Roberts v. Opalich

Docket Number112612
Decision Date21 December 2023
PartiesKILLEEN A. ROBERTS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MITCHELL D. OPALICH, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtOhio Court of Appeals



KILLEEN A. ROBERTS, Plaintiff-Appellee,

MITCHELL D. OPALICH, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 112612

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 21, 2023

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division Case No. DR-20-380802

Lanter Legal, LLC, and Joseph J. Lanter, for appellee.

Edward L. Joseph and Randy J. Hart, for appellant.



{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Mitchell D. Opalich ("Husband"), appeals from the trial court's judgment granting a divorce to Husband and plaintiff-appellee, Killeen Roberts ("Wife"), and dividing their property. Finding no merit to the appeal, we affirm.


I. Background

{¶ 2} In March 2020, Wife filed a complaint for divorce. Husband filed an answer and counterclaim, in which he averred that "[Husband] and [Wife] were married to each other on or about January 13, 2013, in Florida and no children were born as issue of the marriage." More than ten months later, Husband filed an amended answer to the complaint in which he questioned the validity of the marriage.

{¶ 3} On the first day of trial before a magistrate, the parties stipulated to the following facts:

On December 7, 2012, Husband and Wife, both Cuyahoga County residents, obtained a marriage license from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Probate Division
On January 6, 2013, while on a business trip in Aventura Florida, Husband and Wife participated in a marriage/wedding ceremony officiated by a minister.
Following the wedding, the minister filed the certificate of marriage with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Probate Division.
Husband and Wife never applied for or obtained a Florida marriage license.
After January 16, 2013, Husband and Wife did not participate in another wedding.
For the years 2013 through 2019, the parties filed federal tax returns as "married, filing jointly."
Following the wedding until the present, Husband listed Wife as his "Spouse" and the primary beneficiary on his life insurance policy, and listed Wife as his "Spouse" on the company-provided healthcare insurance.
The parties separated on May 1, 2020.
Husband purchased the real estate located at 4979 Countryside Road, Lyndhurst, Ohio, in 2009, and it had a current value of $485,000.
Husband purchased the real estate located at 1383 Slate Court, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in 2007, and it had a current value of $280,000.
Husband purchased the real property located at 25901 Tungsten Road, Euclid, Ohio, in 1994. The property is owned by SAM Corp., which is owned by Husband, and had a current value of $650,000.

{¶ 4} The evidence at trial demonstrated that the above-referenced parcels of property are encumbered by mortgages, and that during the marriage, the Countryside Road mortgage was reduced by $82,320.68, and the Tungsten Road mortgage was reduced by $182,364.84.

{¶5} The magistrate's decision and recommendation issued after trial found that the parties' marriage was voidable, not void, and, therefore, the trial court had jurisdiction to resolve all issues relating to the complaint for divorce. The trial court subsequently overruled Husband's objections to the magistrate's decision and ordered Wife's counsel to prepare the judgment entry adopting the magistrate's decision.

{¶ 6} The trial court issued a judgment entry granting the parties a divorce, ordering that Husband be granted his separate property consisting of SAM Corp., and the Tungsten Road, Countryside Road, and Slate Court properties, and awarding Wife $132,000 in property division, payable by Husband in $5,000 monthly installments until fully paid. The court ordered that Husband was responsible for all debt incurred by the parties until July 1, 2020, when the temporary support order took effect. The court awarded Wife her 401(k) account


that had a balance of $1,200, and further awarded Wife $54,670.50 from Husband's 401(k). The court awarded each party the vehicle he or she was driving at the time of trial and ordered that the parties were to divide by lot the items listed on Wife's personal property list. Husband now appeals.

II. Law and Analysis

A. Validity of the Marriage

{¶ 7} In his first assignment of error, Husband argues that the parties' marriage was void, rather than voidable, and, therefore, the trial court had no jurisdiction to consider Wife's complaint for divorce.

{¶ 8} A voidable marriage is valid when entered and remains valid until either party secures a court order dissolving the marriage. Darling v. Darling, 44 Ohio App.2d 5, 7, 335 N.E.2d 708 (8th Dist.1975). A void marriage is invalid from its inception, and the parties may simply separate without a court order of divorce or annulment. Id.

{¶ 9} "A court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a divorce proceeding if the marriage between the parties was invalid." Tatsing v. MJume-Tatsing, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 16AP-827, 2017-Ohio-8460, ¶ 8, citing Hussain v. Hussain, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2015-07-127, 2016-Ohio-3214, ¶ 12. "Generally, the validity of a marriage is determined by the lex loci contractus; if the marriage is valid where solemnized, it is valid elsewhere; if it is invalid there, it is invalid everywhere." Mazzolini v. Mazzolini, 168 Ohio St. 357, 155 N.E.2d 206 (1958), paragraph one of the syllabus; see also Verma v. Verma, 179 Ohio App.3d 637, 2008-Ohio-6244, 903 N.E.2d 343, ¶ 14 (2d Dist).


"In other words, the validity or existence of a marriage should be determined under the law of the place where the alleged marriage was contracted." Tatsing at ¶ 17.

{¶10} Under Fla. Stat. 741.08, a marriage in Florida is not to be solemnized without a license:

Before any of the persons named in § 741.07 shall solemnize any marriage, he or she shall require of the parties a marriage license issued according to the requirements of § 741.01, and within 10 days after solemnizing the marriage he or she shall make a certificate thereof on the marriage license, and shall transmit the same to the office of the county court judge or clerk of the circuit court from which it issued.

Florida marriage licenses are to be issued by a county court judge or clerk of the circuit court. Fla. Stat. 741.01

{¶11} Husband contends that based on the law of Florida, where the wedding ceremony took place, he and Wife were never married because no Florida county court judge or clerk of a circuit court issued a marriage license to them, and no person may solemnize a marriage in Florida without a license having been issued. Accordingly, he asserts that "on its face there is no valid marriage in the state of Florida." (Appellant brief, p. 5).

{¶12} Husband's argument is without merit. "[T]he law of Florida now provides for only one kind of marriage, one which is entered into by the parties in good faith and in substantial compliance with chapter 741." In re Estate of Litzky, 296 So.2d 638, 639 (Fla.1974). Florida courts have applied the "good faith and substantial compliance" test and determined that where the particular facts and


circumstances demonstrate the good faith of the parties and substantial compliance with the statute, the marriage is valid, even where it is solemnized without a license.

{¶13} For example, in Metro. Dade Cty. v. Shelton, 375 So.2d 32, (Fla.1979), the...

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