Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
JACQUELINE C. BARTON, Plaintiff-Appellee,
TODD R. RETHERFORD, Defendant-Appellant.
CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case
Davidson Law Offices Co., L.P.A., Matthew D. Davidson and
David T. Davidson, 127 North Second Street, P.O. Box 567,
Hamilton, OH 45011, for plaintiff-appellee
Law Firm, Daniel J. Picard, 110 Old Street, Monroe, OH 45050,
1} Appellant, Todd R. Retherford, appeals from the
decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas granting
a judgment to appellee, Jacqueline C. Barton, following a
bench trial. For the reasons outlined below, we affirm.
and Procedural History
2} Barton and Retherford were married in Dayton,
Ohio on October 11, 1988. After being married for over 25
years, Barton filed for divorce in the Circuit Court of the
Ninth Judicial Circuit, in and for Orange County, Florida on
March 14, 2014. On August 5, 2016, the Florida Circuit Court
issued a final judgment of dissolution dissolving the
parties' marriage. Although dissolving the parties'
marriage, the Florida Circuit Court did not make any decision
regarding the distribution of the parties' real or
3} As discussed more fully below, at the heart of
this appeal are two documents Retherford executed during his
marriage to Barton.
of Release of Liability of Marital Debt
4} In the first document entitled "Notice of
release of liability of marital debt" and executed on
October 14, 2009 ("Notice"), Retherford initially
agreed not to hold Barton responsible for any marital debt
incurred after September 29, 2009 in consideration for Barton
assuming "all of the joint and her individual marital
debt, up until September 29, 2009, at which time [she] filed
bankruptcy in her name only." Retherford further agreed
to share with Barton a one-half interest in the inheritance
he was to receive upon his father's death
("Inheritance") "in consideration of the care
[Barton] has provided for [his] father during the months of
June, July, August, September, 2009 and beyond."
According to the Notice, the Inheritance was estimated to
consist of "$250, 000 home, $100, 000 cash at U.S. Bank,
$100, 000 investment account at Edward Jones, " thereby
consisting of $450, 000 in assets.
5} By the second document, a quitclaim deed
Retherford executed on November 24, 2010 ("Quitclaim
Deed"), Retherford deeded Barton a one-half interest in
the real property located at 5742 River Road, Fairfield,
Butler County, Ohio ("Property"). It is undisputed
that the Property subject to the Quitclaim Deed was
Retherford's father's home described in the Notice as
the "$250, 000 home" that Retherford received as
part of the Inheritance following his father's death on
January 15, 2010. Similar to the Notice discussed above, the
Quitclaim Deed specifically stated that "valuable
consideration" was given for its execution.
6} On December 6, 2016, Barton filed a
"Complaint in Partition" naming Retherford and the
Butler County Treasurer as defendants. In support of her
complaint, Barton alleged she was the owner of an undivided
one-half interest in fee simple in the Property as evidenced
by the Quitclaim Deed recorded in Volume 8284, Page 1490 of
the Official Records of the Butler County Recorder, whereas
Retherford was the owner of the other corresponding undivided
one-half interest in fee simple in the Property. Barton
further alleged that she and Retherford were unable to agree
on the distribution of their respective ownership interests
in the Property. As such, Barton requested a judgment of
partition in her favor and that the Property "be
appraised and sold and the proceeds paid to the parties as
their interests may appear;" specifically, one-half to
her and the other one-half to Retherford.
7} On December 28, 2016, Retherford filed an answer
generally denying Barton's claims. Although not part of
this appeal, we note that Retherford thereafter filed a
counterclaim asking the trial court to award him
"one-half of the value of the real property which is
subject of this litigation, " "the gun which he
owned while married, " and "one-half of the value
of the 401K retirement which [Barton] earned during the
marriage." Barton denied these claims in her reply filed
on January 12, 2017.
8} On January 24, 2017, Barton amended her complaint
to include three additional claims against Retherford. The
first claim, which Barton entitled "Reasonable Rental
Value, " requested the trial court award Barton
reasonable rental value in the Property commensurate with her
purported undivided one-half interest in fee simple in the
Property as evidenced by the Quitclaim Deed. The second
claim, which Barton entitled "Breach of Contract, "
alleged Retherford "failed to fulfill his contractual
obligations pursuant to the [Notice]" by not sharing
with her a one-half interest in the Inheritance,
"including half of the value of the [Property], half of
a U.S. Bank account, and half of [an] investment account at
Edward Jones." The third claim, which Barton entitled
"Intentional Conversion, " alleged Retherford had
"wrongfully interfered" with her property rights as
to the Inheritance, the Property, and her personal property
located therein. Retherford denied these claims in his answer
filed later that same day.
9} After the trial court denied the parties'
competing motions for summary judgment, the matter proceeded
to a one-day bench trial held before a trial court magistrate
on August 14, 2017. At trial, the magistrate heard testimony
from three witnesses, Barton, Retherford, and John Thomas, a
realtor working as an independent contractor with Realty
First hired by Barton to appraise the reasonable rental value
of the Property. The following is a summary of the relevant
testimony and evidence presented at the one-day bench trial.
10} Between 2006 to 2010, Barton and Retherford
lived together in Florida. Unfortunately, during the summer
of 2009, Barton lost her job. As a result, in June of 2009,
Barton agreed to come to Ohio and take care of
Retherford's father who was suffering from terminal
cancer. This included doing his laundry, driving him to his
appointments, buying his groceries, and cooking, among other
activities. Shortly thereafter, in September of 2009,
Retherford, who had been working at a trucking company in
Florida, also lost his job. After Retherford lost his job,
Barton returned to Florida to be with the parties'
teenage daughter, whereas Retherford went to Ohio to take
care of his ailing father.
11} In November of 2009, after taking care of his
father for approximately one month, Retherford moved his
father into a mobile home in Florida that he and Barton had
purchased "a couple of miles away from where [they]
lived." Once there, Barton testified that "our
family cared for [Retherford's father] while he was in
Florida until the time of his death in January of 2010."