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Henderson-Austin v. Akili

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 28, 2018

LANA HENDERSON-AUSTIN PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
MTU AKILI DEFENDANT-APPELLEE

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division Case No. DR-17-367055

          FOR APPELLANT Lana M. Henderson, pro se

          FOR APPELLEE Mtu Akili, pro se

          BEFORE: Laster Mays, J., McCormack, P.J., and S. Gallagher, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          ANITA LASTER MAYS, JUDGE

         I. Background

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant Diva Akili, formerly known as Lana Henderson- Austin, appeals the decision of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Division of Domestic Relations dismissing her complaint for divorce against defendant-appellee Mtu Akili, formerly known as Darin Anthony Austin. The parties appeared before the trial court pro se. We affirm the trial court's decision.

         {¶2} On May 12, 2017, appellant initiated a divorce case against appellee based on all of the divorce grounds pursuant to R.C. 3105.01. The complaint asserts that appellant is the common-law wife of appellee and seeks spousal support, ownership of real property allegedly owned by appellee, an equitable division of appellee's property, and any other relief the court deems equitable. Appellee responded with a motion to dismiss the complaint. Appellee has been incarcerated in federal prison since October 1993 and denies that he is, or has ever been, married to appellant by ceremony, license, or common law.

         {¶3} A trial was held on August 9, 2017. Appellant was the sole witness. The evidence in the record includes extensive affidavits by the parties and several copies of correspondence between them. The trial court dismissed the matter, finding that appellant failed to establish the existence of a common-law marriage.

         {¶4} Appellant filed the instant appeal challenging the trial court's ruling. We affirm.

         II. Assignments of Error and Analysis

          {¶5} We preface our analysis by noting that appellant has not filed a transcript in this appeal. Without the filing of a transcript, an appellate court presumes regularity in the proceedings and accepts the factual findings of the trial court as true. Bailey v. Bailey, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 98173, 2012-Ohio-5073 ¶ 8, citing Snider v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 11AP-965, 2012-Ohio-1665, ¶ 8. Our review is limited to the legal conclusions of the trial court. Id.

         A. Trial Court's Refusal to Admit Certain Evidence and Motions

         {¶6} Appellant's first assigned error challenges the trial court's refusal to admit certain evidence, rulings on discovery, and rulings on motions submitted by appellant. Appellant expresses disapproval of the trial court's demeanor and decisions, and recites information that appellant believes the trial court should have considered. The information consists of appellant's assertions about the conduct, activities, or knowledge of third parties; unsubstantiated events; and statements about the appellee.

         {¶7} The admission or exclusion of evidence rests within the discretion of the trial court. State v. Robb, 88 Ohio St.3d 59, 68, 723 N.E.2d 1019 (2000). An appellate court will not disturb a decision of the trial court to admit or exclude evidence absent a clear and prejudicial abuse of discretion. Donovan v. Donovan, 110 Ohio App.3d 615, 620, 674 N.E.2d 1252 (12th Dist.1996); State v. Robinson, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 99917, 2014-Ohio-2973, ¶ 23.

         {¶8} Appellant did not present the individuals referenced in her argument as witnesses or offer other evidence supporting the truth of her assertion that a common-law marriage exists. The trial court's conduct of proceedings is also guided by the Ohio Rules of Evidence. The statements that appellant attributes to nonwitnesses to support her case is governed by a rule of evidence known as the hearsay rule. The rule provides, subject to limited exceptions, a person's out-of-court statements that are offered to prove the ...


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