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Jennings v. Jennings

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

December 12, 2017

Susan W. Jennings, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Joseph A. Jennings, III, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, C.P.C. No. 14DR-4237 Division of Domestic Relations

         On brief:

          Brian S. Piper, Co. L.PA., and Brian S. Piper, for appellee.

          Leo P. Ross; Percy Squire, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Brian S. Piper.

          Percy Squire.

          DECISION

          DORRIAN, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Joseph A. Jennings, III, appeals the September 23, 2016 judgment entry-decree of divorce ("decree") of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} The parties married on December 26, 1982. On November 19, 2014, plaintiff-appellee, Susan W. Jennings, filed a complaint for divorce. The parties agreed to and approved a settlement memorandum. The court signed and filed the same on June 1, 2016. The settlement memorandum resolved many of the issues related to the divorce, including issues relating to the division of property; however, the parties could not resolve the issues of spousal support, attorney fees, court costs, and expense money.

         {¶ 3} A trial was held to resolve these remaining issues on May 26, June 24, August 1, and August 8, 2016. On September 23, 2016, the court filed the decree.

         {¶ 4} Regarding spousal support, the court conducted an analysis pursuant to R.C. 3105.18. As relevant to this appeal, the court considered the income of the parties from all sources[1] for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, including appellant's "non-taxable VA benefits." (Decree at 4.) The court found appellant was currently receiving $1, 991 per month of non-taxable Veteran's Administration ("VA") benefits. The court ordered appellant to pay permanent spousal support in the amount of $1, 000 per month commencing April 21, 2015 to be reduced to $750 per month commencing June 15, 2016.

         {¶ 5} The court also found that appellant was receiving as a component of his VA benefit, "due to his having a spousal dependent, " $145 per month, but that no portion of that allowance had been shared with appellee. (Decree at 12.) The court noted appellant had been receiving the same benefit in prior years but the value was unknown as the current amount included cost-of-living allowance increases. The court determined, based on the current value, that appellant has received $1, 740 per year due to having a spouse. The court found, on the issue of an expense money award, that appellant retained a total of $4, 350 of this portion of his VA benefit in the 30 months since the parties separated in January 2013.

         {¶ 6} Regarding appellee's request for attorney fees and court costs, the court made the following finding:

The Court finds that Defendant has prolonged this litigation and ultimately forced the case to trial due to his dogged refusal to have his Veteran's Benefits included in the consideration of spousal support despite the dictates of R.C. § 3105.18(C)(1)(a), and Ohio case law (See Cardone v. Cardone, 1998 WL 224934, 9th Dist. Court of Appeals, Summit County). Defendant failed to grasp the fact that all monies that are received in the home is compensation to be considered and all monies that are received during the marriage from all sources is marital. Defendant repeatedly referred to the Veteran's Benefits he received "that's my money." His characterization of the benefits as his money and his refusal to understand that although non-taxable, the ...

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