Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Belmont
Appeal from Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division of
Belmont County, Ohio Case No. 16 BE 0045.
Appellant Attorney Sandra Nicholoff
Appellee Attorney Grace Hoffman
JUDGES: Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Carol
Respondent-appellant, Paul B., appeals from the Belmont
County Probate Court judgment granting the adoption of
J.F.R-W to petitioner-appellee, Heath W., who is the husband
to the child's mother, Jessica W.
Paul married Jessica in 2006. They had a child, J.F.R-W, in
2008. Paul and Jessica's marriage eventually ended in
divorce. As part of the divorce, Jessica was granted custody
of J.F.R-W, and Paul was to have visitation.
Over time, contact between Paul and the child declined until
Paul finally texted Jessica's phone to wish the child a
happy birthday on January 10, 2015, his last contact.
Jessica eventually married Heath, who filed a petition to
adopt the child on May 24, 2016. Paul refused to consent to
the adoption. So the Belmont County Probate Court held a
hearing to determine whether or not the adoption could
After the hearing, the court found that Paul had failed
without justifiable cause to provide more than de
minimis contact with the child over the year preceding
the petition. Therefore the court granted the adoption
without Paul's consent. Paul timely filed a notice of
appeal on September 14, 2016.
Paul's sole assignment of error states:
THE PROBATE COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT HELD
THAT APPELLANT, PAUL [B.]'S, CONSENT WAS NOT NECESSARY IN
THE ADOPTION OF HIS MINOR CHILD BECAUSE HE FAILED TO MAINTAIN
MORE THAN DE MINIMIS CONTACT WITHOUT JUSTIFICATION.
Paul focuses on the without-justifiable-cause element and
argues that competent and credible evidence supports the
position that Jessica's interference justified his lack
of contact with the child.
He quotes the Ohio Supreme Court for the proposition that
significant interference by a custodial parent justifies the
other parent's failure to make contact with the child.
In re Adoption of Holcomb, 18 Ohio St.3d 361,
367-368, 481 N.E.2d 613 (1985).
Paul then highlights portions of the record, which, he
argues, show significant interference by Jessica justifying
his lack of contact.
Paul refers to her: failing to encourage visitation; ignoring
his calls and texts; changing the child's residence
without telling him; blocking him on social media; quickly
leaving when she and the child encountered him in a parking
lot; failing to recall having missed his calls, despite phone
records; calling an adoption lawyer two days after Paul
raised the subject of visitation at a support hearing; and,
finally, having Paul served by publication for the
child's name change, and then by mail at his mother's
for the adoption; and then giving conflicting answers about
whether or not she knew that Paul's mother actually lived
at that address.
Paul concludes his argument by asserting that the foregoing
represents competent and credible evidence in support of the
contention that Jessica's interference justified his lack
of contact. Accordingly, Paul seeks for this Court to reverse