Damita J. Rhea, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Virgil C. Rhea, III, Defendant-Appellant.
from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of
Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch C.P.C. No. 99DR-11-4751
brief: Robert R. Goldstein, for appellee. Argued: Robert R.
brief: Virgil C. Rhea, III, pro se. Argued: Virgil C. Rhea,
1} Defendant-appellant, Virgil C. Rhea, III, appeals
from the judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of
Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile
Branch, adopting a magistrate decision to grant in part a
motion for contempt filed by plaintiff-appellee, Damita J.
Rhea. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of
the trial court.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2} The parties divorced in January 2001. The
judgment entry and decree of divorce ("divorce
decree") ordered appellant to pay spousal support to
appellee in the amount of $1 per month, effective September
7, 2000, and awarded appellee half of appellant's civil
service retirement account. The divorce decree required the
spousal support withheld from appellant's income and
required both parties to "cooperate in preparation and
execution of QDRO [qualified domestic relations order] and/or
COAP [court order acceptable for processing]" to
effectuate the division of the retirement benefits. (Jgmt.
Entry and Decree of Divorce at 8.)
3} In January 2014, appellee filed a COAP in
anticipation of appellant's retirement; the signature
line for appellant reads "[submitted but not
approved." (COAP at 4.) The plan administrator did not
accept the COAP. On approximately April 1, 2014, appellant
retired and began to receive monthly payments from his
retirement account. In September 2014, appellee filed an
amended COAP with the signature line for appellant again
reading "[submitted but not approved." (Am. COAP at
5.) The plan administrator accepted the amended COAP, and
appellee began to receive a share of appellant's
retirement benefits in January 2015.
4} On May 15, 2015, appellant filed a Civ.R. 60(B)
motion for relief from judgment asking for relief from the
issued COAP. In the motion, appellant asserted that he never
received the COAP and that the percentage of pension benefits
allocated to appellee was incorrect per the language of the
divorce decree. The trial court later denied the motion
finding that appellant did receive a copy of the COAP, and
the COAP comported with the divorce decree.
5} On June 19, 2015, appellee filed a motion for
contempt and attorney fees. In the motion, appellee alleged
that appellant violated the divorce decree in making no
payments on his spousal support obligation and in not
providing appellee with her full share of the retirement
account. Before a hearing on the matter, the parties
stipulated that appellant received $15, 120 in retirement
benefits for the time period between when he retired and when
appellee began receiving payments, April 1 to December 1,
2014, and that as of March 2016, he owed spousal support of
$171, plus processing charges.
6} At the hearing on March 30, 2016, appellant
admitted that he has not paid any spousal support since
January 2002 and said his one attempt to pay the support
obligation through the clerk was unsuccessful. Appellant
additionally testified that he began to receive retirement
benefits in April 2014, discovered that appellee was not
getting her share in August of the same year, and did not pay
appellee any portion of the benefits. Appellant presented two
defenses: that he believed he had done all that was required
of him and that he was unable to pay.
7} The magistrate granted appellee's motion,
finding appellant in contempt for his failure to pay spousal
support and for failing to cooperate in the preparation of a
QDRO or COAP by refusing to sign the two COAPs. While noting
that the finding of contempt was not based on appellant
failing to pay appellee her share of retirement benefits
directly, the magistrate indicated that under the divorce
degree appellant nonetheless owed appellee for her share of
the retirement benefits he retained between the months of
April and December 2014. As a result, the magistrate
sentenced appellant to a term of incarceration of seven days
and permitted appellant to purge himself of contempt and
avoid incarceration by paying appellee the past due spousal
support ($171), appellee's share of retirement benefits
from the period April to December 2014 ($15, 120), and
attorney fees and expenses ($2, 500), payable in monthly
payments of no less than $500.
8} Appellant did not file objections to the
magistrate's decision. The trial court judge, finding no
error of law or other defect on the face of the
magistrate's decision, adopted the magistrate's
decision on August 1, 2016. Appellant filed a timely appeal
to this court.