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In re L.Z.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District

July 5, 2013

In re L.Z.

Court of Appeals No. F-13-001 Trial Court No. 16655.

Clayton M. Gerbitz, for appellant.

Scott A. Haselman, Fulton County Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT

YARBROUGH, J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, C.Z., appeals the judgment of the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, terminating his parental rights and awarding permanent custody of C.Z.'s son, L.Z., to the Fulton County Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS). For the following reasons, we affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural Background

{¶ 2} This case involves the termination of parental rights. It began on October 30, 2009, when appellee, the state of Ohio, filed a complaint with the trial court, charging L.Z. with public indecency in violation of R.C. 2907.09. Three days later, another complaint was filed, alleging that L.Z. was an unruly child pursuant to R.C. 2151.022, for behaving in a manner as to injure or endanger his own health or morals or the health and morals of others. A guardian ad litem was appointed, and the matter was set for hearing.

{¶ 3} On November 9, 2009, L.Z. admitted to being an unruly child, and the state dismissed the public indecency charge. The court accepted the admission and granted temporary custody of L.Z. to the DJFS. L.Z. has remained in the custody of the DJFS ever since. Following a dispositional hearing, the court adopted the case plan proposed by the state, resulting in L.Z.'s placement at the Richmeier Therapeutic Home, with supervised visitation rights granted to his parents.

{¶ 4} On June 13, 2011, the state filed an amended case plan that sought to move L.Z. to the Harvey Group Home, as well as establish the requirements for reunification of L.Z. with C.Z. The amended case plan was accepted by the court on July 27, 2011, and L.Z. was moved to the Harvey Group Home under a planned permanent living arrangement (PPLA).

{¶ 5} As a result of C.Z.'s failure to comply with the terms of the amended case plan, the state filed a motion for permanent custody on October 5, 2012, citing L.Z.'s wish to be adopted by his foster parents. The state's motion was opposed by C.Z.[1] The trial court appointed counsel for C.Z. and held a hearing on the motion on January 14, 2013. Following the hearing, the court granted the state's motion for permanent custody, concluding that the award of permanent custody to the DJFS was in L.Z.'s best interests. C.Z. subsequently filed this timely appeal, assigning the following error for our review: I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE MOTION

FOR PERMANENT CUSTODY WHEN THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING WAS INSUFFICIENT AS A MATTER OF LAW.

II. Analysis

{¶ 6} In Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000), the United States Supreme Court noted that parents' interest in the care, custody, and control of their children "is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court." The protection of the family unit has always been a vital concern of the courts. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972).

{¶ 7} Ohio courts have long held that "parents who are 'suitable' persons have a 'paramount' right to the custody of their minor children." In re Perales, 52 Ohio St.2d 89, 97, 369 N.E.2d 1047 (1977). Therefore, parents "must be afforded every procedural and substantive protection the law allows." In re Smith, ...


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