Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
MICHELLE L. HAMPTON, Appellee,
KENNETH D. HAMPTON, Appellant.
FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS
DIVISION Case No. 12DR35468
& Hubbell, LLC, Martin E. Hubbell, for appellee
Ostrowski Law Firm Co., L.P.A., Andrea G. Ostrowski, for
1} Appellant, Kenneth Hampton ("Husband"),
appeals a decision of the Warren County Court of Common
Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, ordering him to pay
spousal support arrearages to appellee, Michelle Hampton
2} Husband and Wife were married in 1996 and had two
children before divorcing in 2012. At the time of their
separation, the parties entered a shared parenting plan
regarding their children, as well as a separation agreement.
Within the separation agreement, Husband agreed to pay Wife
$1, 000 per month in spousal support until either party's
death, Wife's remarriage, or the expiration of 45 months,
whichever occurred first. The separation agreement noted that
the support payments "shall be modifiable in the event
of cohabitation" by Wife. The agreement also specified
that the trial court would not retain jurisdiction over the
matter "as to the issue of amount or duration of spousal
support," other than the retirement accounts of the
3} In October 2013, Wife moved into her
boyfriend's home. During this time, Wife and her
boyfriend had an intimate relationship and shared expenses
for the home. Wife paid the electricity, garbage pickup, and
cable bills, and also purchased the majority of groceries for
the home. Husband stopped paying spousal support given
Wife's cohabitation with her boyfriend. Soon thereafter,
Wife challenged Husband's decision to stop paying her and
the two agreed that Husband would pay Wife $400 per month in
spousal support and allow Wife to claim their younger child
on her taxes.
4} In July 2014, Wife moved out of her
boyfriend's home and the two ended their relationship.
However, two months later, Wife and her boyfriend reunited
and were soon engaged. In 2015, Wife and her fiancé
bought a home together and Husband stopped paying spousal
support once again due to Wife's cohabitation.
5} In 2016, and after the 45-month time frame for
support had passed, Wife filed a motion for contempt alleging
that Husband failed to pay her spousal support according to
the separation agreement at $1, 000 per month. Husband
countered with the agreement he and Wife made regarding the
tax exemption and $400 per month support payment. A
magistrate determined that the $1, 000 amount was correct,
and ordered Husband to pay Wife spousal support arrearages of
$18, 767.52. After Husband filed objections to the
magistrate's decision, the trial court upheld the
magistrate's decision in part, but remanded the issue to
the magistrate for consideration of Husband's equitable
6} The magistrate determined that Husband's
equitable defenses were not meritorious and ordered Husband
to pay the full arrearages. Husband filed objections to the
magistrate's decision, which the trial court overruled.
Husband now appeals the trial court's judgment, raising
two assignments of error for review.
7} Assignment of Error No. 1:
8} THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION THAT APPELLANT
OWED BASED UPON THE FULL ORIGINAL AMOUNT OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT
SHOULD BE REVERSED DUE TO THE PARTIES['] AGREED UPON
9} Husband argues in his first assignment of error
that the trial court erred by ordering him to pay spousal
support of $1, 000 per month.
10} Because a separation agreement is a contract, it
is subject to the same rules of construction as other
contracts and its interpretation is a matter of law.
Clark v. Clark, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2008-10-244,
2009-Ohio-2803, ¶ 12. Therefore, this court applies a de
novo standard of review when reviewing issues of contract
interpretation. Meyer v. Meyer, 12th Dist. Butler
No. CA2015-12-225, 2016-Ohio-8100. When confronted with an
issue of contract ...