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Haun v. Haun

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage

December 31, 2019

SHARLA R. HAUN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GREG R. HAUN, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, Case No. 2013 DR 00448.

         Judgment: Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

          James L Lane, Rosenthal Thurman Lane, LLC, (For Plaintiff-Appellant).

          Joseph G. Stafford and Nicole A. Cruz, Stafford Law Co., LPA, (For Defendant-Appellee).

          OPINION

          Thomas R. Wright, P.J.

         {¶1} 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.

         {¶2} 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, 2014.

         {¶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.

         {¶4} Following hearing, the trial court overruled Sharla's motions.

         {¶5} Sharla raises three assignments of error. Her first assigned error contends:

         {¶6} "[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. 161."

         {¶7} 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).

         {¶8} "'[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.

         {¶9} 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. 3119.79(A).

         {¶10} 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.)

         {¶11} 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."

         {¶12} 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 * * *." (Emphasis added.)

         {¶13} 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.

         {¶14} 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.)

         {¶15} 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.

         {¶16} 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 ...


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