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Grilliot-Saddler v. Saddler

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren

April 30, 2018

MICHELLE R. GRILLIOT-SADDLER, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ERIC T. SADDLER, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS DIVISION Case No. 08-DR-31732

          Michelle R. Grilliot-Saddler, plaintiff-appellee, pro se

          The Kollin Firm, LLC, Thomas M. Kollin, for defendant-appellant

          OPINION

          M. POWELL, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Eric Saddler ("Father"), appeals a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, modifying his child support obligation, awarding plaintiff-appellee, Michelle Grilliot-Saddler ("Mother"), the right to claim their daughter as a dependent for income tax purposes, and finding him in contempt for failing to pay his share of their daughter's healthcare expenses.

         {¶ 2} The parties' daughter, Olivia, was born in 2002. Following the parties' divorce in 2008, Mother was designated as the child's residential parent and legal custodian and Father was granted parenting time. The divorce decree ordered Father to pay $1, 136 a month in child support, awarded the tax dependency exemption to Mother in odd years and to Father in even years, and ordered that the costs of uninsured medical, dental, orthodontic, vision, and mental-health expenses ("healthcare expenses") be paid 37 percent by Mother and 63 percent by Father. The child support obligation was calculated based upon a combined gross income of $150, 000, and not upon the parties' actual combined gross income of $186, 675.

         {¶ 3} In 2012, the Warren County Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSEA") conducted an administrative adjustment review of Father's child support obligation. CSEA recommended that Father's monthly child support obligation be reduced to $951 and that Olivia's healthcare expenses be allocated between the parties as follows: 38 percent to Mother and 62 percent to Father. On September 27, 2012, the trial court approved the CSEA's administrative adjustment recommendation and adopted it as an order of the court.

         {¶ 4} In 2016, CSEA once again conducted an administrative adjustment review of Father's child support obligation. CSEA recommended that Father's monthly child support obligation be further reduced to $732.67. As in the divorce decree and the trial court's September 2012 entry, the child support obligation was calculated based upon a combined gross income of $150, 000, and not based upon the parties' actual combined gross income of $247, 097.30.

         {¶ 5} Consequently, Mother filed a multi-branch motion to award her the tax dependency exemption every year, to modify the child support obligation, to find Father in contempt for failure to pay his share of Olivia's healthcare expenses, and for attorney fees. In turn, Father moved to reduce his child support obligation. In 2017, Mother moved the trial court to remove the $150, 000 combined gross income cap for child support calculation purposes and to order Father to contribute to the expenses of Olivia. Two months later, Mother filed a contempt motion against Father, alleging Father had not paid his share of Olivia's healthcare expenses for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2016. The motion further sought attorney fees.

         {¶ 6} A hearing on the parties' motions was held in March 2017. Father and Mother both testified. While the majority of their testimony focused on Olivia's healthcare expenses and Father's failure to pay his share of the expenses, the parties also testified, albeit briefly, about their annual income, Olivia's activities, and what each parent pays on behalf of Olivia. Mother testified that she pays for Olivia's various school fees, school trips, and "pay to play" sports and activities, and for most of her clothes, grooming, food, and spending money. Father admitted he does not pay for Olivia's school lunches or cellphone. Mother testified that the cost of Olivia's various activities has increased over the years and that it has impacted their standard of living. Mother explained that lifting the $150, 000 combined gross income cap for child support calculation purposes would result in an increased child support obligation which, in turn, would help cover the increased cost of Olivia's activities. Mother noted that while the parties' combined gross income was close to $150, 000 at the time of their divorce in 2008, it was now closer to $250, 000. Income wise, Father testified that he was "do[ing] pretty well" and that the past couple years have been good years. The record shows that Father is a homeowner and Mother is a tenant.

         {¶ 7} On May 11, 2017, the magistrate issued a decision ordering Father to pay $1, 280.63 a month in child support, awarding the tax dependency exemption to Mother every year, and ordering that the costs of Olivia's healthcare expenses "be paid 40% by Mother and 60% by Father." Unlike previous calculations, the child support obligation was not calculated based upon a combined gross income of $150, 000. Citing R.C. 3119.04(B), the magistrate found that upon considering "the needs and standard of living of Olivia, as well as Mother and Father[, ] removing the $150, 000 combined gross income cap on child support is in the best interest of Olivia." The worksheet attached to the magistrate's decision shows that the annual gross income of Father and Mother was $145, 262 and $101, 000, respectively.

         {¶ 8} The magistrate further found Father in contempt for failure to pay his share of Olivia's healthcare expenses in violation of the divorce decree. The magistrate sentenced Father to ten days in jail but provided him the opportunity to purge the contempt charge by "pay[ing] directly to Mother the amount of $1, 793.36 representing his portion of Olivia's unreimbursed medical expenses. If Father sent a check on March 24, 2017 in the amount of $1, 499.81 as he testified in Court, he need only pay Mother the difference of $293.55 on or before May 15, 2017." The magistrate also ordered Father to pay $1, 606.25 for Mother's attorney fees.

         {¶ 9} Father filed objections to the magistrate's decision. On August 9, 2017, the trial court recalculated Mother's gross income for child support purposes, subsequently ordered Father to pay $1, 278.75 a month in child support, and modified the allocation of Olivia's healthcare expenses between the parties as follows: "43% by Mother, and 57% by Father." The trial court overruled Father's other objections and adopted the magistrate's contempt decision and attorney fees award.

         {¶ 10} Father now appeals, raising four assignments of error. The third and fourth assignments of ...


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