FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. DN 13-10-644
E. FERGUSON, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
J. LAX, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN DIMARTINO,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
KERNAN, Guardian ad Litem.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
Appellant, Linda S. ("Mother"), appeals from two
judgments of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas,
Juvenile Division: one that placed her minor child in the
legal custody of a maternal aunt, and a later judgment that
decreased her weekly parenting time with the child from two
to three unsupervised, overnight visits to two supervised
visits of no more than four hours. This Court affirms.
Mother is the biological mother of R.S., born September 7,
2011, the only child at issue in this appeal. The child's
father did not appeal from the trial court's judgments.
Mother has older children who were removed from her custody
many years ago because Mother had serious mental health
problems and abused some of her children. Mother was
convicted of felony child endangering and served a seven-year
term of incarceration. Although Mother would later describe
her acts of abuse as extreme physical discipline, CSB
described the acts as torture, explaining that Mother had
repeatedly inflicted pain on her children by beating and
burning them, forcing them to eat their own vomit, and
withholding medical treatment.
Mother has suffered from serious mental health problems since
childhood and has received treatment only intermittently over
the years. On October 2, 2013, R.S. was removed from
Mother's custody pursuant to Juv.R. 6 because Mother was
admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward and CSB was unable to
find a relative to care for the child at that time. Mother
was not taking her prescribed psychiatric medications and was
exhibiting symptoms of delusional thinking. Mother remained
in treatment for 90 days pursuant to an involuntary
commitment order of the probate court.
Mother later agreed that R.S. should be adjudicated a
dependent child and be placed in the temporary custody of
CSB. Mother's visits with R.S. were initially supervised
because her irrational thinking posed a threat to the child.
After Mother appeared to have stabilized her mental health
through counseling and medication, the trial court expanded
Mother's visits with R.S. to unsupervised, overnight
visits in Mother's home.
CSB eventually moved to place R.S. in the legal custody of a
maternal aunt ("Aunt"), with whom he had been
living for the past year. Mother alternatively moved for
legal custody of R.S. Prior to the final dispositional
hearing, CSB moved for an order to relieve it from making
reasonable efforts to reunify R.S. with Mother because Mother
had been convicted of felony child endangering with respect
to the child's older siblings. See R.C.
2151.419(A)(2)(a). The trial court issued a reasonable
efforts bypass order two days later.
The matter proceeded to a hearing before a magistrate on the
competing motions for legal custody. Evidence at the hearing
revealed that, although Mother was taking psychiatric
medication, she was no longer in counseling and CSB, mental
health experts, and the guardian ad litem continued to have
concerns about the ongoing stability of her mental health.
The magistrate decided that legal custody to Aunt was in the
best interest of R.S. Mother filed timely objections to the
magistrate's decision. The trial court later overruled
her objections and placed R.S. in the legal custody of Aunt.
The trial court also ordered, among other things, that Mother
pay no child support, that she have two overnight visits with
R.S. each week, and that Aunt had the discretion to schedule
a third overnight visit depending on "her assessment of
One month later, without notifying Aunt or CSB, Mother
contacted Akron Children's Hospital and R.S.'s
counselor to report that R.S. had disclosed numerous acts of
abuse by Aunt. An investigation failed to reveal any abuse.
Instead, CSB became concerned that Mother was exhibiting
symptoms of distorted thinking, as her allegations were
incredible and tended to reflect her own acts or thoughts
about abuse of children.
CSB moved to restrict Mother's visits with R.S. and
requested an immediate hearing on the motion. The agency
requested that Mother's visits with R.S. be supervised
because it was concerned about Mother's mental health and
believed that she posed a risk to R.S. if unsupervised visits
were to continue. That same day, the trial court issued a
temporary order that Mother's visits with R.S. be
supervised, pending a hearing and further order of the court.
Following a hearing before a magistrate and, after overruling
Mother's objections to the magistrate's decision, the
trial court ordered that Mother's visits be supervised
and that they be reduced to two visits of "up to four
Mother appealed from each judgment and her appeals were later
consolidated. She raises four assignments of error to the
trial court's legal custody judgment (Appeal Number
27857) and two assignments of error to its modification of
her parenting time with R.S. (Appeal Number 28073). This
Court will address each appeal separately and will
consolidate some of the assigned errors for ease of review.