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Johnson-Rome v. Rome

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

June 2, 2017

ALESIA JOHNSON-ROME Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
WENDELL K. ROME Defendant-Appellee

         Domestic Relations Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 2014-DR-1094

          DALMA GRANDJEAN, Atty. Reg. No. 0024841, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant

          PATRICIA CAMPBELL, Atty. Reg. No. 0068662, Attorney for Defendant-Appellee

          OPINION

          HALL, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Alesia Johnson-Rome appeals from the trial court's final judgment and divorce decree that, among other things, terminated the parties' marriage, divided their assets and liabilities, and allocated parental rights regarding their minor child.

         {¶ 2} Johnson-Rome advances two assignments of error. First, she contends the trial court erred in adopting a final judgment and divorce decree that materially differed from a prior in-court agreement. Second, she claims the trial court erred in journalizing the decree, which had been drafted by opposing counsel, without first verifying each party's compliance with a pertinent local rule.

         {¶ 3} The record reflects that Johnson-Rome filed a divorce complaint against appellee Wendell Rome in November 2014. The matter proceeded to a June 24, 2016 final hearing before the trial court. At the outset of the hearing, the parties stated that they had reached an agreement resolving all disputed issues. The trial court addressed those issues with the parties, and the agreement was read into the record. After obtaining assurances that the parties understood the agreement and that they were entering into it voluntarily, the trial court directed Rome's counsel to draft a divorce decree that incorporated the agreement's terms. Thereafter, Rome's counsel submitted the requested proposed final judgment and divorce decree to the trial court. The decree was signed by Rome and his attorney. The signature lines for Johnson-Rome and her counsel contained the handwritten words, "Seen but not signed." The trial court journalized the final judgment and divorce decree on June 30, 2016. This appeal followed.

         {¶ 4} We turn first to Johnson-Rome's second assignment of error. She contends the trial court violated Mont. D.R. Rule 4.23(B), which sets forth a procedure where, as here, a trial court directs one party's counsel to prepare a final judgment and divorce decree. The rule provides:

(B) Contested matters. When the advance preparation of a final judgment and decree is not possible because of contested issues, the court may direct either party or counsel to prepare the decree following the final hearing.
(1) Unless otherwise directed by the court, counsel for plaintiff shall present a proposed decree to the court and opposing party or counsel within ten (10) days after the final hearing.
(2) Opposing party or counsel shall have three (3) days to approve or reject the proposed decree. In the event the proposed decree is rejected, the opposing party or counsel shall notify immediately in writing his or her objections.
(3) Failure of opposing party or counsel to approve or reject any proposed decree will permit the party who prepared the decree to present it for journalization. In such instances the proposed decree shall be submitted in accordance with this rule.
(4) Failure to timely submit a decree in accordance with this rule may result in the issuance of a citation of contempt to counsel in the case.
(5) All decrees submitted to the court shall comply with the provisions of section ...

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