from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of
Domestic Relations (C.P.C. No. 15DR-352)
Legal Aid Society of Columbus, and Stuart Y Itani, for
Darren McNeal Co., LLC, and E. Darren McNeal, for appellant.
1} Legesse Worku is appealing from various rulings
and from aspects of his decree of divorce. For the reasons
that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2} Legesse Worku and Habtam Gebi were married on
March 17, 2006 in Ethiopia. They had two children, Eden
Legesse, born March 18, 2011, and Nathaniel Legesse born
April 26, 2013. Both parties worked at Wal-Mart, Ms. Gebi as
a cashier and Mr. Worku in maintenance.
3} Ms. Gebi filed for divorce on February 3, 2015,
alleging extreme cruelty and incompatibility. The trial court
granted a domestic violence civil protection order against
her husband on February 4, 2015. Worku filed an answer and
counterclaim alleging extreme cruelty.
4} While the parties were separated, Worku did not
maintain a relationship with his children. He had no contact
with his children since January 2015, and he did not exercise
any parenting time pursuant to the trial court's
temporary orders. Worku did not comply with temporary orders
to provide child support. At the time of the final hearing,
there was an arrearage of $4, 946.25.
5} During the course of the proceedings, Gebi had
difficulty obtaining discovery material from Worku. The trial
court identified a repeated pattern of failure to cooperate
in discovery that had been raised at the December 1, 2015
pretrial, the September 8, 2015 pretrial, and the March 2,
2016 status conference. (Tr. at 6-7.) The trial court awarded
attorney fees to Gebi as a result of a motion to compel. On
March 10, 2016, Worku's attorney filed a motion for leave
to withdraw based on conduct by the client that made it
unreasonably difficult for the lawyer to carry out her
6} Worku was given opportunities to comply with
discovery and to follow the trial court's case management
orders. The case management order specified that if a party
did not provide to opposing counsel the items set forth in
the document, the party would be sanctioned and not allowed
to present a case, thus allowing the other party to proceed
uncontested. However, on the morning of trial, Worku failed
to produce his trial notebook. The trial court then
sanctioned Worku for failing to comply with the trial
court's case management orders of March 2, and July 18,
2016. The trial court dismissed his counterclaim, did not
allow him to present evidence, and allowed Gebi to proceed on
an uncontested basis. The trial court did allow Worku to
7} The trial court granted a decree of divorce on
January 6, 2017, incorporating Gebi's findings of fact
and conclusions of law regarding the division of assets. The
trial court terminated the marriage on the grounds of
incompatibility, gross neglect of duty, and extreme cruelty.
The decree designated Gebi as the legal custodian of the
minor children and granted Worku supervised parenting time.