Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
SHARLA R. HAUN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
GREG R. HAUN, Defendant-Appellee.
Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas,
Domestic Relations Division, Case No. 2013 DR 00448.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
L Lane, Rosenthal Thurman Lane, LLC, (For
G. Stafford and Nicole A. Cruz, Stafford Law Co., LPA, (For
R. Wright, P.J.
Appellant, Sharla R. Haun, appeals the denial of her motions
to modify spousal support, child support, and to find
appellee, Greg R. Haun, in contempt. We affirm in part,
reverse in part, and remand.
The parties were married in 1999 and had two children
together. Sharla filed for divorce in 2013. The final divorce
decree, including the parties' separation and settlement
agreement and shared parenting plan, was issued November 3,
Sharla moved to modify spousal support and child support in
February of 2016. In August of 2017, she moved to hold Greg
in contempt of court claiming he failed to comply with the
court's order to maintain two life insurance policies
with the children as beneficiaries. Sharla also alleged
contempt based on Greg's alleged failure to provide her
with online access to their children's 529 accounts.
Following hearing, the trial court overruled Sharla's
Sharla raises three assignments of error. Her first assigned
"[1.] The trial court erred as a matter of law and
abused its discretion by denying the motion to modify the
child support award based on a misapplication of Ohio's
governing child support statutes and case law, including a
misplaced reliance on Wife's need for child support
instead of the statutorily required considerations. T.d.
Absent an abuse of discretion, a trial court's
determination regarding child support obligations will not be
disturbed on appeal. Pauly v. Pauly, 80 Ohio St.3d
386, 390, 686 N.E.2d 1108 (1997).
"'[T]he term "abuse of discretion" is one
of art, connoting judgment exercised by a court, which does
not comport with reason or the record.' State v.
Underwood, 11th Dist. No. 2008-L-113, 2009-Ohio-2089,
2009 WL 1177050, ¶ 30, citing State v.
Ferranto, 112 Ohio St. 667, 676-678, 148 N.E. 362
(1925). * * * [A]n abuse of discretion is the trial
court's 'failure to exercise sound, reasonable, and
legal decisionmaking.' State v. Beechler, 2d
Dist. No. 09-CA-54, 2010-Ohio-1900, 2010 WL 1731784, ¶
62, quoting Black's Law Dictionary (8 Ed. Rev. 2004) 11.
When an appellate court is reviewing a pure issue of law,
'the mere fact that the reviewing court would decide the
issue differently is enough to find error (of course, not all
errors are reversible. Some are harmless; others are not
preserved for appellate review). By contrast, where the issue
on review has been confined to the discretion of the trial
court, the mere fact that the reviewing court would have
reached a different result is not enough, without more, to
find error.' Id. at ¶ 67." Ivancic
v. Enos, 2012-Ohio-3639, 978 N.E.2d 927, ¶ 70.
R.C. 3119.79 governs motions to modify child support. It
dictates that a trial court must first recalculate the child
support award using the appropriate worksheet and schedule.
DeChristefero v. DeChristefero, 11th Dist. Trumbull
No. 2002-T-0021, 2003-Ohio-2234, ¶ 26. And if the
recalculated amount is more or less than ten percent of the
existing support obligation, the court must find a
substantial change of circumstances exists that warrants
modification of the current support order. Id.; R.C.
Thereafter, the court must modify the amount of child support
required to be paid under the child support order to comply
with the recalculated schedule and worksheet,
"unless the court determines that those amounts
calculated pursuant to the basic child support schedule and
pursuant to the applicable worksheet would be unjust
or inappropriate and therefore not in the best interest
of the child and enters in the journal the figure,
determination, and findings specified in section 3119.22 of
the Revised Code." R.C. 3119.79(C). (Emphasis added.)
Here, the trial court consolidated its findings and analysis
regarding Sharla's motions to modify child support and
spousal support together and, without referencing any
statutes or factors, found that there "was some change
in circumstances in that the Defendant's income
increased[, but found that] Plaintiffs needs have not
increased. If anything, considering the assistance provided
by her new male friend, her financial requirements have
decreased." The trial court also emphasized that Sharla
was able to save more than $100, 000 based on her initial $8,
200 monthly spousal support award and that although the
"Plaintiffs child support may seem a little low, but
considering she receives over $9, 000 a month, is a lawyer
with earning capacity probably higher than the amount
imputed, and further considering she has saved over $100, 000
while receiving the support, the Court cannot find a change
of circumstances sufficient to grant the Plaintiffs Motion to
Modify Child Support and Spousal Support."
However, it is undisputed that Greg's nearly double
increase in annual income following the original divorce
decree and support orders constitutes a substantial change of
circumstances pursuant to R.C. 3119.79(A) because it results
in a more than ten percent increase when recalculating the
child support award using the appropriate worksheet. Thus,
pursuant to R.C. 3119.79(C), the trial court was required to
"modify the amount of child support required to be paid
under the child support order to comply with the schedule and
the applicable worksheet, unless the court
determines that those amounts calculated pursuant to the
basic child support schedule and pursuant to the applicable
worksheet would be unjust or inappropriate and therefore
not in the best interest of the child * * *."
As argued, the trial court did not employ R.C. 3119.79
whatsoever. The trial court did not apply the mandated ten
percent increase test in R.C. 3119.79(A). The trial court
likewise did not apply R.C. 3119.79(C), which
requires a court to modify a child support award to
comply with the schedule and the applicable worksheet unless
explicit findings are made. Baker v. Mague, 8th
Dist. Cuyahoga No. 82792, 2004-Ohio-1259, ¶ 21.
Accordingly, this aspect of Sharla's first assigned error
has merit. The trial court's decision denying her motion
to modify child support is reversed and remanded. On remand,
the trial court shall undertake the required calculation and
find a substantial change in circumstances warranting
modification. Thereafter, and pursuant to R.C. 3119.79(C),
the trial court is required to "modify the amount of
child support required to be paid under the child support
order to comply with the schedule and the applicable
worksheet, unless the court determines that those
amounts calculated pursuant to the basic child support
schedule and pursuant to the applicable worksheet would be
unjust or inappropriate and therefore not in the best
interest of the child * * *." (Emphasis added.)
Sharla also urges reversal is required claiming the trial
court erred in relying solely on her need or lack of
need for additional child support. We agree.
R.C. 3119.04(B), effective until March 27, 2019, states in
part that "[i]f the combined gross income of both
parents is greater than one hundred fifty thousand dollars
per year, the court, with respect to a court child support
order, * * * shall determine the amount of the
obligor's child support obligation on a case-by-case
basis and shall consider the needs and the standard of
living of the children who are the subject of the child
support order and of the parents. The court * * * shall
compute a basic combined child support obligation that is no
less than the obligation that would have been computed under
the basic child support schedule and applicable worksheet for
a combined gross income of one hundred fifty thousand
dollars, unless the court * * * determines that it
would be unjust or inappropriate and would not be in ...