Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake
Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic
Relations Division, Case No. 2001 DR 000241.
R. Hinton, Hanahan & Hinton, LLC, 8570 Mentor Avenue,
Mentor, OH 44094 (For Plaintiff-Appellee).
W. Shryock, John Shryock Co., L.P.A., 30601 Euclid Avenue,
Wickliffe, OH 44092 (For Defendant-Appellant).
V. GRENDELL, J.
Defendant-appellant, Derrick Andrew Adams, appeals from the
judgment of the Lake County Common Pleas, Domestic Relations
Division, finding that plaintiff-appellee, Mary Beth Adams,
was not in contempt for failing to pay monthly payments to
Derrick pursuant to the parties' agreement. The issue to
be determined in this case is whether a domestic relations
court has jurisdiction to determine that a debt owed by one
spouse to the other is dischargeable in bankruptcy or whether
this must be raised in the bankruptcy court. For the
following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the lower court
and remand for further proceedings consistent with this
On April 11, 2001, Mary Beth filed a Complaint for Divorce
A Judgment Entry of Divorce and Shared Parenting Decree was
filed on December 8, 2003, granting the parties' divorce
on the grounds of incompatibility. In pertinent part, the
judgment provided that Derrick be awarded a portion of Mary
Beth's retirement benefits.
Derrick filed a Motion to Show Cause on November 13, 2013,
arguing, inter alia, that he believed Mary Beth "retired
from her employment without taking action to preserve the
portion of the marital interest in the [retirement] plan
awarded to defendant." The parties reached an agreement
to resolve several pending issues, including Derrick's
Motion, in a February 10, 2015 Agreed Judgment Entry. It
provided, in pertinent part, that Mary Beth would pay Derrick
$13, 000 at a rate of $300 per month.
On February 16, 2016, Derrick filed a Motion to Show Cause,
asserting, inter alia, that Mary Beth had not made the
required monthly payments. A hearing was held on that matter,
as well as other pending issues, on November 8, 2016.
At the hearing, Mary Beth testified that the $13, 000 amount
was based on payments owed to Derrick under her pension
before he started receiving employer disbursements and for
dependency exemptions she had improperly claimed. She made
monthly payments from February until April of 2015, around
which time she filed for bankruptcy. She believed that the
$13, 000 was dischargeable through bankruptcy and that,
pursuant to the bankruptcy judge's order, all of her
debts were discharged. She testified that the order did not
list individual creditors.
A Magistrate's Decision was filed on January 10, 2017,
finding that Mary Beth did not pay under the agreement and
proof was not presented to show the amount owed was
discharged in bankruptcy. She was found to be in contempt of
the court's order and was permitted to purge the contempt
by paying $420 per month until the $13, 000 debt was
Mary Beth filed Objections to Magistrate's Decision on
March 3, 2017, arguing that a federal court must determine
dischargeability of a debt and that Derrick did not challenge
this issue in the bankruptcy proceeding.
The trial court issued a Judgment Entry on April 12, 2017,
ruling on the objections and rejecting in part the
Magistrate's Decision. The court found that "it was
the Defendant's responsibility to challenge the
dischargeability of the Plaintiff's $13, 000 debt to him
in federal bankruptcy court. State courts have no
jurisdiction to alter a federal bankruptcy court's
determination of a debt's dischargeability." It
granted the objection and rejected the magistrate's
contempt finding as to this issue.
Derrick timely appeals and raises the following ...