Motley v. Motley

Citation102 Ohio App.3d 67,656 N.E.2d 995
Decision Date22 March 1995
Docket NumberNo. 16549,16549
PartiesMOTLEY, Appellant, v. MOTLEY, Appellee.
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)

Timothy P. Assaf, Akron, for appellant.

Christine Motley, Akron, pro se.

DICKINSON, Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Motley has appealed from a post-decree order of the Summit County Domestic Relations Court that directed him to pay his former wife, defendant Christine Motley, $20,843.85 as child support arrearage. He has argued that the trial court erred in calculating the amount of his child support arrearage because it incorrectly determined that his obligation to support his four children continued until they reached the age of twenty-one. This court reverses the judgment of the trial court because Mr. Motley's obligation to pay child support ended as each of his children reached the age of eighteen.

Mr. and Mrs. Motley were married during 1958 and divorced during 1973. They are the parents of four children. At the time of their divorce, the trial court adopted a separation agreement pursuant to which they had agreed that Mr. Motley would pay $80.80 per week as child support:

"That [Mr. Motley] pay to [Mrs. Motley] the sum of $80.80 per week, including poundage, through the Clerk of this Court, as and for support of the parties' four minor children, but to that end that [Mr. Motley's] employer, Terex, a Division of General Motors, withhold $80.80 from [Mr. Motley's] earnings beginning with the next pay due [Mr. Motley] following Terex['s] receipt of this Order; the same to continue until further Order of this Court."

Mr. Motley's child support obligation was later raised to $30 per week per child.

During June 1993, the Summit County Child Support Enforcement Agency moved the trial court to terminate Mr. Motley's support obligation and for a judgment for arrearage. The matter was referred to a referee, who recommended that Mr. Motley be ordered to pay $20,843.85. Mr. Motley objected to the referee's report and recommendation, but, on October 25, 1993, the trial court overruled his objection and adopted the referee's report and recommendation. Mr. Motley timely appealed to this court.

Mr. Motley's sole argument is that the trial court erred in calculating the amount of his child support arrearage because it incorrectly determined that his obligation to support his children continued until they reached the age of twenty-one. Pursuant to R.C. 3109.01 as it existed at the time of the parties' divorce, the age of majority in Ohio was twenty-one. Effective January 1, 1974, R.C. 3109.01 was amended to change the age of majority to eighteen. The trial court determined that Mr. Motley's obligation to provide child support was controlled by the law as it existed at the time of the parties' divorce rather than as it has existed since January 1, 1974.

In Nokes v. Nokes (1976), 47 Ohio St.2d 1, 2, 1 O.O.3d 1, 1-2, 351 N.E.2d 174, 175-176, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the amendment of R.C. 3109.01 had no effect on a pre-1974 child support decree in which Mr. Nokes had been directed to support his "minor children" and to "provide a college education to any of his children desiring the same, and [to] be responsible for all of their expenses for such advanced education at rates provided for in state universities." According to the Supreme Court, a holding that Mr. Nokes was no longer obligated to provide a college education to his children because any obligation he owed them ended when they reached the age of eighteen would have been an unconstitutional retroactive application of a change in the law. In Rosenfeld v. Rosenfeld (1976), 47 Ohio St.2d 12, 1 O.O.3d 8, 351 N.E.2d 181, which was decided the same day as Nokes, the Supreme Court further held that the amendment of R.C. 3109.01 had no effect on three pre-1974 child support decrees which incorporated separation agreements that provided support, respectively: (1) until a child "reaches the age of 21 years, marries or otherwise becomes duly emancipated, whichever eventually occurs first"; (2) until "minor children become emancipated"; and (3) until "children attain their majority, marry, become members of the Armed Forces, or otherwise become duly emancipated, and until further order of the court."

In Zweifel v. Price (1985), 24 Ohio App.3d 101, 24 OBR 171, 493 N.E.2d 300, the Tenth District Court of Appeals held that an obligation to provide child support pursuant to a pre-1974 order that did not state, either explicitly or implicitly, how long that obligation lasted terminated upon the parties' children reaching the age of eighteen. The court distinguished the facts before it from those in Nokes and Rosenfeld:

"While it would seem that the Nokes decision would require defendant's duty of support to be controlled by the pre-1974 language in both R.C. 3103.03 and 3109.01, the facts are distinguishable from those of the case at bar. The Nokes decision dealt with a situation where the duration of the...

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