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Gebi v. Worku

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

November 7, 2017

Habtam Gebi Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Legesse Worku, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations (C.P.C. No. 15DR-352)

         On brief:

          The Legal Aid Society of Columbus, and Stuart Y Itani, for appellee.

          E. Darren McNeal Co., LLC, and E. Darren McNeal, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Stuart Y. Itani.

          E. Darren McNeal.

          DECISION

          TYACK, P.J.

         {¶ 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.

         I. 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 employment effectively.

         {¶ 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 cross-examine witnesses.

         {¶ 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. ...


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