Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Tuscarawas
from the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas, Case No.
Plaintiff-Appellee DAN GUINN, Guinn Law Firm, LLC.
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.
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
OF THE FACTS AND CASE
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,
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. Father shall provide
transportation for two trips each week and Mother shall
provide transportation for one trip each week.
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.
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.
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.
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. ...