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Habib v. Shikur

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 26, 2018

Mohammed Habib, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Hawa Shikur, Defendant-Appellee.

          APPEAL from Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, (C.P.C. No. 12JU-12886) Juvenile Branch

         On brief:

          Ray J. King, for appellant.

          James C. Lee, for appellee.


          Ray J. King.

          James C. Lee.


          SADLER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Mohammed Habib, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch, in favor of defendant-appellee, Hawa Shikur. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


         {¶ 2} The parties have never been married but have three minor children together. Appellant has been paying court-ordered child support for the three minor children since 2012. Appellant also has three children living in Ethiopia and for whom he claims to pay court-ordered child support.

         {¶ 3} On March 9, 2016, pursuant to R.C. 3119.60 through 3119.71, the Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency ("FCCSEA") notified the parties of a proposed administrative adjustment to the current child support order, raising the amount of child support to be paid by appellant to $379.39. On March 28, 2016, an Administrative Hearing Officer ("AHO") conducted a hearing on the matter. On September 22, 2016, the AHO issued a decision modifying appellant's child support obligation in accordance with the administrator's recommendation.

         {¶ 4} Both parties disagreed with the hearing officer's decision and requested an adjustment court hearing. On December 22, 2016, FCCSEA moved to intervene in the case. On January 4, 2017, a magistrate held a hearing on the parties' request for adjustment.

         {¶ 5} At the hearing before the magistrate, appellant testified that he works as a self-employed taxi driver and that his net income for the previous year was $14, 685.48. Appellant also testified that in 2016 he paid $1, 800 in court-ordered child support for his children living in Ethiopia. Appellant acknowledged that he claimed the dependency exemption for his three children with appellee when he filed his 2016 federal income tax return and that he received a refund of more than $5, 000.

         {¶ 6} On February 15, 2017, the magistrate issued a decision in the matter. The magistrate ordered appellant to pay child support in accordance with guidelines of $183.78 per month for each child plus a processing charge and $38.58 per month in cash medical support plus a processing charge. The magistrate also ordered the parties to each pay 50 percent of the cost of medical expenses exceeding the amount paid by appellant. The magistrate awarded the child dependency tax exemption for each of the three children to appellee.

         {¶ 7} On March 2, 2017, appellant filed the following objections to the magistrate's decision:

1. The Magistrate failed to properly interpret O.R.C. 3119.05(A) and (B), and The Magistrate erred in her child support worksheet wherein she provided zero deductions for ordinary and necessary business expenses, and for Plaintiffs child support payments to his children in Ethiopia.
2. The Magistrate erred in awarding all three (3) income tax exemptions to Defendant.
3. The Magistrate ignored the requirements of O.R.C. 3119.08.

         {¶ 8} The trial court issued a decision and entry on September 29, 2017 overruling appellant's objections and adopting the magistrate's decision. Appellant timely appealed to this court from the trial court decision.


         {¶ 9} Appellant assigns the following as trial court error:

The trial court erred in overruling Appellant's objections to the Magistrate's Decision.


         {¶ 10} Pursuant to Juv.R. 40(D)(4)(d), "[i]f one or more objections to a magistrate's decision are timely filed, the court shall rule on those objections. In ruling on objections, the court shall undertake an independent review as to the objected matters to ascertain that the magistrate has properly determined the factual issues and appropriately applied the law." Thus," '[a] trial court considering a party's objections to a magistrate's decision must independently assess the facts and conclusions contained in the magistrate's decision, thereby undertaking the equivalent of a de novo determination in light of any filed objections.'" In re J.P., 10th Dist. No. 16AP-61, 2016-Ohio-7574, ¶ 13, quoting In re H.D.D., 10th Dist. No. 12AP-134, 2012-Ohio-6160, ¶ 90. "Appellate courts 'generally review a trial court's adoption, denial or modification of a magistrate's decision for an abuse of discretion.'" In re D.S., 10th Dist. No. 15AP-487, 2016-Ohio-2810, ¶ 9, rev'd on other grounds, 152 Ohio St.3d 109, 2017-Ohio-8289, quoting Brunetto v. Curtis, 10th Dist. No. 10AP-799, 2011-Ohio-1610, ¶ 10. "However, where the appeal from the trial court's action on a magistrate's decision presents only a question of law, the standard of review is de novo." In re D.S. at ¶ 9.


         {¶ 11} In appellant's assignment of error, appellant challenges three distinct aspects of the trial court's ruling: the amount of his child support obligation, the allocation to appellee of the federal income tax deduction for the three minor children, and his parenting time. For the reasons that follow, we find that the trial court did not err with regard to these issues.

         A. Child Support

         {¶ 12} Appellant claims the trial court erred when it found appellant failed to provide necessary evidentiary support for certain business expenses allegedly incurred in generating his self-employed income as a taxi driver and by not giving him credit for child support payments made for his children in Ethiopia. We disagree.

         {¶ 13} Appellant first contends the trial court erred when it adopted the magistrate's determination regarding his yearly gross income. "The underlying purpose of Ohio's child support legislation * * * is to meet the current needs of the minor child." Harbour v. Ridgeway, 10th Dist. No. 04AP-350, 2005-Ohio-2643, ¶ 34. See also Bates v. Bates, 10th Dist. No. 04AP-137, 2005-Ohio-3374, ΒΆ 21. "The starting point for determining the proper amount of child support to be paid is parental income, defined as gross income for those employed to full capacity or gross income plus potential income for those not employed to full ...

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