Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
ERIC A. LINDHOLM, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
CHERYL L. LINDHOLM, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS
DIVISION Case No. 11DR35150
Rollman, Handorf & Conyers LLC, Jeffrey M. Rollman, for
G. Ostrowski, for appellant/cross-appellee.
1} Cross-appellant, Eric Lindholm (Father), appeals
a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas,
Domestic Relations Division, finding him in
contempt. For the reasons detailed below, we reverse
the decision of the trial court and remand for further
2} Father and Cheryl Lindholm ("Mother")
were married with four children. In 2012, the parties
divorced and entered into a shared parenting plan. The
parties have since filed numerous post-decree motions.
3} In March 2015, the children's counselor
voiced concerns to Father about Mother. As a result, Father
decided to keep the children from Mother during her scheduled
parenting week and, significantly, kept the children out of
school for concern that Mother would attempt to retrieve the
children from school. Father also filed a motion for
emergency relief, but did not wait for a court ruling before
resorting to self-help. Father's concerns were never
substantiated by law enforcement or by children's
services. Parenting time between the parties was ultimately
re-established, but the record reveals that Mother missed
several days of parenting time during the week of March 16
because of Father's actions.
4} Following a hearing, the magistrate found Father
in contempt for violating the trial court's order
regarding parenting time and ordered three days of jail,
suspended on condition that he "comply with future
orders regarding parenting time." Father filed an
objection to the magistrate's decision, which was
overruled. Father now appeals the decision of the trial
court, raising a single assignment of error for review:
5} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY NOT GIVING THE PLAINTIFF
A CHANCE TO PURGE THE CONTEMPT.
6} In his sole assignment of error, Father argues
that the trial court erred by not providing him an
opportunity to purge his contempt. We agree.
7} Contempt is classified as civil or criminal
depending upon the character and purpose of the punishment.
In re W.F., 12th Dist. Fayette No. CA2010-10-029,
2011-Ohio-3012, ¶ 12. Criminal contempt sanctions are
punitive in nature, and such sanctions are designed to punish
past affronts to the court and to vindicate the authority of
the law and the court. In re A.A.J., 12th Dist.
Warren No. CA2014-10-130, 2015-Ohio-2222, ¶ 43. Criminal
contempt is usually characterized by an unconditional prison
sentence, and the contemnor is not afforded an opportunity to
purge himself or herself of the contempt. Id.
Conversely, civil contempt renders punishment that is
remedial or coercive and for the benefit of the complainant,
and prison sentences are conditional. Id. A
contemnor is said to "carry the keys of his prison in
his own pocket" because the contemnor must be afforded
the opportunity to purge his civil contempt. Id.; Marden
v. Marden, 108 Ohio App.3d 568, 571 (12th Dist.1996)
(sanction for civil contempt must give the contemnor an
opportunity to purge himself of the contempt).
8} The trial court suspended Father's sentence
on condition that he "comply with future orders
regarding parenting time." The trial court, citing
In re A.A.J., overruled Father's objections on
the following basis:
The Court cannot create a proper remedy in the form of a
purge order that undoes Father's conduct that resulted in
the contempt finding. Without the power to turn back time,
the Court is therefore limited in its options to fashion a
remedy. As such, the Court is satisfied with the purge order
requiring future compliance.
9} Based on our review, we find the trial court
erred by not providing Father with an opportunity to purge
his contempt. The reliance on In re A.A.J. was
misplaced because the present situation is factually
distinguishable. In that case, a father decided that he would
no longer take his child to softball practices or games
during his parenting time. Id. at ¶ 5. The
father was found in contempt for violating the terms of the
court's order regarding extracurricular activities and
the parties' duty to facilitate the child's
participation. Id. at ¶ 6. The trial court
found the father ...