IN RE: G.R.-Z. AND C.R.-Z.
FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE Nos. LC 15-10-0218, LC 15-10-0219
ELLEN LESLIE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
CHELSAY B. FINNEY, Attorney at Law, for
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
J. CARR FOR THE COURT
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.
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. 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.
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]."
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.
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.
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.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED [ITS] DISCRETION IN RULING THAT
[MOTHER] RELINQUISHED PARTIAL CUSTODY RIGHTS TO ...