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Bell v. Bell

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Tuscarawas

April 3, 2017

JAMES BELL, JR. Defendant-Appellant

         Appeal from the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2014TC060235

          For Plaintiff-Appellee DAN GUINN, Guinn Law Firm, LLC.

          For Defendant-Appellant MICHAEL C. JOHNSON Johnson, Urban & Range Co., LPA.

          JUDGES: Hon. William B. Hoffman, P.J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.


          HOFFMAN, P.J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant James Bell, Jr. ("Father") appeals the October 20, 2016 Judgment Entry entered by the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas, which overruled his objections to the magistrate's July 14, 2016 decision, and approved and adopted the magistrate's findings of fact and conclusions of law with modifications. Plaintiff-appellee is Jessica Bell, nka Jessica Rufener ("Mother).


         {¶2} The parties were married on February 12, 2000, in New Philadelphia, Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Two children were born as issue of the marriage, to wit: Dakota Bell (DOB 07/12/00) and Autumn Bell (DOB 12/22/2003). Mother filed a complaint for divorce on June 18, 2014. The parties entered into a shared parenting plan as well as a separation agreement which were incorporated into the divorce decree filed February 25, 2015.

         {¶3} The shared parenting plan named Father as the primary residential parent of Dakota and Mother as the primary residential parent of Autumn. The shared parenting plan required Mother and Dakota to continue counseling, working towards standard visitation. In addition, the shared parenting plan provided:

So long as Dakota is home schooled, he shall attend QDA [Quaker Digital Academy] classroom not less than three days per week for not less than two hours[1]. Father shall provide transportation for two trips each week and Mother shall provide transportation for one trip each week.

         {¶4} Mother filed a motion to reallocate parental rights and responsibilities with respect to Dakota on August 21, 2015. Therein, Mother asserted it was no longer in Dakota's best interest for Father to be his residential parent and legal custodian. Mother maintained, contrary to the shared parenting plan, Father was not ensuring Dakota's attendance at QDA during the week and was not properly supervising Dakota. Mother added Father was no longer facilitating visitation between her and Dakota, was not attending to Dakota's medical issues, and was not exercising his parenting time with Autumn.

         {¶5} At a hearing before the magistrate on January 15, 2016, the parties reached an agreement as to some of the issues raised in Mother's motion. The magistrate issued an Interim Order on January 19, 2016, adopting the parties' agreement. The Order provided Dakota would attend the physical location of QDA Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm; and complete his current economics class by the end of January, 2016, and make significant progress in his next scheduled class. The parties anticipated Dakota would be at high school sophomore grade level by June 3, 2016, as he was approximately one and a half years behind in school. The Order further provided if Dakota failed to attend QDA five hours per day or did not show the required percentage of progress, he would be immediately transferred to the local public high school.

         {¶6} The magistrate conducted a full hearing on Mother's motion on June 14, 2016. Via Magistrate's Decision filed July 14, 2016, the magistrate recommended no change in custody, but ordered Dakota be enrolled in traditional public high school in Father's school district for the 2016-2017 academic year. The magistrate further recommended both parties actively participate in the reunification counseling to repair Dakota's relationship with Mother and follow all recommendations of Dakota's counselor, and Dakota continue to participate in individual counseling until successfully discharged by his counselor.

         {¶7} Father filed objections to the magistrate's decision on July 27, 2016. Specifically, Father objected to the magistrate's finding Dakota's school attendance and progress remained substandard, and argued the child should not be forced to go to public school. Father also challenged the magistrate's failure to rule on the issue of reimbursement to him for medical insurance costs. ...

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