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Hill v. Hill

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 27, 2019

Nicole B. Hill, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
Travis D. Hill, Petitioner-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County C.P.C. No. 09DR-1492 Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations

         On brief:

          Bergman & Yiangou, and Andrew J. Niese, for appellee.

          Travis D. Hill, pro se.

         Argued:

          Andrew J. Niese.

          Travis D. Hill.

          DECISION

          BROWN, J.

         {¶ 1} Travis D. Hill, petitioner-appellant, appeals from the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, in which the court granted the "motion to enforce the magistrate's decision filed on March 11, 2015 against petitioner-husband Travis Hill and motion for attorney fees as well as request for judgment," filed by Nicole B. Hill, petitioner-appellee.

         {¶ 2} Travis and Nicole were married on December 28, 1985. They terminated their marriage via a decree of dissolution on June 15, 2009. The judgment entry incorporated a separation agreement.

         {¶ 3} Post decree, the parties each filed motions for contempt regarding the terms of the separation agreement. Both parties also filed for bankruptcy. On March 11, 2015, a magistrate denied Travis's motion for contempt and granted Nicole's motion for contempt. Based on the terms of the decree, the magistrate deducted the amount Travis owed Nicole from what Nicole owed Travis and found that Travis owed Nicole $638.86. The magistrate ordered Travis to serve five days in jail on the contempt charges, but the magistrate suspended the sentence on the condition that he purge his contempt by paying Nicole $638.86 within 30 days and paying $5, 000 in attorney fees in monthly $500 installments. Travis filed objections to the magistrate's decision. On September 17, 2015, the trial court issued a judgment finding no error in the magistrate's decision. Travis appealed, and this court affirmed the trial court's judgment in Hill v. Hill, 10th Dist. No. 15AP-891, 2017-Ohio-2625.

         {¶ 4} On April 30, 2015, Nicole filed a "motion to enforce the magistrate's decision filed on March 11, 2015 against petitioner-husband Travis Hill and motion for attorney fees as well as request for judgment." After a lengthy delay due to the pending appeal in Hill, the trial court held a hearing on the motion on June 19, 2017. According to the trial court's June 21, 2017 decision, Nicole testified at the hearing that Travis had paid nothing toward the amounts ordered in the March 11, 2015 magistrate's decision, while Travis testified the award of fees owed to Nicole was discharged in one of his two bankruptcy cases. However, the court found the exhibit Travis submitted from the bankruptcy court, "Exhibit 1," did not show the debt owed to Nicole had been discharged. From the bench, the court provided Travis until June 26, 2017 to present certified proof of discharge from the bankruptcy court showing the debt owed to Nicole was discharged, or Travis would serve five days in jail. The court indicated in its decision that, on June 19, 2017, Travis provided the trial court with additional entries from the bankruptcy court, but the trial court found those entries failed to establish the debts owed to Nicole had been discharged. The court also found that, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(15), a bankruptcy discharge under 11 U.S.C. 727 is not dischargeable against an individual debtor incurred by the debtor in the course of a divorce or separation or in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree, or other order of a court of record, or a determination made in accordance with state or territorial law by a governmental unit. In its June 21, 2017 judgment, the court found that unless Travis appeared and provided the court with a certified order discharging the debts owed to Nicole, the court would enforce the five-day jail sentence commencing on June 28, 2017. Travis filed the present appeal of the trial court's judgment on June 27, 2017, and the trial court stayed the order enforcing incarceration pending appeal.

         {¶ 5} However, Travis's appellate brief is deficient. Travis has elected to proceed pro se on appeal. "It is well-established that prose litigants are presumed to have knowledge of the law and legal procedures and that they are held to the same standard as litigants who are represented by counsel." (Emphasis sic.) Sabouri v. Ohio Dept. of Job & Family Servs., 145 Ohio App.3d 651, 654 (10th Dist.2001). "In civil cases, the same rules, procedures and standards apply to one who appears pro se as apply to those litigants who are represented by counsel." Fields v. Stange, 10th Dist. No. 03AP-48, 2004-Ohio-1134, ¶ 7, citing State ex rel. Fuller v. Mengel, 100 Ohio St.3d 352, 2003-Ohio-6448, ¶ 10.

         {¶ 6} In the present case, Travis's brief contains no assignments of error. Pursuant to App.R. 16(A)(3), an appellant's brief must contain "[a] statement of the assignments of error presented for review, with reference to the place in the record where each error is reflected." Assignments of error are particularly important because appellate courts determine each appeal "on its merits on the assignments of error set forth in the briefs under App.R. 16." App.R. 12(A)(1)(b). "This court rules on assignments of error, not mere arguments." Huntington Natl. Bank v. Burda, 10th Dist. No. 08AP-658, 2009-Ohio-1752, ¶ 21, quoting App.R. 12(A)(1)(b); Williams v. Barrick, 10th Dist. No. 08AP-133, 2008-Ohio-4592, ¶ 28 (holding appellate courts "rule[] on assignments of error only, and will not address mere arguments"). It is not the duty of an appellate court to create an argument on an appellant's behalf. State v. ...


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