Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS
DIVISION Case No. DR 1401 0075
D. Hughes, 20 South Main Street, Springboro, Ohio 45066, for
W. Raines, 246 High Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, for
1} Defendant-appellant, Dalen Jackson
("Husband"), appeals a decision of the Butler
County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division,
ordering him to pay spousal support and arrearages to
plaintiff-appellee, Laura Jackson ("Wife").
2} Husband and Wife were married in 1992 and
divorced in 2015. At the time of the divorce, Husband was 62
years old, in good health, and planned on working until he
was 70 years old in the same job in which he had been
employed for the past 30 years. Wife was 64 years old,
disabled, and unable to work. The trial court's divorce
decree ordered Husband to pay Wife $900 in spousal support
per month until 2020. The trial court also ordered Husband to
pay Wife $24, 500 upon the sale of the marital home, which
represented Wife's portion of the equity in the home.
3} A year later, and after Husband failed to make
some of his spousal support payments as ordered, Husband
moved the court to modify his spousal support arrears and to
terminate or reduce the spousal support order. Husband
asserted a change of circumstances since the time of the
divorce decree, based on his termination from his job. After
his termination, Husband decided to retire and not seek
reemployment. As mentioned above, his original plan was to
work until he was 70. Upon applying for social security
retirement benefits, Husband began receiving monthly social
security payments. Deducted from his monthly check was $1,
016 to pay his spousal support order and $100 per month
toward his arrearages.
4} A magistrate held a hearing on Husband's
request to modify, during which, Husband represented himself
pro se. The magistrate reduced Husband's spousal support
order to $600 per month. The magistrate did not modify or
terminate the $100 per month arrearage order. Husband then
filed objections to the magistrate's decision, this time
represented by counsel. The trial court overruled
Husband's objections, but modified the magistrate's
decision to include an additional $20 per month toward
arrearages, for a total arrearage amount of $120 per month.
Husband now appeals the trial court's decision, raising
the following assignment of error.
5} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT WHEN IT ONLY REDUCED THE SPOUSAL SUPPORT
ORDER FROM $900.00 PER MONTH TO $600.00 PER MONTH AND $120.00
PER MONTH TOWARDS ARREARS DESPITE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S
SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN INCOME DUE TO RETIREMENT AND HIS
LOSS OF EQUITY IN THE MARITAL PROPERTY.
6} Husband argues in his assignment of error that
the trial court erred in not further reducing or terminating
his spousal support.
7} A trial court has broad discretion in determining
a spousal support award, including whether or not to modify
an existing award. Burns v. Burns, 12th Dist. Warren
No. CA2011-05-050, 2012-Ohio-2850, ¶ 17. Thus, a spousal
support award will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse
of discretion. Id. An abuse of discretion connotes
more than an error of law or judgment; it implies that the
court's attitude is unreasonable, arbitrary, or
unconscionable. DiPasquale v. DiPasquale, 12th Dist.
Warren No. CA2016-04-024, 2016-Ohio-8457, ¶ 9.
8} "In exercising its discretion to modify a
spousal support award, the trial court must determine: (1)
that the divorce decree contained a provision specifically
authorizing the court to modify the spousal support, and (2)
that the circumstances of either party have changed."
Bixler v. Bixler, 12th Dist. Clermont No.
CA2016-12-081, 2017-Ohio-7022, ¶ 16. Furthermore, the
change in circumstances must be substantial enough to make
the existing award no longer reasonable and appropriate and
the change in circumstances must not have been taken into
account by the parties or the court at the time when the
existing award was established or last modified. R.C.
3105.18(F)(1)(a) and (b).
9} According to R.C. 3105.18(F)(1), "a change
in the circumstances of a party includes, but is not limited
to, any increase or involuntary decrease in the party's
wages, salary, bonuses, living expenses, or medical expenses,
or other changed circumstances * * *."
In determining whether spousal support is appropriate and
reasonable, and in determining the nature, amount, and terms
of payment, and duration of spousal support, which is payable
either in gross or in installments, the ...