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Garcia v. Samano

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

August 12, 2019



          Arnold Law Firm, LLC, Brittany N. Born, 8833 Chapelsquare Lane, Suite C, Cincinnati, Ohio 45249, for appellant

          Manuel Garcia Samano, 2305 Dixie Highway, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, pro se


          RINGLAND, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Jessica Garcia, appeals from the decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, dividing marital property after her divorce from appellee, Manuel Garcia Samano. For the reasons detailed below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} Jessica and Manuel married in 2009. On November 22, 2016, Jessica filed a complaint for divorce. The trial court held final hearings in September and October of 2017. This appeal largely concerns the division of marital property associated with Garcia One, LLC and other real property owned or sold during the marriage.

         {¶ 3} Jessica testified that she and Manuel owned Garcia One, a car dealership or "buy here-pay here lot" during the course of the marriage. Jessica stated that "we sold cars and we also fixed them, like a mechanic shop." The parties disagreed on how the business was run, with Jessica alleging that Manuel did not do "anything really legitimately" and that the business was run with unaccounted cash. Due to bad record keeping, Jessica was unable to keep internal books on the business or pay out expenses. Jessica also described certain questionable business practices, such as instances in which she purportedly notarized unsigned titles and an instance in which she was held personally liable in a matter after Manuel repossessed a vehicle sold by the company. Jessica testified that she stopped working for Garcia One due to these business practices.

         {¶ 4} Manuel stated that he was a part owner of Garcia One. However, similar to Jessica's testimony, Manuel's description of the business was extremely vague and inconsistent. Manuel testified that there was no written partnership agreement, just an oral agreement amongst themselves. Manuel testified that the rent for the business premises was paid by whichever partner could pay at the time, but they were "probably" going to be evicted because "no one has paid" the rent. When one of Manuel's alleged partners testified, he denied any ownership interest in Garcia One, but suggested that Manuel might have "considered" him a part owner due to a prior familial relationship. As of the time of the final hearing, Manuel testified that he no longer receives "anything" from the company. As to his involvement in the company, Manuel stated that he doesn't work there anymore, but will sometimes go there to visit friends. However, this contradicted Manuel's earlier testimony in which he stated that he would still occasionally fix a vehicle for the company for cash.

         {¶ 5} In addition to the disputes regarding the business, the parties also raise multiple issues with regard to certain real properties. Manuel testified about multiple properties that he owned during the marriage, including properties which were sold within weeks of the filing of the complaint for divorce. In total, Manuel sold six properties between October and November 2016, shortly before Jessica filed her complaint for divorce.

         {¶ 6} Following its review of the evidence, the trial court divided the parties' marital property and entered a final decree of divorce. Jessica now appeals the trial court's decision regarding several aspects of the property division, raising three assignments of error for review.

         {¶ 7} Assignment of Error No. 1:


         {¶ 9} In her first assignment of error, Jessica argues the trial court erred by failing to include all relevant property owned by the parties in the decision dividing their marital property. Jessica's argument is without merit.

         {¶ 10} Property division in a divorce proceeding is a two-step process that is subject to two different standards of review. Smith v. Smith, 12th Dist. Clermont No. CA2016-08-059, 2017-Ohio-7463, ΒΆ 8. Initially, pursuant to R.C. 3105.171(B), "the court shall * * * determine what constitutes marital property and what constitutes separate property." An appellate court reviews the trial court's classification of property or debt as marital or separate under the ...

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