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In re S.S.L.S.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District

June 28, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: S.S.L.S.,

Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, Case No. C201003462.

For Appellant: Attorney Carl J. King

For Appellee: Attorney Tracey A. Laslo

Hon. Mary DeGenaro Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Joseph J. Vukovich

OPINION

DeGenaro, P.J.

{¶1} Appellant Nicholas Cody Gill appeals the January 30, 2012 judgment of the Columbiana County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, which, inter alia, granted custody of the parties' minor child SSLS to Mother, Appellee Amber Nicole Smith. On appeal, Father asserts that the trial court's allocation of parental rights and responsibilities was an abuse of discretion. He also argues that the trial court erred in its income determination for child support purposes and by failing to attach a child support worksheet to the judgment entry. Father's arguments are meritorious in part.

{¶2} Relative to allocating parental responsibility, because the parties were unmarried, pursuant to R.C. 3109.042 Mother was statutorily designated the residential parent only until such time as a trial court would make an initial allocation of custody. The motion filed by Father was not triggering a modification; rather an initial custody determination, which simply requires the court take into account the best interests of the child, pursuant to R.C. 3109.04(F)(1). However, in the trial court's judgment entry it included language that appeared to place a higher burden upon Father; requiring him to demonstrate that any harm from the proposed change would be outweighed by the advantages, part of the test embodied in R.C. 3109.04(E)(1)(a)(iii), the custody modification standard, which is inapplicable to this case. Because we cannot ascertain whether the trial court applied the correct standard, and because based on the particular facts and circumstances of this case the inclusion of the harm versus advantages language could have prejudiced Father, we exercise our discretion to remand.

{¶3} Regarding child support, the income determination was supported by the record, specifically Father's detailed testimony. Although the trial court properly ordered the parties to submit proposed child support worksheets, it erred by failing to adopt a child support worksheet as its own, which is required by law.

{¶4} Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed and remanded for further proceedings, including a redetermination of custody under the correct test, and a determination of child support based upon the custody decision, which must include a child support worksheet.

Facts and Procedural History

{¶5} Mother and Father were never married but had one child, SSLS, born March 3, 2010. When SSLS was born, both parents were approximately 18 years old, and SSLS resided with Mother who was the primary caregiver of the child. This case came before the Columbiana County Juvenile Court on petition from the Columbiana County Child Support Enforcement Agency, seeking acknowledgement of its administrative paternity finding pursuant to R.C. 3111.02(B).

{¶6} On November 15, 2010, the trial court issued a judgment entry certifying and adopting the administrative determination of parentage and child support issued by CCSEA as its own and ordered Father to pay $127.83 per month in support to Mother, inclusive of processing fee. Upon Father's motion, he was granted companionship with SSLS, which was initially supervised for a transitional period.

{¶7} On April 8, 2011, Father filed a multi-branch motion seeking reallocation of parental rights, specifically that he be named residential parent and legal custodian of SSLS. He also requested termination of his child support obligation, establishment of a support obligation to be paid to him, modification of the tax dependency exemption, drug testing, a home investigation, and the appointment of a guardian ad litem.

{¶8} On April 28, 2011, the trial court appointed a GAL, and imposed a standard order of visitation for the pendency of the proceedings. There were some disputes ...


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