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Kalbaugh v. Kalbaugh

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

June 14, 2017

DEBORAH KALBAUGH Appellee
v.
WILLIAM KALBAUGH Appellant

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. DR-1994-10-2283

          J. ANTHONY TERILLA, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          MELISSA GRAHAM-HURD, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          THOMAS A. TEODOSIO JUDGE.

         {¶1} Appellant, William H. Kalbaugh, appeals from the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division entered on June 3, 2016, ruling on objections to the magistrate's decision of January 19, 2016. We affirm.

         I.

         {¶2} On November 16, 1995, Mr. Kalbaugh and Deborah L. Kalbaugh entered into a divorce decree, which, in pertinent part, provided for the equal division of Mr. Kalbaugh's pension plan: the Police and Fireman's Disability and Pension Fund of Ohio. On August 26, 1996, the trial court issued a judgment entry ordering the division of the pension fund utilizing a traditional coverture fraction based upon the fund's value at retirement. The entry was signed and approved by the attorney for Ms. Kalbaugh, while the signature line for Mr. Kalbaugh's attorney states: "Seen, but not approved."

         {¶3} In June 2015, Ms. Kalbaugh filed a motion to enforce the decree as to the pension fund and requested a division of property order, and in August 2015 Mr. Kalbaugh filed a motion to dismiss the motion to enforce. On January 19, 2016, a magistrate's decision granted Ms. Kalbaugh's motion to enforce and ordered the parties to submit a division of property order based upon the terms of the August 1996 judgment entry. Mr. Kalbaugh filed his objections to the magistrate's decision, and on June 3, 2016, the trial court issued a judgment entry overruling his objections and adopting the magistrate's decision. This appeal followed.

         II.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND COMMITTED PLAIN ERROR IN ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE'S DECISION THAT WAS IMPROPERLY BASED ON A VOID AND UNENFORCEABLE JUDGMENT ENTRY THAT THE TRIAL COURT HAD NO JURISDICTION TO ISSUE, RATHER THAN ON THE PARTIES' AGREED DIVORCE DECREE.

         {¶4} Mr. Kalbaugh argues that the trial court erred in adopting a magistrate's decision that divided his pension benefits pursuant to a void judgment entry that impermissibly modified the property division as agreed upon in the divorce decree. We disagree.

         {¶5} Pension benefits accumulated during marriage are properly considered marital assets and are subject to property division in a divorce settlement. Erb v. Erb, 75 Ohio St.3d 18, 20 (1996). "A trial court is without authority to modify a property division in a separation agreement which has been incorporated into a dissolution of marriage decree." Bond v. Bond, 69 Ohio App.3d 225, 227 (9th Dist.1990). "We recognize that a court has no jurisdiction to modify an order dividing the marital property." Sullivan v. Hallagan, 9th Dist. Medina Nos. 2282-M, 2322-M, 1995 WL 39408, *4 (Feb. 1, 1995). However, "[w]here there is good faith confusion over the requirements of the dissolution decree, a court has the power to enforce its decree, to hear the matter, clarify the confusion, and resolve the dispute." Bond at 228. "In order to interpret a provision in a separation agreement, the trial court must first correctly determine that the provision is ambiguous." George v. George, 9th Dist. Summit No. 18866, 1998 WL 663221, *3 (Sept. 23, 1998). Where a clause in the divorce decree is ambiguous, a court "has broad discretion in clarifying ambiguous language by considering not only the intent of the parties but the equities involved." Bond at 228.

         {¶6} The primary question in this case is whether the trial court's order of August 26, 1996, impermissibly modified the property division as set forth in the divorce decree entered on November 16, 1995. However, before engaging in that analysis, we must determine whether this court may consider the merits of that argument by addressing the preliminary issue of the jurisdiction of the trial court to enter the August 1996 order. Mr. Kalbaugh asks this Court to declare the August 1996 order void and unenforceable because the trial court was without jurisdiction ...


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