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In re R.L.P.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

August 28, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: R.L.P.

         APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case No. JS2016-0286

          O'Connor, Mikita & Davidson LLC, Michael J. O'Connor, for appellant.

          Patricia A. Baas, for appellee.

          OPINION

          S. POWELL, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, a mother ("Mother"), appeals from the decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting legal custody of her son, R.L.P., to appellee, the child's father ("Father"). For the reasons outlined below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} R.L.P. was born on September 13, 2012. Mother and Father were never married. Following R.L.P.'s birth, Mother and Father agreed to a parenting time schedule and for Father to pay Mother child support.

         {¶ 3} The following facts are taken from text a message conversation between Mother and Father that was authenticated by Father and admitted into evidence by the juvenile court. The text messages, including all spelling, spacing, grammar, and punctuation, appear as written by the parties. All other facts are taken from Father's testimony before the juvenile court.

         {¶ 4} On the morning of April 22, 2016, the day Mother was supposed to drop R.L.P. off with Father, Mother sent Father a text message informing Father she was "sorry" for not telling him sooner, but she was taking R.L.P. to Florida on vacation to visit her mother for two weeks. In response, Father exhibited frustration with Mother's late notice, wherein he specifically stated "you should have told me!" Once in Florida, Mother was involved in a car accident that totaled her car and prevented her from returning home to Ohio as planned. At the time she left for Florida, it is undisputed that Mother's then address was 3685 Dixie Highway, Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio. It is also undisputed that although Father knew Mother was somewhere in Winter Haven, Florida, Father did not know the specific address where Mother was staying.

         {¶ 5} On April 27, 2016, Father texted Mother and asked if he could fly to Florida to pick up R.L.P. and return him to Ohio, which would then allow Mother to find an alternative way home. To this, Mother responded by stating, "[n]o thanks, we'll figure something else out." Thereafter, on May 1, 2016, in response to Father's inquiry as to whether Mother was able to find a new car so that she and R.L.P. could return home to Ohio, Mother informed Father that "[p]lans to come home obviously suspended until we have reliable transportation." The following text exchange then occurred:

[Father]: Would not take more then a day to find something up here, why want to meet him at airport and fly back with him. You can bus back or what ever. You took this trip with no back up plan, that's very dangerous.
[Mother]: We aren't in any danger. Accidents happen. We're having a fun vacation. No need to worry. I didn't have a back up plan at home either, a new car is the back up plan. Stop badgering me.

         {¶ 6} Approximately one week later, on May 5, 2016, Father filed a complaint for shared parenting or alternatively for parenting time. Father also filed a child custody affidavit that listed Mother's last known address as 3685 Dixie Highway, Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio. Later that day, Father texted Mother and offered to buy her and R. L.P. plane tickets to fly from Florida back home to Ohio. The record does not contain any response from Mother.

         {¶ 7} After another week passed, on May 11, 2016, Mother texted Father claiming she had bought a car "but it needs work." The next day, May 12, 2016, Father texted Mother asking if she had any idea when R.L.P. would be back home in Ohio. Mother responded by texting "[i]t's going to cost LOTS to fix the [car], trying to come up with a plan now." Father then texted Mother asking "[w]ill money get him back here!?, " to which Mother responded "I'm working on it."

         {¶ 8} Prior to this exchange, on May 10, 2016, a notice of the hearing scheduled on Father's complaint for shared parenting was sent to Mother's last known address at 3685 Dixie Highway, Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio, by both regular and certified mail. The certified mailing was returned as undeliverable on May 26, 2016, whereas the ordinary mailing was returned as ...


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