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Date: 08-13-2020

Case Style:

In re A.B., J.B., E.L.

Case Number: L-19-1300

Judge: Gregory F. Singer

Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO SIXTH APPELLATE DISTRICT LUCAS COUNTY

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Description:







I. Introduction
{¶ 1} Appellant, S.S., appeals the judgment of the Lucas County Court of
Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, denying her motion to reunify with her children, A.B.
and J.B., and granting appellee’s, Lucas County Children Services (“LCCS”), motion to
change disposition from temporary custody to legal custody.
2.
A. Facts and Procedural Background
{¶ 2} LCCS received a referral on June 22, 2017, alleging that appellant was
physically abusive towards A.B. and J.B. Appellant’s abusive behavior toward J.B.
included striking him to the floor causing him to hit his face and choking him. Further,
appellant hit A.B. so hard that it left a mark on A.B.’s back.
{¶ 3} Upon receipt of the foregoing referral, LCCS launched an investigation.
LCCS questioned appellant, who informed LCCS that she was suffering from untreated
mental health issues, including bipolar disorder. Appellant also admitted that she had hit
J.B.
{¶ 4} Thereafter, on June 23, 2017, appellant agreed to a safety plan by which she
would vacate the family home and A.B. and J.B. would be placed with a maternal aunt.
Pursuant to the plan, appellant’s daughter, E.L., remained with her father, Er.L. Over the
course of the following two weeks, maternal aunt informed LCCS that she was unable to
maintain placement of A.B. and J.B., prompting LCCS to file a complaint in dependency,
neglect, and abuse on July 11, 2017.
{¶ 5} At a shelter care hearing held after LCCS filed its complaint, the court
determined that appellant suffered from mental health issues that were left untreated, and
further concluded that appellant physically abused A.B. and J.B. Thereafter, the matter
proceeded through discovery.
{¶ 6} On August 21, 2017, an adjudication and disposition hearing was held, at
which the court determined that A.B. and E.L. were dependent and J.B. was abused.
3.
Consequently, the court awarded custody of E.L. to Er.L.1
Temporary custody of A.B.
and J.B. was awarded to LCCS, and the children were placed into the home of Er.L.
along with E.L.
{¶ 7} During the pendency of this case, the juvenile court noted that LCCS offered
reasonable case plan services to appellant, including a dual diagnostic assessment, mental
health services, parenting education, and direction to maintain stable housing and income.
On April 4, 2019, appellant filed a “motion for reunification,” in which she sought an
award of legal custody of A.B. and J.B. based upon the fact that she “successfully
completed her case plan, the last issue being appropriate housing.”
{¶ 8} Four days after appellant filed her motion, LCCS filed its motion for legal
custody of A.B. and J.B. Although LCCS acknowledged that appellant completed her
case plan services, LCCS had serious concerns as to appellant’s housing situation, her
relationship with others, and her difficulty caring for her children during her visits with
them. LCCS had learned that appellant obtained her housing by falsely claiming that she
had custody of A.B. and J.B. Further, LCCS learned that appellant’s father and
appellant’s boyfriend were involved in a physical altercation at her home, which resulted
in the filing of criminal charges. Moreover, appellant’s most recent boyfriend, who had a
history of violence and substance abuse, was found to have physically disciplined the
children during appellant’s visits.

1
Appellant does not challenge the court’s award of custody of E.L. to Er.L.
4.
{¶ 9} The matter proceeded to a hearing before a magistrate on June 13, 2019. A
transcript of the hearing is not contained in the record before us. One week later, the
magistrate granted LCCS’s motion and denied appellant’s motion. On June 27, 2019,
appellant filed her objections to the magistrate’s decision, arguing that the award of legal
custody of A.B. and J.B. to LCCS was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence
in light of the evidence that appellant completed her case plan services. Appellant filed a
supplement to her objections on October 9, 2019, prompting a response from LCCS that
was filed on October 18, 2019.
{¶ 10} On December 2, 2019, the juvenile court issued its judgment entry denying
appellant’s objections and affirming the decision of the magistrate. In its decision, the
court found that the magistrate’s findings were sufficient to make a best interest
determination under R.C. 3109.04(F), and further concluded that the magistrate “properly
considered the evidence before her at the time of the hearing and followed the law
accordingly.”
{¶ 11} Appellant’s timely notice of appeal followed.
B. Assignment of Error
{¶ 12} On appeal, appellant asserts the following assignment of error for our
review:
I. The trial court abused its discretion in denying the appellantmother’s motion for reunification, as a preponderance of the evidence does
5.
not demonstrate that awarding legal custody to the stepfather is in the best
interest of the children.
II. Analysis
{¶ 13} In appellant’s assignment of error, she contends that the trial court erred in
denying her motion for reunification, which sought an award of legal custody of A.B. and
J.B.
{¶ 14} We review legal custody determinations for an abuse of discretion.
Blausey v. Blausey, 6th Dist. Ottawa No. OT-18-039, 2019-Ohio-4506, ¶ 13, citing Miller
v. Miller, 37 Ohio St.3d 71, 74, 523 N.E.2d 846 (1988). An abuse of discretion implies
that the trial court’s decision was unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable. Blakemore
v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219 (1983).
{¶ 15} Under R.C. 2151.353(A)(3), a juvenile court is permitted to award legal
custody of any child to any person who files a motion seeking legal custody. “In order to
grant legal custody of a dependent child to a nonparent, the trial court must find, by a
preponderance of the evidence that legal custody is in the child’s best interest.” In re
Am.H., 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-19-1025, 2019-Ohio-4374, ¶ 36, citing In re Christopher
M., 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-06-1063, 2007-Ohio-1040, ¶ 12.
{¶ 16} In its decision affirming the magistrate’s grant of legal custody of A.B. and
J.B. to LCCS, the trial court relied upon the best interest factors set forth in R.C.
3109.04(F)(1). Due to appellant’s failure to request findings of fact and conclusions of
law from the magistrate or provide this court with a transcript of the hearing that was held
6.
on her motion for reunification and LCCS’s motion for legal custody, we are left to
speculate as to whether either the magistrate or the juvenile court properly applied the
R.C. 3109.04(F)(1) factors in this case.
{¶ 17} We have carefully reviewed the limited record provided in this case. From
our review, it is clear that, notwithstanding appellant’s completion of her case plan
services, serious concerns persist regarding appellant’s mental health issues and her
ability to provide a safe and stable home for A.B. and J.B. For this reason, and because
we must presume the regularity of the proceedings with no transcript to review,
Gozdowski v. Gozdowski, 6th Dist. Ottawa No. OT-16-017, 2017-Ohio-990, ¶ 18, we
cannot say the trial court acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, or unconscionably in granting
legal custody of A.B. and J.B. to LCCS and denying appellant’s motion for reunification.
{¶ 18} Accordingly, we find appellant’s sole assignment of error not well-taken.

Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Lucas County Court of
Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, is affirmed. Appellant is ordered to pay the costs of this appeal pursuant to App.R. 24.

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