Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
Case No. JN2014-0366
Jonathan W. Ford, Guardian Ad Litem
S. Garrett, for Appellant A.H.
J. Qucsai, III, for C.W.
Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney,
Government Services Center, for Butler County Department of
Job and Family Services
1} Appellant, A.H., the mother of C.L.H.
("Mother"), appeals from the decision of the Butler
County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting
legal custody of her daughter to J.H., the child's
paternal cousin and then temporary custodian
("Cousin"), as opposed to either her or to D.B.B.,
the child's maternal grandmother
("Grandmother"). For the reasons outlined below, we
2} The child at issue, C.L.H., was born on February
4, 2014. Several months after her birth, on September 19,
2014, Butler County Department of Job and Family Services
("BCDJFS") filed a complaint alleging C.L.H. was a
neglected and dependent child. The complaint was filed after
C.LH.'s father, C.W. ("Father"), left C.L.H.
with a family member claiming he was not able to properly
care for the child. At this time, C.L.H. was suffering from a
double ear infection and had a severe diaper rash. The
complaint further alleged that "[Father] was in another
county with a 16 year old runaway and [Mother] is using
heroin and has not been caring for [C.L.H.]." It is
undisputed that at the time the complaint was filed, Mother
was in jail and Father's whereabouts were unknown. C.L.H.
was then placed in the temporary custody of BCDJFS and
appointed a guardian ad litem.
3} On December 18, 2014, BCDJFS filed a motion
requesting the juvenile court to grant temporary custody of
C.L.H. to Cousin. The guardian ad litem agreed that such
placement would be in C.LH.'s best interest. The juvenile
court subsequently granted BCDJFS's motion and placed
C.L.H. in the temporary custody of Cousin. It is undisputed
that C.L.H. has remained in the temporary custody of Cousin
4} On January 23, 2015, C.L.H. was adjudicated a
neglected and dependent child. While Father attended the
adjudication hearing, Mother did not. The juvenile court then
held a disposition hearing and a case plan was established.
Just as with the adjudication hearing, Father attended this
hearing, whereas Mother did not. As part of its entry issued
following this hearing, the juvenile court stated that
"[i]n the event [Grandmother] contacts BCDJFS requesting
custody of this child, the BCDJFS shall conduct a home study
on [Grandmother]." It is undisputed that Grandmother
thereafter contacted BCDJFS and the home study of
Grandmother's home was approved.
5} On May 1, 2015, already having legal custody of
Mother's two other children, Grandmother filed a motion
requesting legal custody of C.L.H. The matter was then
scheduled for a review hearing on July 28, 2015. Following
this hearing, the juvenile court ordered new counsel be
appointed for Father. All other prior orders were continued.
6} On September 22, 2015, the juvenile court held
another review hearing. Following this hearing, both
Grandmother and Cousin were joined as parties to the action.
As before, all other prior orders were continued.
7} On December, 2015, Father filed a motion
requesting the juvenile court award legal custody of C.L.H.
to Cousin. Approximately three weeks later, on December 21,
2015, the juvenile court held yet another review hearing.
However, because counsel for Father did not appear, all prior
orders were again continued. The record further indicates
that new counsel was also appointed for Mother after her
former counsel was forced to withdraw.
8} On June 21, 2016, following still another review
hearing, a legal custody hearing was held before a juvenile
court magistrate on the parties' competing legal custody
motions. At this hearing, the magistrate heard testimony from
Mother, Father, Cousin, and Grandmother, among others. It is
undisputed that at no time during this hearing did Mother or
Grandmother object to the delay in conducting a hearing on
Grandmother's motion for legal custody. It is also
undisputed that Grandmother, who appeared pro se, did not
present any evidence in support of her motion for legal
custody. Following this ...