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In re Adoption of J.R.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District

August 2, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: THE ADOPTION OF J.R.H.

Probate Appeal from Common Pleas Court-Juvenile Division Trial Court Case No. 2012-5037

JOHN C.A. JUERGENS, Atty. Reg. No. 37120, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant.

PATRICK J. CONBOY, II, Atty. Reg. No. 70073, Attorney for Defendants-Appellees.

OPINION

WELBAUM, J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, J.H., appeals from a trial court decision finding that she forfeited her right to withhold consent to the adoption of her minor child, J.R.H. J.H. contends that the trial court erred in finding that her consent was not necessary due to her lack of significant contact with the minor child. J.H. further contends that the trial court erred in failing to find justifiable cause for her lack of more than de minimis contact with J.R.H.

{¶ 2} We conclude that the trial court did not err in concluding that J.H. had no more than de minimis contact with J.R.H. We further conclude that the trial court did not err in finding that J.H. lacked justifiable cause for having had minimal contact with her child. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court will be affirmed.

I. Facts and Course of Proceedings

{¶ 3} In February 2008, J.H. gave birth to J.R.H., a female child. The child's biological father was L.H. From the time of the child's birth until February 2009, L.H., J.H., and J.R.H. lived primarily with E.H. and K.H., the paternal grandparents.

{¶ 4} In February 2009, J.H. and L.H. moved out of the house, leaving J.R.H. in the care of E.H. and K.H. Between February and September 2009, the parties had an oral agreement regarding visitation. However, in September 2009, an agreed order of custody was filed, giving E.H. and K.H. legal custody of the minor child. Under the agreement, J.H. was allowed parenting time every other week for two days, to be agreed upon by the parties. J.H. was required to give one-week prior notice of the days that she requested. Parenting time must also be agreed to by E.H. and K.H., and they were entitled to refuse parenting time if they determined that it would be unsafe or inappropriate for either parent to exercise parenting time.

{¶ 5} In 2009, J.H. exercised the following parenting time: 45 minutes in February; 30 minutes in March; six hours in April; four hours in May; no time in June; two hours in July; no time in August; 45 minutes in September, two hours in October, and one hour in December. There was a dispute about November 2009, as E.H. testified that no visitation occurred, and J.H. contended that she had seen J.R.H. on one evening.

{¶ 6} According to E.H., J.H. saw the minor child less each year. J.H. testified that she had seen J.R.H. once or twice a month in 2010, but she did not provide any specific dates or times. J.H. did indicate that her visitation was spotty and was not consistent. The last visitation J.H. had with the minor child was on May 26, 2011, which was more than a year before E.H. and K.H. filed a petition to adopt J.R.H.

{¶ 7} In April 2011, E.H. and J.H. exchanged text messages regarding why J.H. could not see J.R.H. unless she came to E.H.'s house. According to E.H., J.R.H. did not even know J.H., due to the infrequency of J.H.'s visits. E.H. stated that she would not permit J.H. to take the child out of the house after the child had gone several months without seeing her mother.

{¶ 8} In contrast, J.H. testified that E.H. began saying that she did not want J.R.H. to be around J.H. because she (J.H.) was a lesbian. After some angry texts were exchanged, E.H. then said that the issue was because J.H. had abused J.R.H.

{¶ 9} E.H. denied telling J.H. that her reason for requiring in-home visits was because J.H. was a lesbian. E.H. admitted to having heard rumors that J.H. was having "relations" with a lesbian who was HIV positive. However, her concern about J.H. taking J.R.H. away from the home was based on the fact that J.R.H. did not know J.H., and on the fact that J.H. had already admitted that her own mother, R.E., had been abusive to another grandchild.

{¶ 10} Despite these conversations, J.H. was permitted to see J.R.H. twice in May 2011. J.H. admitted at trial that she did not think that J.R.H. knew who she was in May 2011.

{¶ 11} J.H. testified that she asked to have J.R.H. brought to her college graduation at the end of May 2011 or early June, but E.H. refused. There is no evidence in the record that any ...


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