Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
SEAN A. SHORT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
MICHELLE E. SHORT, Defendant-Appellant.
Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas,
Domestic Relations Division, Case No. 2011 DR 00102.
William D. Lentz, Lentz, Noble & Heavner, LLC, (For
G. Stafford and Nicole A. Cruz, Stafford Law Co., LPA, (For
JANE TRAPP, J.
Appellant, Michelle E. Short, nka Michelle Richardson
("Ms. Richardson"), appeals the judgment entry of
the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations
Division, denying her motion to modify child support, which
the court issued following a remand order from this court in
Short v. Short, 11th Dist. Portage No. 2017-P-0087,
2018-Ohio-3243 ("Short I ").
Ms. Richardson argues that the trial court violated her due
process rights by not holding an additional evidentiary
hearing on child support and by indicating it would adopt her
proposed judgment entry but instead adopting the proposed
judgment entry of appellee, Sean A. Short ("Mr.
Short"), her former husband and the father of her two
Ms. Richardson also argues that the trial court erred in
deviating Mr. Short's child support obligation to zero
because (1) the trial court did not make an express finding
that a change of circumstance had occurred to justify
modifying Mr. Short's child support obligation; and (2)
the trial court's justifications for deviating Mr.
Short's child support obligation are not supported by the
After a careful review of the record and pertinent law, we
find as follows:
(1) The trial court did not violate Ms. Richardson's due
process rights. The mere fact that a trial court's
decision is remanded does not entitle the parties to an
additional evidentiary hearing, and our order of remand did
not require it. Ms. Richardson was given a full opportunity
to present evidence on her motion to modify child support
during the first evidentiary hearing and to voice her
objections to Mr. Short's proposed judgment entry.
(2) The trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing
to make an express finding that a change of circumstance had
occurred because the applicable statutes do not require this
express finding. When the amount as recalculated on the child
support worksheet is more than ten per cent greater than the
amount of child support required to be paid pursuant to the
existing child support order, the deviation from the
recalculated amount shall be considered by the court as a
change of circumstance substantial enough to require a
modification of the child support amount. The trial
court's judgment entry demonstrates it considered the
deviation from the recalculated amount to be a change of
circumstance, although it did not describe it using that
(3) The trial court's findings of fact supporting its
determination that the amount of child support would be
unjust or inappropriate and not in the best interest of the
children are supported by the record.
Thus, we affirm the judgment of the Portage County Court of
Common Pleas, Domestic Relation Division.
and Procedural History
Ms. Richardson and Mr. Short were married in July 2000 and
have two minor children together. In February 2011, Mr. Short
filed a complaint for divorce in the Portage County Court of
Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, which was granted
in November of that year pursuant to a judgment entry decree
of divorce. The child support worksheet provided that Mr.
Short should pay $597.75 per month, which was deviated to
zero based on the division of time the children spend with
each parent and the division of the children's expenses.
The parties entered into a shared parenting plan that
designated Ms. Richardson as the residential parent for
school purposes and set forth the details of the parties'
parenting time schedule. The parenting time schedule was
amended in October 2014 pursuant to judgment entry.
In December 2015, Ms. Richardson filed a motion to modify
allocation of parental responsibilities and a motion to
modify child support and to establish a child support order.
She alleged a change of circumstance in that Mr. Short failed
to abide by the parenting time schedule, failed to
communicate, and did not pay his portion of all expenses
associated with the children.
In January 2016, Mr. Short filed a motion to modify
allocation of parental rights and responsibilities where he
requested additional parenting time.
Following the parties' exchange of discovery, the
appointment of a guardian ad litem, and several continuances,
the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the pending
motions on October 17, 2017.
With respect to child support, Ms. Richardson testified that
she and Mr. Short had agreed to share expenses for the
children but that he did not always reimburse her or delayed
in reimbursing her. She stated that she would prefer to
receive child support rather than splitting the
children's expenses to avoid continuous fights and
disagreements with Mr. Short.
On cross examination, Ms. Richardson acknowledged that her
reported income was about $25, 000 greater than Mr.
Short's but alleged he was "not paying what he's
supposed to be paying for the dividing equally" of the
Mr. Short denied Ms. Richardson's allegations that he had
not properly reimbursed her for the children's expenses
and that there had been arguments between them regarding the
Mr. Short also testified that he is remarried and has two
stepchildren. His current spouse earns approximately $38, 000
per year, and her children receive approximately $3, 000 per
month in social security.
On October 23, 2017, the trial court issued a judgment entry,
in which it made several rulings relating to visitation and
communication issues. With respect to child support issues,
the trial court found that although Mr. Short's household
income was higher than Ms. Richardson, he personally earned
less. Therefore, the trial court ordered the parties to
continue to equally share expenses for the children and set
up procedures for expense reimbursement. Finally, the court
ruled that "[a]ny motion still pending and not
specifically addressed in this Judgment Entry is
Ms. Richardson appealed the trial court's judgment entry,
which gave rise to this court's decision in Short
In Short I, we noted that the trial court's sole
statements in relation to child support were that Ms.
Richardson made more money than Mr. Short and that the
parties should continue to split the children's expenses,
pursuant to prior court order. Id. at ¶22. We
determined that the trial court did not comply with the
required statutory provisions by failing to: (1) attach a
child support worksheet, (2) adopt the worksheet prepared by
Ms. Richardson, (3) make any findings that it had considered
the support worksheet, (4) determine whether there had been a
change in circumstance warranting a modification, or (5) find
grounds for deviating from the support worksheet submitted by
Ms. Richardson. Id. Thus, we remanded the matter to
the trial court "to issue a child support decision in
which, if it makes a finding of deviation, includes the
necessary statutory findings and which includes a child
support worksheet." Id. at ¶29.
Following remand, the trial court held a hearing on December
21, 2018. No transcript of this hearing has been provided on
appeal. Ms. Richardson claims the trial court instructed her
to submit a proposed judgment entry adopting the child
support worksheet she submitted during the evidentiary
hearing in October 2017. Mr. Short claims the trial court
instructed each party to submit a proposed judgment that
complied with this court's remand order in Short
In any event, both parties submitted proposed judgment
entries in January 2019. Ms. Richardson filed a brief in
opposition to Mr. Short's proposed judgment entry. Mr.
Short also filed a brief in opposition, and both parties
filed reply briefs.
Judgment Entry After Remand
On March 12, 2019, the trial court adopted Mr. Short's
proposed judgment entry as its own. The trial court made the
following findings of fact: (1) Ms. Richardson's income
was $66, 267 while Mr. Short's income was $43, 500; (2)
Mr. Short's new wife has two minor children that receive
$3, 000 per month in social security benefits because their
father is deceased, which constitutes a substitute for child
support; (3) pursuant to the companionship schedule, the
children spend half of ...