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In re E.J.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

September 30, 2013



David P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Michael Greer, for Warren County Children Services

Andrea G. Ostrowski, for appellant, T.S.

Jeffrey W. Stueve, for CASA

Jeffery E. Richards, for father, V.J.



(¶ 1} Appellant (Mother), the biological mother of E.J., appeals a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting temporary custody of E.J. to Warren County Children Services (the agency) and also denying Mother's request to transfer the case to Michigan.[1]

(¶ 2} In June 2012, Mother was traveling from her home in Michigan to visit a friend in Columbus. However, Mother became lost when traveling on Interstate 75, and was pulled over by an Ohio State Highway Patrolman when other motorists reported that Mother was throwing objects from her car at passing vehicles. When the trooper approached the car, Mother drove off and led the trooper on a ten-minute police chase. Once Mother was finally apprehended in Franklin, the trooper found E.J. in the car wearing a urine-soaked diaper. Mother was highly incoherent, and as a result, was hospitalized in the psychiatric unit on a "72-hour hold." E.J. was taken into emergency shelter care by the agency and placed in a foster home because E.J.'s biological father (Father) was in drug rehabilitation center and remained unable to provide care for the child.

(¶ 3} A magistrate held a hearing on the agency's emergency custody motion, and granted temporary custody of E.J., who was approximately 20 months old at the time of the hearing, to the agency. The magistrate appointed separate attorneys to represent Mother and Father, and also ordered a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the child. Mother, who was later released from the hospital, was arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding, as well as child endangering as a result of her fleeing from the trooper. Mother was incarcerated for a short time, and later pled not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Upon her release from jail, Mother returned to Michigan where she was staying at a domestic violence shelter. When Mother appeared for criminal hearings, or other court dates in Ohio related to the fleeing incident, she visited with E.J.

(¶ 4} Mother, through her appointed counsel, moved to transfer the case to Michigan, arguing that it was too difficult for her to visit with E.J. in Ohio and that Michigan was the proper jurisdiction to promote reunification between herself and E.J. The agency argued against transferring the case, and asserted that Ohio held proper jurisdiction over the matter. The agency also began the process of placing E.J. with her paternal grandmother (Grandmother) in New Jersey, and was waiting on a final approved home study before transferring E.J. to Grandmother's care.

(¶ 5} E.J. had been placed with Grandmother on a prior occasion in 2011 after Mother had been pulled over by an officer and fled. Mother was charged with fleeing and endangering children after she abandoned one of her older daughters at a rest area, and fled police when they pulled Mother over. At the time Mother fled, E.J. and Mother's son were in the car. Mother's other children are now in the custody of their biological father. E.J. and Mother were reunified after E.J. was in Grandmother's care for approximately three to four months.

(¶ 6} The magistrate held a hearing and adjudicated E.J. dependent, and set the matter for a dispositional hearing. The magistrate heard arguments regarding Mother's motion to transfer, as well as the agency's request to maintain temporary custody of the child. The trial court denied Mother's motion to transfer the case and further ordered that the agency would maintain temporary custody of E.J. Mother then filed objections to the magistrate's decision, which the juvenile court overruled. After filing her objections, Mother was incarcerated in a Virginia jail for approximately 22 days for failing to appear for court hearings related to her 2011 fleeing and endangering charges. Once released from the Virginia jail, Mother returned to Michigan, where she has lived in three different residences since July 2012. During this time, Grandmother's home study received final approval, and the agency relocated E.J. to New Jersey to live with Grandmother. Mother now appeals the juvenile court's decision overruling her objections to the magistrate's decision, raising two assignments of error.

(¶ 7} Assignment of Error No. 1:


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