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McDonald v. Rodriguez

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Sandusky

November 9, 2017

Jeffrey McDonald Appellant
v.
Sonia Rodriguez fka McDonald Appellee

         Trial Court No. 09 DR 000026

          Shelly L. Kennedy, for appellant.

          Joseph A. Albrechta, John A. Coble, and George J. Schrader, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

          JENSEN, P.J.

         I. Introduction

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Jeffrey McDonald, appeals the judgment of the Sandusky County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, holding him in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of a Separation Agreement that required him to seek refinancing of the marital residence following the dissolution of his marriage to appellee, Sonia Rodriguez.

         A. Facts and Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} On February 6, 2009, the trial court issued its Final Decree of Dissolution terminating the marriage between appellant and appellee. The decree incorporated the terms of a Separation Agreement. The Separation Agreement contained the following provision:

The parties jointly own the marital residence at 918 Christy Boulevard, Fremont, Ohio. The husband shall retain possession of the home and be responsible for all indebtedness on the home. Wife shall quit claim deed her interest in the home to the husband. Husband shall seek refinancing in his name if the home is not sold in six months from the date of this agreement.

         {¶ 3} Over six years later, appellee filed a motion to show cause with the trial court, in which she alleged that appellant had not sold or refinanced the marital residence in accordance with the foregoing provision and should therefore be held in contempt. Appellee stated that appellant's violation of the Separation Agreement led to her being unable to rent or purchase a home for herself because she has an outstanding mortgage on her credit report. Additionally, appellee noted that appellant moved to Virginia following the dissolution of the marriage, and was now generating income from the marital residence by utilizing it as a rental property.

          {¶ 4} A hearing on appellee's motion to show cause was conducted on December 14, 2015. At the hearing, appellant informed the court that he had made six attempts to refinance the marital residence, but was unsuccessful in doing so because he was $5, 000 short of having the 25 percent equity in the home that the financial institutions required.[1]Appellant further explained that he listed the home for sale with a realtor but received no offers while the home was on the market. As a result of his inability to sell of refinance the home, appellant began leasing the property to tenants at a rent of $750 per month. Appellant stated that his monthly payment for the mortgage, including taxes and insurance, totals $671. At the close of the hearing on appellee's motion to show cause, the trial court ordered appellant to "attempt to refinance the subject real property and make application with at least three (3) lenders to refinance the subject real property

         {¶ 5} On September 15, 2016, the trial court held a follow-up hearing to its hearing on appellee's motion to show cause. At this hearing, appellant testified that he filed applications for refinancing of the marital residence with three lenders (Fremont Federal Credit Union, Huntington Bank, and Key Bank). His application to Fremont Federal Credit Union was denied based upon his lack of equity in the residence and "certain credit issues." Likewise, Huntington Bank denied his application due to appellant's lack of equity. Finally, Key Bank indicated that it may be willing to refinance the residence if appellant paid the closing cost, which was $5, 000, plus a down payment in an amount equivalent to 25 percent of the value of the property, which appellant estimated at $17, 000. Appellant determined that a formal application to Key Bank would be futile because he did not have the $23, 000 necessary to secure the loan. Upon further questioning, appellant acknowledged that he had recently been married in Jamaica, a trip that cost between $6, 000 and $7, 000. Moreover, appellant testified that he previously purchased an engagement ring at a cost of $8, 000.

         {¶ 6} At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court issued its decision finding that appellant had failed to comply with its order directing him to take steps to refinance the marital residence. In its decision, the court stated:

It has been seven years since [appellant] obligated himself to refinance. He has failed to do so. In that time he has remarried, spending upwards of $8, 000.00 on an engagement ring, nearly $7, 000.00 on his wedding, a honeymoon in Jamaica. He is a mechanical engineer making about $88, 000.00 a year, and resides in an apartment where the monthly rent is $1, 750.00. But he can't ...

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