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Bohannon v. Bohannon

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

July 25, 2018



          CAROLYN SOEDER, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          ROBERT ROE FOX, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          CHANDRA M. MUSTER, Guardian ad Litem.


          DONNA J. CARR JUDGE.

         {¶1} Appellant Timothy Bohannon ("Father") appeals the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, that denied his three contempt motions against appellee Lynn Bohannon ("Mother"), and overruled his objections to a Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSEA") administrative review recommendation. This Court reverses and remands.


         {¶2} Father and Mother were divorced in 2010, at which time they had three unemancipated children. Mother was named the residential parent, and Father received a combination of both supervised and unsupervised parenting time with the children. In addition, Father was ordered to pay child support. After various post-decree issues arose, Father and Mother entered into an agreed judgment entry on April 24, 2014, wherein Father was to receive parenting time with the two remaining unemancipated children for one-half of the summers and school breaks, Wednesday overnight visitation with the youngest child, K., and telephone contact with both children twice a week.

         {¶3} Over the course of time, CSEA recommended increases in the amount of Father's child support obligation after conducting administrative review hearings. Father filed objections with the domestic relations court after every administrative review recommendation. The most recent objection, which gives rise to one of his assignments of error in the instant appeal, was filed on November 22, 2016. By that time, only K. remained unemancipated and the subject of a child support order. That objection requested a downward deviation of child support based on an adjustment for Father's cost of living.

         {¶4} In addition, Father filed three post-decree motions for Mother to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for violating parenting time orders. In the first, filed June 16, 2016, Father alleged that Mother prevented him from exercising parenting time with K. for the one-half of the summer to which he was entitled. In the second, filed October 6, 2016, he alleged that Mother interfered with his ability to have telephone contact with K., as well as Wednesday and every other weekend visits with the child. In the third motion to show cause, filed March 2, 2017, Father alleged that Mother continued to deny him his ordered parenting time.

         {¶5} Although the trial court issued multiple notices for hearings on the motions and objections to occur on October 12, 2016, December 15, 2016, February 10, 2017, and May 9, 2017, the matters were not actually heard until the May 2017 date. In all instances, the notices of hearings noted the starting time for the hearing, but did not identify the length of time allotted for the hearing. The May 9, 2017 hearing was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Both parties filed witness and exhibit lists in advance of the hearing. Father notified the court and Mother that he intended to present 18 exhibits and four witnesses, while Mother notified the court and Father that she intended to present nine exhibits and six witnesses. In addition, the domestic relations court had appointed a guardian ad litem for K. Based on the guardian's time log filed with the court, she spent over 14 hours investigating issues relevant to the pending motions, one hour in court during the May 9, 2017 hearing, and approximately six hours preparing a report.

         {¶6} At the beginning of the hearing on Father's objections to the CSEA administrative recommendation and three contempt motions, the magistrate informed the parties that they would have a total of one hour in which to present evidence. The magistrate gave each party ten minutes to address the issue of the CSEA recommendation and Father's request for a downward deviation of his child support obligation, and twenty minutes each to address all three contempt motions. When Father indicated that he would need more time, the magistrate reiterated that she had scheduled the hearing for one hour and that neither party had moved the court for additional time in advance.

         {¶7} The magistrate set a timer on her computer and held the parties to their allotted times. Only Father and Mother testified. None of the listed witnesses on either party's witness list testified. Neither did the guardian ad litem, whose time log indicated she was present for the hearing, render a report.

         {¶8} The magistrate subsequently issued a one-and-a-half page decision in which she denied Father's three contempt motions "for lack of evidence" and overruled his objections to the CSEA administrative review recommendation. Father filed timely objections, which he supplemented after the filing of the transcript. In addition to challenging the magistrate's factual findings, Father argued that the magistrate unreasonably limited his ability to present evidence in support of his motions and objections by imposing arbitrary time restrictions without prior notice at the hearing. Mother responded in opposition. The domestic relations court issued a judgment in which it denied Father's objections to the magistrate's decision, denied his three contempt motions, and overruled ...

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