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T. R. v. J. R.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning

December 20, 2017

T. R., PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
J. R., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.

          CHARACTER OF PROCEEDINGS: Civil Appeal from Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division of Mahoning County, Ohio Case Nos. 03DR721, 13 DV 709

          For Petitioner-Appellee No brief filed

          For Respondent-Appellant Attorney John A. Ams

          JUDGES: Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Mary DeGenaro

          OPINION

          DONOFRIO, J.

         {¶1} Respondent-appellant, J.R., appeals from a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judgment ordering him to serve his 60-day jail sentence for failure to purge his contempt of court.

         {¶2} On November 5, 2013, petitioner-appellee, T.R., filed a petition for a domestic violence protection order against appellant (case number 13 DV 709). While the case was pending, appellant was ordered to pay child support for the parties' three children in the amount of $395.65 per month. This order was effective November 5, 2013. The order was agreed to in a January 23, 2014 consent agreement. The child support order continued until a July 9, 2014 judgment was entered terminating child support as of June 30, 2014. All arrearages were preserved and were not merged into the parties' divorce action (case number 03 DR 721).

         {¶3} On July 18, 2016, the trial court found appellant in contempt of court for failure to pay his child support arrearage in both the domestic violence case and the divorce case. The court sentenced him to 60 days in jail in each case, to be served concurrently. The court also provided appellant with the opportunity to purge the contempt. To purge the contempt in 03 DR 721, the court ordered appellant to continue to pay child support of $251.97 per month and to pay $50.39 per month toward his arrearage for a total of $308.41 per month. To purge the contempt in 13 DV 709, the court ordered appellant to pay $100 per month toward his arrearage. Additionally, in both cases the court ordered appellant to immediately begin keeping a log of the work he performed each day, including the name of his employer, the number of hours worked on the job that day, how much he is paid for that work, and whether he was paid by cash or check.

         {¶4} The matter proceeded to a compliance hearing on October 25, 2016, before a magistrate. The magistrate listened to evidence from appellant and appellee and heard arguments by appellant's counsel and counsel for the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). The magistrate found appellant did not purge his contempt. He found that appellant did not make any child support payments from August 12, 2016 through September 23, 2016. The magistrate noted appellant was unable to work for medical reasons from August 4 to August 11, 2016, and from September 21 to September 30, 2016. The magistrate found there was no evidence as to why appellant made no payments from August 12, 2016 through September 23, 2016. The magistrate ordered appellant to serve his 60-day jail sentence.

         {¶5} Appellant filed objections to the magistrate's decision. He argued the magistrate failed to consider evidence of his payments from September 30, 2016 through the hearing date of October 25, 2016. Additionally, he asserted that he presented evidence that he has applied for disability due to a back injury.

         {¶6} The trial court sustained appellant's objections. The court based its decision on incomplete records provided by the CSEA and confusion regarding the separate support orders in this case. The court questioned whether sufficient evidence was presented from which the magistrate could make an accurate determination as to whether appellant complied with the court's orders. Thus, the court remanded the case to the magistrate for additional evidence.

         {¶7} On March 16, 2017, the magistrate held a hearing pursuant to the trial court's remand order. The magistrate heard testimony from a CSEA audit specialist and appellant. The magistrate noted that appellant had three outstanding child support orders and arrearages totaling a monthly obligation of $464.91. The magistrate found that since the contempt finding on July 18, 2016, appellant has paid $214 in July 2016; $107 in August 2016; $107 in September 2016; $535 in October 2016; $107 in November 2016; and $107 in December 2016. The magistrate noted that the CSEA applied appellant's payments proportionately to each of his three outstanding orders/arrearages. The magistrate found appellant made no further payments from December 3, 2016 through the date of the hearing, March 16, 2017. Based on these findings, the magistrate found appellant did not purge the previous finding of contempt and ordered him to serve the 60-day jail sentence.

         {¶8} Again, appellant filed objections to the magistrate's decision. He asserted (1) the magistrate improperly considered dates beyond the scope of the original order granting his previous objections, (2) that the magistrate failed to consider evidence regarding appellant's health conditions that hindered his ability to work for a portion of the purge period, and (3) he substantially complied with the purge conditions.

         {¶9} This time the trial court overruled appellant's objections. As to appellant's first objection, the court found that the issue in this matter was appellant's compliance. The court found that appellant's compliance was not limited to a certain period of time, other than the start date when the court found him in contempt on July 18, 2016. The court noted that its remand order was for a "further hearing." The court stated that this remand order contemplated additional evidence being presented up until the date of the hearing. As to appellant's second objection, the trial court found that appellant never requested to modify the purge conditions due to any inability to work. The court found that simply because appellant was off from work, this did not mean he was free to disregard the court's purge conditions. Moreover, the court questioned appellant's reason for missing work in September 2016, because the doctor's excuse referenced a motor vehicle accident as the reason for appellant's injury and appellant admitted the accident resulted in him being cited for driving under the influence. Finally, as to appellant's third objection, the trial court found that appellant never made his full monthly payments, even during the months he made payments. ...


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