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In re G.R.-Z.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

November 1, 2017

IN RE: G.R.-Z. AND C.R.-Z.

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE Nos. LC 15-10-0218, LC 15-10-0219

          MARY ELLEN LESLIE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          CHELSAY B. FINNEY, Attorney at Law, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          DONNA J. CARR FOR THE COURT

         {¶1} Appellant S.Z. and cross-appellant R.K. have appealed the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. This Court reverses and remands.

         I.

         {¶2} S.Z. ("Domestic Partner") and R.K., fka R.R. and R.R.-Z., ("Mother") were in a romantic relationship for a number of years. Same-sex marriage was not legally recognized during the course of their relationship, and the two never married. They did, however, participate in a civil commitment ceremony. Mother conceived twins (G.R.-Z. and C.R.-Z., d.o.b. 1/5/2012) while the women were still romantically involved. J.A. donated his sperm for the conception and signed an agreement relinquishing his parental rights to the children and releasing him from any obligation to pay child support.[1] Genetic testing established J.A. as the biological father of the twins. Mother intended for J.A. to remain a part of the children's lives and that the parties would refer to J.A. as an uncle until Mother decided to tell them about their conceptions.

         {¶3} Mother's and Domestic Partner's relationship soured, and the women separated in March 2014. Domestic Partner moved out of Mother's home, where the children resided, in July 2014. In June 2015, the parties executed an agreement whereby Domestic Partner was to have some visitation with the children, as well as an obligation to bear some financial responsibility for their "basic living expense[s]."

         {¶4} In October 2015, Domestic Partner initiated an action in the juvenile court by filing a "motion for legal custody" of the children, and appending the parties' agreement and a parenting proceeding affidavit. Pending hearing on the motion, Domestic Partner had weekly two-hour supervised visitations with the children. In April 2016, Domestic Partner moved the court for an order allowing her sister to attend visitations with her. A few weeks later, the juvenile court expanded Domestic Partner's visitation to weekly four-hour unsupervised visitations on alternating Saturdays and Sundays.

         {¶5} Mother moved to dismiss Domestic Partner's motion for legal custody pursuant to Civ.R. 12(C) on the pleadings. Domestic Partner responded in opposition, while J.A. joined in Mother's motion to dismiss. The juvenile court denied the motion to dismiss.

         {¶6} The matter proceeded to hearing on Domestic Partner's motion for legal custody. The juvenile court issued its judgment in which it found that (1) Mother contractually permanently relinquished some portion of her right to exclusive custody of the children, (2) Domestic Partner failed to demonstrate that it was in the best interest of the children that Mother and Domestic Partner share custody, and (3) the juvenile court lacked the jurisdiction to award Domestic Partner visitation with the children. Domestic Partner and Mother timely filed their respective notices of appeal and cross-appeal. Mother and Domestic Partner each raise one assignment of error for review.

         II.

         MOTHER'S ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED [ITS] DISCRETION IN RULING THAT [MOTHER] RELINQUISHED PARTIAL CUSTODY RIGHTS TO ...

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