income, reasoning as follows:

Defendant testified that her income was $8.60 per hour and that she works 25-35 hours per week plus commission. She also testified that her mother gives her $100 every two weeks which is $2, 600 per year. Also, Defendant testified that her mother pays $225.00 per week for her child care which is $11, 700 per year. Defendant's mother is also paying her health insurance and providing her with housing. She does not have any disability that would prohibit her from working full-time. Wages may be imputed to full-time when there is no disability or impediment to working full time. The magistrate calculated her earnings at $17, 888.00. She did not err in using $17, 888.00 per year.

Id.

         {¶ 13} Jasmyn now appeals, and asserts the following four assignments of error:

[I.] The Trial Court's adoption of the Magistrate's Decision, filed on August 12, 2015, constitutes an abuse of discretion by failing to make findings of fact that are consistent with the uncontroverted testimony and evidence that was admitted by the Trial Court.
[II.] The Trial Court's adoption of the Magistrate's Decision, filed on August 12, 2015, constitutes an abuse of discretion by failing to find that Appellant paid for child care expenses during 2015.
[III.] The Trial Court's adoption of the Magistrate's Decision, filed on August 12, 2015, constitutes reversible error because the Trial Court misinterpreted and misapplied R.C. 3111.13(F)(3)(a).
[IV.] The Trial Court's adoption of the Magistrate's Decision, filed on August 12, 2015, constitutes an abuse of discretion by ...

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