Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bass v. Bass

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

May 25, 2018

RHONDA SMITH BASS Plaintiff-Appellee
MICHAEL C. BASS Defendant-Appellant

          Trial Court Case No. 10-DR-793 (Domestic Relations Appeal from Common Pleas Court)

          DAVID M. MCNAMEE, Atty. Reg. No. 0068582, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

          JAY B. CARTER, Atty. Reg. No. 0041295, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant


          HALL, J.

         {¶ 1} Michael C. Bass appeals from the trial court's judgment entry overruling his objections to a magistrate's decision, sustaining the appellee's objections, and resolving post-divorce issues concerning marital equity, contempt, and attorney fees.

         {¶ 2} Michael advances two assignments of error. [1] First, he contends the trial court erred in sustaining appellee Rhonda Smith Bass' objections to the magistrate's decision finding her in civil contempt for failing to pay him his full share of marital equity. Second, he claims the trial court erred in failing to award him attorney fees in connection with the contempt issue.

         {¶ 3} The record reflects that the parties divorced in September 2013. Among other things, the divorce decree obligated Rhonda to pay Michael roughly $59, 000 for his share of equity in marital real estate and the value of the parties' vehicles. At the time of the divorce, Michael had filed for bankruptcy and the bankruptcy case was pending. The parties do not dispute that Rhonda paid the bankruptcy trustee at least $51, 884.64 of the amount she owed Michael. As relevant here, Michael filed a motion in May 2016 seeking a hearing concerning Rhonda's alleged non-payment of the remaining amount and her failure to return a set of diamond cuff links. (Doc. #15). Michael subsequently moved for a show-cause order to hold Rhonda in contempt for, among other things, failing to pay him the remaining amount of his marital equity. (Doc. #29). These issues and others were addressed during a September 2016 hearing before a magistrate. Michael testified at the hearing that he had received a check for $51, 884.64, that he had not received the remaining amount owed to him, and that he believed Rhonda was in possession of his cuff links. As a result, Michael asked the magistrate to hold her in contempt and to award him attorney fees. Rhonda testified that she had no knowledge of the cuff links and that she did not have them. (Tr. at 14, 18). With regard to the marital equity, she testified that she had paid the bankruptcy trustee in the bankruptcy case the entire amount that she owed Michael. In fact, she testified that she paid $61, 000 to the trustee and received a partial refund of $1000 from the trustee. She explained that she had received notice from the bankruptcy court and the trustee that she was required to pay Michael through the trustee. (Id. at 15-16, 19). Michael had testified "I don't know what she paid him, [the trustee]." (Tr. At 13).

         {¶ 4} Following the hearing, the magistrate filed a July 6, 2017 decision holding Rhonda in civil contempt and awarding Michael attorney fees. In relevant part, the magistrate reasoned as follows:

To the extent that Rhonda causes the bankruptcy trustee to transfer funds to Michael, she has met her obligation under the decree. However, in this case she has only partially done so and has not presented any evidence to show why the remainder of the funds have not been transferred, or directly met her obligation to pay Michael the remaining funds. Accordingly, Rhonda is in contempt of court for failure to pay Michael his share of the value in the motor vehicles. * * *

(Doc. #84 at 3).

         {¶ 5} With regard to the cuff links, the magistrate found insufficient evidence to prove that Rhonda was in possession of them. (Id.).

         {¶ 6} Rhonda and Michael both filed objections to the magistrate's decision. The trial court overruled Michael's objections about the cuff links. As for the contempt finding, the trial court sustained Rhonda's objection, reasoning:

The issue becomes one of equity and credibility. Rhonda testified that she paid to the bankruptcy trustee an amount sufficient to cover the value of the real estate and vehicle equities. Michael testified that he received only a portion of the amount Rhonda paid to the trustee. The court finds that Michael made his prima facie case that Rhonda was ordered by the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce to pay him $59, 432.50 and that he was paid $51, 884.64, leaving a balance owed of $7, 805.86. The burden then shifted to Rhonda to prove that she had fully complied with the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.
Typically, the court recognizes the magistrate's unique position to assess the credibility of the witnesses, as he is able to study the witnesses and hear firsthand their voice as they testify. Quick v. Kwiatkowski, Montgomery App. No. 18620, 2001 Ohio 1498 (noting that a trial court may not defer to the magistrate in the exercise of its de novo review, but also recognizing that "the judgment of the magistrate on issues of credibility is, absent other evidence, the last word on the issue for all practical purposes"). Moreover, the magistrate is in a unique position to resolve conflicting evidence and to assess witness ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.