Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
From: Hamilton County Juvenile Court TRIAL NO. F15-732x
Laursen & Lucas and Erik W. Laursen for Appellant Mother,
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Ronald
M. Geers, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee
Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services,
Raymond T. Faller, Hamilton County Public Defender, and
Allison McWhorter, Assistant Hamilton County Public Defender,
Guardian Ad Litem for S.R.
Mother appeals the Hamilton County Juvenile Court's
judgment adopting the magistrate's decision that granted
legal custody of S.R., her minor child, to the child's
paternal great-grandparents. In one assignment of error,
Mother contends that the trial court failed to conduct a
thorough analysis of S.R.'s best interest. For the
following reasons, we overrule Mother's assignment of
error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.
is a Final Order in this Case
We must always satisfy ourselves that we have jurisdiction to
hear an appeal. This court has "such jurisdiction as may
be provided by law to review and affirm, modify, or reverse
judgments or final orders of the courts of record inferior to
the court of appeals within the district * * * ."
Article IV, Section 3(B)(2), Ohio Constitution. We recently
held that a trial court's entry is not a final order if
it merely adopts a magistrate's decision without
including a clear pronouncement of its judgment that
expresses the parties' responsibilities and obligations.
In re A.T., 1st Dist. Hamilton Nos. C-160597,
C-160598 and C-160599, 2017-Ohio-5821, ¶ 10;
see R.C. 2505.02; Juv.R. 40(D)(4)(e). A.T.
does not apply in this case for two independently sufficient
reasons. First, the juvenile court signed the decision during
the objection period, adopted it, and entered it as a
judgment of the court, which became final when the objections
were overruled. See Juv.R. 40(D)(4)(e)(i) and
40(D)(4)(d). Second, the disposition was stated in the trial
court's judgment entry, and the magistrate's decision
was accepted and approved. Either of these acts was
sufficient to render the order appealed from final because
each judgment entry clearly set forth the parties'
responsibilities and obligations. Accordingly, we are vested
with jurisdiction to hear this appeal.
Harrison police officers contacted the Hamilton County
Department of Job and Family Services ("HCJFS") in
January 2015 with concerns about deplorable living conditions
and Mother's mental health. S.R. was placed with her
maternal great-grandparents, and HCJFS completed a short-term
safety plan. Conditions improved, and S.R. was returned to
her Mother's care. Soon after, police charged Mother with
child endangering and possession of drug paraphernalia. The
magistrate determined S.R. was at imminent risk of probable
physical and emotion harm, granted HCJFS's motion for
interim temporary custody, and placed S.R. in a foster home.
In May 2015, the trial court adjudicated S.R. abused,
neglected, and dependent. HCJFS was granted two extensions of
temporary custody, and in March 2017, HCJFS moved to
terminate temporary custody and award legal custody of S.R.
to her paternal great-grandparents. S.R.'s guardian ad
litem agreed, and the trial court granted HCJFS's motion.
Pursuant to R.C. 2151.353, after a child is adjudicated
abused, neglected, or dependent, the trial court may
"[a]ward legal custody of the child to * * * any other
person who, prior to the dispositional hearing, files a
motion requesting legal custody of the child or is identified
as a proposed legal custodian in a complaint or motion filed
prior to the dispositional hearing by any party to the
proceedings." R.C. 2151.353(A)(3). When determining to
whom legal custody should be awarded, the juvenile court
should base its determination on the best interest of the
child. See In re Allah, 1st Dist. Hamilton No.
C-040239, 2005-Ohio-1182, ¶ 10. We will not reverse the
trial court's award of custody absent an abuse of
discretion. See In re Needom, 1st Dist. Hamilton
Nos. C-080107 and C-080121, 2008-Ohio-2196, ¶ 14. An
abuse of discretion "connotes more than an error of law
or of judgment; it implies an unreasonable, arbitrary or
unconscionable attitude on the part of the court."
See Pembaur v. Leis, 1 Ohio St.3d 89, 91, 437 N.E.2d
In determining the best interest of the child, we look to the
best-interest factors set forth in R.C. 2151.414. In re
A.C., 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-140273, 2015-Ohio-153,
¶ 6. These factors include the child's interactions
and relationships with his or her parents, relatives, and
foster caregivers or any other out-of-home providers; the
wishes of the child, expressed directly through the child or
through the child's guardian ad litem; the custodial
history of the child; and the child's need for a legally
secure placement. See R.C. 2151.414(D)(1).
In her sole assignment of error, Mother complains that the
magistrate failed to adequately weigh S.R.'s best
interest and improperly weighed the criminal history of
Mother's ex-boyfriend. While the trial court did consider
the ex-boyfriend's criminal history, the record contains
ample evidence to support the trial court's
Here, the record demonstrates that the trial court properly
considered S.R.'s best interest when it awarded legal
custody to S.R.'s paternal great-grandparents. When S.R.
was placed in foster care, she was five years old and she had
not been receiving medical care. She had four cavities and
had to have six teeth pulled. Initially, Mother made
significant progress toward the goal of reunification by
completing the Mental Health Court supervision program, but
her attendance at appointments with her counselor and
psychiatrist since that time was inconsistent. While S.R.
expressed a desire to return to her Mother's care while
she was in foster care, Mother was cited with drug-related
offenses during this period and attended at least two therapy
appointments with S.R. smelling of marijuana. Mother also
missed two random urine screens and ...