Medina County Courthouse

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ninth District Opinion in a Divorce Case Appeal

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Appellate District released one opinion on May 8, 2003. The appeal was from a decision of the Summit County Domestic Relations Court. The appellate court reversed in part and affirmed in part. 

The decision was Zaccardelli v. Zaccardelli, 2013-Ohio-1878. The facts of the case are as follows:

After executing a prenuptial agreement, Mark J. and Renee C. Zaccardelli 
(“Husband” and “Wife,” respectively) were married on July 7, 2000. The parties’ prenuptial 
agreement provided, in part, that Husband’s premarital property, including a residence on Carter Road and his interest in his family’s business, Blue Line Design, Inc. (“Blue Line”), together with the increase in value to his separate property would remain his property, free of any claim by Wife. After their wedding, the parties resided in the Carter Road residence. During their marriage, Husband worked for Blue Line, and Wife worked as a teacher until the parties’ son was born in 2002. When their son was born, Wife terminated her fulltime employment in order to stay home with their son, and later, to stay home with their daughter, who was born in 2004. During that time, Wife provided tutoring services, worked part-time from the home, and continued her education, obtaining her master’s degree in education. In 2007, Husband and Wife executed a deed transferring title of the Carter Road property to their joint ownership with rights of survivorship. 

In 2010, Wife filed a complaint for divorce in the trial court. After a hearing, the trial court issued an order finding that the prenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable. However, the court determined that, pursuant to a provision in the agreement, the parties could 
modify the agreement through a writing signed by both parties. The trial court determined that the 2007 deed effectively modified the prenuptial agreement in regard to the Carter Road property. 

The case proceeded to final hearing, and, on December 16, 2011, the trial court 
issued a decree of divorce. In the decree, the trial court determined that one-half of the “retained earnings” held by Blue Line constituted undisbursed income attributable to Husband as a fifty percent shareholder in the company. The court concluded that Husband’s share of Blue Line’s retained earnings that had accumulated during the marriage constituted marital property, which was subject to division. The court further determined that the Carter Road property was subject to division between the parties due the 2007 deed. The court reviewed parenting time recommendations submitted by the guardian ad litem and the family court services investigator. The court further reviewed shared parenting plans that the parties had submitted. The trial court adopted Wife’s proposed plan in the decree. 

The appellant-husband listed seven assignments of error in his appeal. The first assignment of error concerned the trial court's decision to award the wife one-half of the income from a closely held business entity. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court on that issue. 

The third assignment of error concerned the trial court's decision to award one-half interest in a piece of real estate that the husband argued had been excluded from the trial court's control because of a pre-nuptial agreement. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision regarding the property because it found that the husband had contractually agreed to give his wife a one-half interest after the pre-nuptial agreement was signed. 

The fourth assignment of error concerned the trial court's refusal to consider the wife's master's degree, which was obtained during the marriage as a marital asset. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision holding that under Ohio Supreme Court precedent a advanced degree is not a marital asset. 

The second assignment of error concerned the trial court's valuation of property located in Sagamore Hills. The husband argued that the trial court abused its discretion regarding this valuation. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court on this issue. 

The fifth assignment of error concerned the trial court's decision to adopt the shared parenting plan presented by the wife and not adopt the one that was presented by the husband. The Court of Appeals reviewed this on an abuse of discretion standard and found no abuse of discretion. 

The sixth assignment of error concerned the trial court's decision to order the husband to maintain a life insurance policy with his wife named as beneficiary while not imposing the same requirement on the wife. On this assignment of error the Court of Appeals wrote the following: 

"Therefore, we conclude that the trial court could properly order Husband to secure the property division payment and his child support obligation with a life insurance policy. To 
the extent Husband has argued otherwise, his sixth assignment of error is overruled. However, in regard to the beneficiary designation of such a policy, it was improper for the trial court to require Husband to name Wife as the beneficiary to the extent that the policy secured Husband’s child support obligation. Therefore, to this extent, Husband’s sixth assignment of error is sustained."

The seventh assignment of error concerned the trial court's decision to require the husband to pay for a private school over and above his child support obligation. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling on that issue.  

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