Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE: M.C.M. A Minor Child [Appeal By N.S., Mother]
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case No. SU 16708879
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Gregory S. Costabile Buckley King,
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES For CJFS-OCSS Michael C. O'Malley
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Amy E. Guilford Terri M.
Hammons-Brown Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys.
Father, B.M. Brandon G. Oliver.
BEFORE: Boyle, P.J., Blackmon, J., and Keough, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
J. BOYLE, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Defendant-appellant, N.S. ("mother"), appeals the
trial court's child support order concerning her
daughter, M.C.M. (d.o.b. March 22, 2014). On appeal, mother
raises three assignments of error:
1. The trial court committed reversible error when it failed
to conduct an independent review of the Magistrate's
2. The trial court erred and abused its discretion in its
determination of the annual income levels of the parties.
3.The trial court erred and abused its discretion in its
determination of child support the father is to pay to the
mother for the minor child.
Finding merit to mother's second and third assignments of
error, we reverse and remand.
Mother and plaintiff-appellee, B.M. ("father"),
were never married. They lived together from the time of
M.C.M.'s birth until they separated on February 1, 2016.
Father established paternity through an acknowledgment of
paternity and mutual agreement.
In June 2016, mother filed a complaint in juvenile court
objecting to an administrative child support order issued by
the Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services Office of Child
Support Services (CJFS-OCSS). In her complaint, she argued
that CJFS-OCSS did not properly determine father's
In March 2017, mother filed a motion for retroactive support
in the juvenile court, requesting that the effective date of
any child support order be February 1, 2016, the date that
father and mother separated. The matter went before the
juvenile court magistrate, and father and mother both
testified as to their respective financial situations. In
addition, both parties submitted a number of exhibits
demonstrating their income for the previous few years,
including tax returns, W-2 forms, and employment records.
The magistrate found that mother was "compensated well
beyond her visible $10, 500.00 annual taxable salary"
and, thus, voluntarily underemployed. The magistrate imputed
a gross income of $30, 000 to mother. As for father, the
magistrate averaged his annual income from 2014 through 2016,
concluding that he had an average income of $62, 523. Based
on those determinations, the magistrate ordered that father
pay monthly child support in the amount of $594.75 plus a two
percent fee when health insurance is provided and $558.45
when health insurance is not provided.
Both mother and father filed timely objections to the
magistrate's decision, particularly contesting the
magistrate's income determinations. In addition, after
obtaining leave to do so, mother supplemented her objections
upon completion of the trial transcript, again arguing that
the magistrate's income determinations were improper.
After review of the magistrate's decision, the trial
judge issued two judgment entries adopting the
magistrate's order for child support. The first entry
overruled mother's supplemental objections, which were
identical to those she initially raised. The second entry
overruled father's objections.
It is from this judgment that mother now appeals.
In her first assignment of error, mother argues that the
juvenile court failed to independently review the
magistrate's child support decision and order.
"In reviewing a magistrate's decision, a trial court
does not sit in the same manner as an appellate court;
rather, it must conduct an independent review of the facts
and conclusions made by the magistrate." Haupt v.
Haupt, 11th Dist. Geauga No. 2015-G-0049,
2017-Ohio-2719, ¶ 26, citing Phillips v.
Phillips, 2014-Ohio-5439, 25 N.E.3d 371 (5th Dist).
Juv.R. 40(D)(4)(d) provides that "the court shall
undertake an independent review as to the objected matters to
ascertain that the magistrate has properly determined the
factual issues and appropriately applied the law. Before so
ruling, the court may hear additional evidence[.]" The
trial court must decide "'whether the magistrate has
properly determined the factual issues and appropriately
applied the law, and, where the magistrate has failed to do
so, the trial court must substitute its judgment for that of
the magistrate.'" In re J.M.G., 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga No. 98990, 2013-Ohio-2693, ¶ 22, quoting
Gobel v. Rivers, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 94148,
2010-Ohio-4493. "An appellate court reviews a decision
of a trial court adopting a magistrate's decision under
an abuse-of-discretion standard." In re Estate of
Haas, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 07AP-512, 2007-Ohio-7011,
¶ 14. Further, "a trial court's ruling on
objections to a magistrate's decision will not be
reversed absent an abuse of discretion." Gobel
at ¶ 16, citing Remner v. Peshek, 7th Dist.
Mahoning No. 97-C.A.-98, 1999 Ohio App. LEXIS 4802 (Sept. 30,
We presume that the trial court independently reviewed the
magistrate's decision "unless the party asserting
the error affirmatively shows otherwise." In re
J.M.G. at ¶ 23, citing Hartt v.
Munobe, 67 Ohio St.3d 3, 615 N.E.2d 617 (1993). The
party asserting that the court did not independently review a
magistrate's decision has the burden of affirmatively
rebutting that presumption. Redmond v. Wade, 4th
Dist. Lawrence No. 16CA16, 2017-Ohio-2877, ¶ 23, citing
Mahlerwein v. Mahlerwein, 160 Ohio App.3d 564,
2005-Ohio-1835, 828 N.E.2d 153 (4th Dist.).
The "affirmative showing" required to rebut our
general presumption requires "more than a mere
inference"; it requires appellant to provide the
reviewing court with specific facts demonstrating that the
trial court failed to conduct an independent review of the
Id. at ¶ 25, quoting In re Taylor G.,
6th Dist. Lucas No. L-05-1197, 2006-Ohio-1992.
In support of her allegation that the juvenile court failed
to independently review the magistrate's decision, mother
argues that the court's journal entry is a verbatim copy
of the magistrate's decision, specifically pointing to
the fact that the juvenile court's decision included a
hearing date that already passed.
While the juvenile court's judgment entries did include a
clerical error concerning a past hearing date, "the
cutting and pasting of a magistrate's decision into a
judgment entry does not show mere rubber-stamping."
Marafiote v. Estate of Marafiote, 7th Dist. Mahoning
No. 14 MA 0130, 2016-Ohio-4809, ¶ 32, citing Ramos
v. Khawli,181 Ohio App.3d 176, 2009-Ohio-798, 908
N.E.2d 495 (7th Dist). Therefore, without additional
rebutting evidence and constrained by the presumption of
independent review, we find that ...