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In re E.Z.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District

August 5, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: E.Z.H. AND B.E.H.

Appeal from the Holmes County Court of Common Pleas, Probate and Juvenile Division, Case No. 12C088/12C089

For Plaintiffs-Appellants: Mary Logan and James Logan, DAN GUINN, Guinn Law Firm LLC.

For Defendant-Appellee: Mindy Haven, MINDY HAVEN, pro se.

JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J., Hon. William B. Hoffman, J., Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

OPINION

Delaney, J.

(¶1} Appellants James and Sherry Logan appeal from the September 18, 2012 decision of the Holmes County Court of Common Pleas, Probate and Juvenile Division, granting legal custody of E.Z.H. and B.E.H. to appellee Mindy Haven. Appellee did not file a brief in this appeal.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

(¶2} Appellee Mindy Haven ("Mother") is the mother of E.Z.H. and B.E.H ("minor children"). She is currently married to Bruce Haven ("Father"), although the parties live separate and apart and intend to divorce. In 2006, however, Mother and Father were still together, and Children's Services initiated an investigation of the family due to issues of drug abuse and cleanliness of the home. At that time, Mother and Father agreed to give custody of the minor children to Mother's sister, Tabitha Cutright ("Aunt"). Mother testified she was given the option of voluntarily giving up custody to Aunt or taking a drug test; she agreed to relinquish custody because she could not have passed a drug test. In 2008, Mother, Father, and Aunt agreed to give custody of the minor children to appellees Sherry Logan ("Grandmother") and James Logan ("Step-Grandfather"). The minor children have remained in the grandparents' custody since 2008.

Mother Seeks Restoration of Custody

(¶3} On April 5, 2012, Mother filed a "Complaint for Custody" of each minor child, asserting that she had changed, and was ready to be a mother to her children, and able to provide them with a stable environment. A trial was held; evidence at the trial consisted entirely of testimonial evidence from various family members including Grandmother, Mother, Father, Aunt, Mother's paramour Michael Brillhart, Brillhart's daughter, and maternal Grandfather. With the exception of Grandmother, all of these witnesses support Mother's bid for custody of the minor children.[1]

Grandmother and Step-Grandfather Provided a Home Since 2008

(¶4} Grandmother has had custody of the minor children since 2008 and while she understood it was a temporary arrangement and either parent could eventually seek to regain custody, she now opposes Mother's Complaint for custody. Her opposition is two-fold: Mother is not able to provide the minor children with a stable environment because she is dependent upon Brillhart to have a place to live, and if Mother gets custody, the minor children will have to change schools.

(¶5} Currently, Grandmother permits Mother visitation every other weekend. Technically Father gets alternate weekends, although he has only exercised visitation twice. Grandmother expressed that she is afraid of losing the minor children and has told them this. She testified she has restricted Mother (and Father's) overnight visitation with the minor children occasionally because she didn't know who the children would be staying with. She doesn't know Brillhart's 22-year-old son who lives in the home Brillhart shares with Mother, or Father's fiancé. Grandmother stated she tries to "keep track" of what's happening on the visitations by questioning the children about what they did while they were away.

(ΒΆ6} Grandmother acknowledged Mother is a good mother who interacts appropriately with the minor children. Mother tries to contact the minor children more often than every other weekend, but Grandmother continues to keep every other weekend available for Father, although Father has admittedly only seen the minor children twice since Grandmother obtained custody. Grandmother is concerned that ...


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