Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont
FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS
DIVISION Case No. 2014 DRA 1222
Mineer, for plaintiff-appellee.
Kroener & Hale, Angela Penick, for defendant-appellant.
1} Defendant-Appellant, Link Smith
("Husband"), appeals from the decision of the
Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations
Division, that distributed certain marital property and
awarded spousal support to Paulette Smith ("Wife").
For the reasons detailed below, we affirm in part, reverse in
part, and remand this matter to the trial court.
2} Husband and Wife married in 1976 and are the
adoptive parents of their seven- year-old grandson. During
the marriage, both Husband and Wife operated several small
businesses. Pertinent to this case, Husband was self-employed
working for L. Smith Pallets, LLC. Wife provided funds to
start up the business and assisted with certain
3} In February 2013, the pallet company building was
destroyed in a fire. Husband had allowed the liability
insurance on the property to lapse and therefore the fire
resulted in a complete loss. In order to continue operations,
Husband secured a significant line of credit and rebuilt the
4} Wife filed for divorce on October 3, 2014. A
trial was held in February 2016 where evidence was introduced
as to the parties' various properties. There was also
evidence introduced with respect to custody, child support,
and spousal support. Following its review of the evidence,
the trial court named Wife residential parent of the child
and awarded child support. Pertinent to this appeal, the
trial court also granted spousal support and divided the
parties' marital property. The trial court determined
that the pallet company was marital property and valued the
company at $176, 494. The trial court's decision allowed
Husband to continue operation of the business. However,
because of Husband's failure to maintain liability
insurance on the property, the trial court found that Wife
should not be liable on the remaining pallet company debts.
Husband now appeals the decision of the trial court, raising
two assignments of error for review.
5} Assignment of Error No. 1:
6} A COURT ABUSES ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT FINDS
FINANCIAL MISCONDUCT PURSUANT TO R.C. 3105.171 (E)(4) WHERE
AN ACCIDENTAL OUTSIDE FORCE DAMAGED AND DEPRECIATED MARITAL
PROPERTY WITHOUT ANY WRONGDOING BY A PARTY.
7} In his first assignment of error, Husband argues
the trial court erred by finding that he had committed an act
of financial misconduct by failing to have insurance on the
8} Property division in a divorce proceeding is a
two-step process that is subject to two different standards
of review. Grow v. Grow, 12th Dist. Butler Nos.
CA2010-08-209, CA2010-08-218, and CA2010-11-301,
2012-Ohio-1680, ¶ 11. Initially, pursuant to R.C.
3105.171(B), "the court shall * * * determine what
constitutes marital property and what constitutes separate
property." "Although the statute does not mention
debt as an element of marital and separate property, the
rules concerning marital assets have been consistently
applied to marital and separate debt." Ohmer v.
Renn-Ohmer, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2012-02-020,
2013-Ohio-330, ¶ 35. An appellate court reviews the
trial court's classification of property or debt as
marital or separate under the manifest-weight-of-the-evidence
standard. Oliver v. Oliver, 12th Dist. Butler No.
CA2011-01-004, 2011-Ohio-6345, ¶ 8;
9} After classifying the property as separate or
marital, "the court shall disburse a spouse's
separate property to that spouse" and divide the marital
property equally. R.C. 3105.171(C)(1) and (D). However, if
the court finds an equal division would be inequitable, then
the court must divide the property in a manner it determines
is equitable. R.C. 3105.171(C)(1); Roberts v.
Roberts, 12th Dist. Clinton Nos. CA2012-07-015 and
CA2012-07-016, 2013-Ohio-1733, ¶ 34. As mentioned above,
the concepts related to "property" relate to both
the parties' assets and debts. Ohmer at ¶
35. The trial court is given broad discretion in fashioning a
property or debt division and will not be reversed absent an
abuse of discretion. Williams v. Williams, 12th
Dist. Warren No. CA2012-08-074, 2013-Ohio-3318, ¶ 54. To
find abuse of discretion, we must determine that the trial
court's decision was unreasonable, arbitrary, or
unconscionable, and not merely an error of law or judgment.
Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219
10} Findings as to whether a party has engaged in
financial misconduct are reviewed pursuant to the
manifest-weight-of-the-evidence standard. Robinson v.
Robinson, 12th Dist. Warren No. CA2012-11-118,
2013-Ohio-4435, ¶ 14. Under this standard, the reviewing
court weighs the evidence and all reasonable inferences,
considers the credibility of witnesses, and determines
whether in resolving conflicts in the evidence, the finder of
fact "clearly lost its way and created such a manifest
miscarriage of justice that the [judgment] must be reversed
and a new trial ordered." Id., quoting