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July 2013 Case Law Updates

1.  D.R v. J.R., 2013-OHIO-2987 was an appeal from the granting of a protection order by the Summit County Domestic Relations Court. The issues on appeal was whether the trial court had deprived J.R. of due process by not timely ruling on objections to a magistrate's decision and then finding that the magistrate's decision was moot because the protection order had expired.

The order was issued on October 28, 2011. J.R. through his attorney filed objections to the decision on November 7, 2011 and also filed a praecipe for a transcript of the proceedings with the court reporter. The transcript was not filed until June 26, 2012. J.R. through his attorney then filed supplemental objections on July 6, 2012. On December 6, 2012 the trial court dismissed the objections as moot since the order expired under its own terms on October 25, 2012.

The Court of Appeals found that since there are collateral consequences to the issuance of a protection order the fact that the order had expired was not determinative. It held that the trial court had a duty to hold a hearing on the objections to determine whether the order was properly granted.

2.  KING V. KING., 2013-OHIO-3070. The case this was a decision affirming the Medina County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division denying a motion by Mr. King to remove a guardian ad litem. Applying an abuse of discretion standard on review the appellate court found that Mr. King had not shown that the guardian ad litem should be removed. However, it remanded back the case back to the trial court for a hearing on the objections because;

“In this case, the guardian ad litem was appointed in the context of post-decree litigation regarding parenting time. Although the motions that prompted the trial court to appoint the guardian have been resolved, the trial court has determined that the continuing services of the guardian are necessary given the contentious nature of the proceedings and the parties’ inclination toward more post-decree litigation. A this point… the guardian’s appointment is ongoing and is not tied to the resolution of any outstanding post decree motions. There is no forthcoming final judgment from which Mr. King could appeal that would afford him relief with respect to the denial of his motion to remove the gal. In this situation, the denial of the mo0tion ‘affects a substantial right***in a special proceeding’ and its final and appealable at this time.”

2013-OHIO-2946 was an appeal from a domestic relations case out of the Wayne County Common Pleas Court. At issue was the interpretation of a separation agreement entered into by the Mathenys who were acting pro se. There were two versions of the separation agreement. On the first version the parties agreed to split one half of the proceeds from the sale of the marital residence. On the second version they agreed to split one half of the profit from the sale of the residence. (The reason that there were two versions was that when they filed the first agreement along with their dissolution petition they had not filled out the part of the pre-printed form dealing with child support.)

When the house was sold, it was sold for less than the price that the Mathenys paid when they bought the home. The magistrate reasoned that profit was the moneys received over the cost of an item and therefore there was no "profit" on the sale of the home. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court found that the term "profit" and its use was ambiguous. In part of the separation agreement they referred to the home having a mortgage and in another part they referred to the cost of construction. While the appellate court found the magistrate's reasoning reasonable it also found that the two references made the term "profit" ambiguous. It then remanded for the trial court to take extrinsic evidence.


August 16, 2013: Same-sex couples can’t be legally married in Ohio, but they can be legally divorced here. In a first for Hancock County, Kristi Jo Mason, 34, of Cygnet, and Amy Jo Essinger, 37, of Findlay, were granted a divorce in Hancock County Common Pleas Court’s domestic relations division. They were married in February 2012 in Jamestown, N.Y.

Also: on July 25, 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that earnings deposited into a flexible spending account for reimbursement of medical costs under an employer’s cafeteria plan do not qualify as remuneration for purposes of determining an employee’s unemployment eligibility. In its decision, the court considered the definition of what counts as wages for purposes of determining whether an individual meets the required weekly wage of at least 213.00 for the required 20 weeks. This analysis may be used in an upcoming Ohio Supreme Court decision about whether job ‘perks’ such as the use of company cars, paid gasoline and other advantages will be considered income for purposes of computing income for child support/spousal support. The Medina Domestic Relations Court case was heard by the Court in June of 2013.