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Blessing v. Blessing

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

May 19, 2017

DARYL A. BLESSING Plaintiff-Appellee
DEBRA M. BLESSING Defendant-Appellant

         Trial Court Case No. 2014-DR-762 (Domestic Relations Appeal)

          DARYL A. BLESSING, Plaintiff-Appellee-Pro Se.

          CHARLES D. LOWE, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant.


          TUCKER, J.

         {¶ 1} Debra Ford (formerly known as Blessing) appeals from a judgment of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, which terminated a shared parenting plan, named Ford the sole custodian and residential parent of the parties' children, and maintained equal parenting time for her ex-husband, Daryl Blessing. Ford contends that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to restrict Blessing's parenting time.

         {¶ 2} We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that maintaining the week-to-week parenting already employed by the parties is in the best interest of the minor children. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court will be affirmed.

         I. Factual Background

         {¶ 3} Blessing and Ford were married in February 2001 and divorced in February 2015. They have three minor children who were born during the marriage. Pursuant to a shared parenting agreement incorporated into the final judgment and decree of divorce, the parties agreed to share legal custody of the children. Ford was designated as the residential parent solely for the purpose of receiving public benefits on behalf of the children. The agreement provided that the parties would have equal, week-to-week parenting time with the children. Holiday parenting time followed the Montgomery County Standard Order of Parenting Time.

         {¶ 4} In November 2015, Ford filed a motion to terminate the shared parenting agreement. Her motion requested that she be designated the sole legal and residential custodian of the children. Thereafter, Blessing filed a motion to terminate the shared parenting agreement. He also requested sole custody of the children. Neither motion made a specific request for a modification of parenting time.

         {¶ 5} A hearing was conducted in April 2016. The evidence adduced at the hearing indicates that, since the initiation of the divorce proceedings, Ford has resided in approximately five different residences. At some point following the parties' separation, Ford became engaged to another man with whom she and the children resided. The evidence indicates that this man was involved in a burglary in May 2015 when he was shot and killed by the police. In July 2015, Ford became romantically involved with her employer. In August 2015, Ford was convicted of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Ford and the children moved into the employer's home sometime the same month.[1]

         {¶ 6} Ford testified that Blessing abused her during the marriage. She testified that he broke her nose on one occasion. She testified that on another occasion, Blessing choked her until she passed out. She testified that she did not file charges. Ford further testified that during their separation, Blessing attempted to force his way into her parents' home while she was residing there. Ford obtained a protection order against Blessing. She testified that Blessing was convicted of violating the protection order. Ford testified that Blessing had punished her now adult sons, born of a different relationship, by making them hold brooms above their heads. She testified that she and the minor children attend counseling due to the abuse by Blessing. She testified that Blessing permits the children to miss school, but also testified that they are doing well in school. She also testified that she permits the children to miss school.

         {¶ 7} Ford's adult sons, T. and J., testified. Both of them lived with Blessing and Ford while they were children. T. testified that he did not get along with Blessing, and that he worried that the minor children would be subjected to mental abuse and improper discipline if they lived with Blessing. He testified that Blessing used inappropriate language around him and J., as well as around the minor boy, but that he did not do so around the two minor girls.

         {¶ 8} J. testified that Blessing had punished him and T. by having them hold sledgehammers over their heads for 45 minutes. He then noted that they were able to take breaks during the punishment. He testified that this would occur when he and his brother would engage in physical fights. He testified that the sledgehammers were used after other punishments were deemed ineffective. There was no evidence that Ford objected to this type of punishment.

         {¶ 9} Blessing presented the testimony of his daughter and his sister. Both testified that Blessing is not violent and that he is a good parent. They testified that the minor children are bonded to Blessing. Blessing also testified that he has lived in his current home for six years. He is self-employed and works from home. He testified that he raised Ford's sons from a previous relationship for 15 years. He ...

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