Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
CARI C. BRANDEN PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
JOHN T. BRANDEN DEFENDANT-APPELLEE
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Domestic Relations Division Case No. DR-06-310903
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Joseph G. Stafford Nicole A. Cruz
Stafford Law Co., L.P.A.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Mark A. Ziccarelli Ziccarelli &
BEFORE: S. Gallagher, J., Stewart, P.J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
C. GALLAGHER, JUDGE.
Appellant, Cari C. Branden ("Cari"), appeals the
May 10, 2016 decision of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations. Upon review, we affirm
the decision of the trial court.
The parties to this action were divorced in 2008, after a
nearly 23-year marriage. Relative to this action, appellee,
John T. Branden ("John"), was ordered to pay
spousal support to Cari in the amount of $2, 000 per month
indefinitely, and as additional spousal support was ordered
to pay Cari's attorney fees. On appeal, in Branden v.
Branden, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 91453, 2009-Ohio-866
("Branden I"), this court reversed and
remanded the matter for the trial court to (1) clarify its
reasoning and provide sufficient detail relative to the
factors set forth in R.C. 3105.18(C) for the basis of the
spousal support award, (2) to reassess the allocation of the
tax exemption for child support in accordance with R.C.
3119.82, and (3) to determine whether and in what amount
attorney fees should be awarded as spousal support,
considering the factors of R.C. 3105.08(C)(1), and to
distinguish between attorney fees awarded as spousal support
and those independently awarded.
On remand, the court magistrate issued a decision on March
31, 2011, which purported to modify "nunc pro
tunc" the judgment entry of divorce of January 8,
2008, and that decision was adopted in its entirety by the
trial court on April 20, 2011. The magistrate's decision
included findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the
parties' circumstances at the time of the divorce decree.
Relative herein, John again was ordered to pay Cari spousal
support in the amount of $2, 000 per month for an indefinite
period, subject to the court's continuing jurisdiction.
Additionally, John was ordered to pay Cari's attorney
fees in the amount of $28, 153. The magistrate's decision
indicated that "[t]his award is in the nature of
support." The trial court rendered judgment in that
amount, with execution stayed "so long as [John] pays
the sum of $700.00 per month against the judgment."
Further, in the event of a default or discharge in
bankruptcy, the court retained jurisdiction "to award
[Cari] additional spousal support from [John]." No
appeal was taken from that decision.
Approximately two months later, on June 30, 2011, Cari filed
a motion to show cause and motion for attorney fees, claiming
John failed to comply with the court-ordered monthly payment
of spousal support and failed to make payments toward the
court-ordered attorney fees. On July 18, 2011, John filed a
motion to modify spousal support, alleging a change in
circumstances. A hearing was held on the motions before a
court magistrate. On December 31, 2013, the magistrate issued
a decision that granted Cari's motions and denied
John's motion. Both parties filed objections to the
On July 23, 2014, the trial court issued a detailed decision
sustaining John's objections and overruling Cari's
objections. The court substituted its judgment for the
Cari filed an appeal that was dismissed for lack of a final
appealable order because the trial court had not resolved the
issue of support arrears. After certified support
calculations were filed and an opportunity to object was
provided, the trial court issued a final judgment entry on
May 20, 2016, that included the determination of support
Thereafter, Cari timely filed this appeal. She raises seven
assignments of error for our review.
Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(d) instructs that a trial court "shall
undertake an independent review as to the objected matters to
ascertain that the magistrate has properly determined the
factual issues and appropriately applied the law." On
appellate review, a trial court's ruling on objections to
a magistrate's decision will not be reversed absent an
abuse of discretion. Hissa v. Hissa, 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga Nos. 99498 and 100229, 2014-Ohio-1508, ¶ 17. An
abuse of discretion implies a decision that is unreasonable,
arbitrary, or unconscionable. Blakemore v. Blakemore,
5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 450 N.E.2d 1140 (1983).
- SPOUSAL SUPPORT
We review a trial court's determination of contempt for
an abuse of discretion. Hissa at ¶ 21. Under
her first assignment of error, Cari claims the trial court
erred by failing to hold John in contempt for nonpayment of
spousal support and attorney fees from February 26, 2009,
through April 20, 2011. That is the period of time from when
the appeal in Branden I was decided until the trial
court issued its decision upon remand imposing spousal
support and awarding attorney fees. The trial court's
April 20, 2011 decision was stated to modify "nunc pro
tunc" the judgment entry of divorce of January 8, 2008.