FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 2013GI00040
BRADLEY HULL, IV, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
ZAGRANS, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
A. SCHAFER PRESIDING JUDGE.
Appellant Mehdi Saghafi appeals the denial of his motion for
visitation by the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas,
Probate Division. For the reasons that follow, this Court
reverses and remands.
The Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division
found Fourough Bakhtiar incompetent to care for herself and
her property. The subsequent guardianship proceedings proved
contentious. This Court summarized those proceedings in a
previous appeal as follows:
Mehdi Saghafi and Fourough Bakhtiar are both in their
eighties and had been married for over 55 years when Mehdi
filed an application for appointment as guardian of his
wife's person based on allegations of her incompetence.
On the same day, Dariush Saghafi, one of the couple's
sons, filed an application for appointment as guardian of
Fourough's estate. Another son, Kourosh Saghafi, D.O.,
executed the statement of expert evaluation appended to both
applications. A month later, Fourough filed a complaint for
divorce from Mehdi in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations
Court. A couple days after that, the couple's only
daughter, Jaleh Presutto, filed an application for
appointment as guardian of her mother's person and
estate. She appended a statement of expert evaluation
conducted by a clinical neuropsychologist. Both experts who
evaluated Fourough concluded that she was suffering from
dementia. The Lorain County Probate Court subsequently found
Fourough incompetent to care for herself and her property and
determined that a guardianship was necessary. The probate
court appointed Jaleh as interim guardian of her mother's
person and Stephen Sartschev as interim guardian of
Fourough's estate. Two days later, the probate court
issued a judgment entry noting that it had conducted a
pretrial during which all parties agreed that a guardianship
was necessary for Fourough and that the court had appointed
interim guardians. The trial court further prohibited the
parties from proceeding with a final divorce hearing at that
This guardianship matter proceeded in a highly contentious
manner among Fourough's various family members. In
addition, other lawsuits pending in Cuyahoga County,
including the divorce proceedings between Mehdi and Fourough;
a civil action by Kourosh seeking to have Fourough's
earlier executed powers of attorney declared invalid; a civil
action by Mehdi against Jaleh; and a civil action by third
parties against Mehdi and Fourough's guardians
surrounding their refusal to transfer their interest in
certain real estate pursuant to a real estate contract, all
intertwined and served to complicate these matters to a
Subsequently, Kourosh filed an application for appointment as
guardian of his mother's person and estate. In addition,
Mehdi and his sons filed multiple motions to have Fourough
evaluated by an independent forensic psychiatrist and
independent physician notwithstanding the parties'
stipulation of incompetency and agreement that Fourough
needed a guardian and that the probate court had appointed
interim guardians for the ward and her estate. Mehdi and his
sons further repeatedly sought to remove and/or limit the
authority of Jaleh as her mother's guardian. The probate
court denied those requests. It continued to prohibit the
parties from proceeding with a final divorce hearing.
More than a year after the first application for appointment
of a guardian was filed, the parties and attorneys involved
in this matter, as well as some of the other legal matters
involving this family, exhibited ongoing contentious and
accusatory behaviors. While Fourough had two interim
guardians, she also had her own attorney (Stephen Wolf) who
moved to replace the guardian for the estate (Mr. Sartschev)
who allegedly was no longer permitted to hold a fiduciary
position. Mr. Wolf applied to the probate court to be
permitted to "step in and take over as guardian of the
estate[.]" Other members of Fourough's family
challenged Mr. Wolf's application, asserting that his
involvement with this matter, as well as his representation
of Jaleh's husband in a criminal matter, prevented him
from being a disinterested guardian. Mr. Sartschev informed
the probate court that he was required to resign as guardian
of the estate, and the trial court accepted his resignation.
The probate court further removed Jaleh as guardian of the
person and appointed attorney Zachary Simonoff as interim
guardian of both the person and estate of Fourough. Mr.
Simonoff filed a formal application for appointment as
guardian. The probate court issued letters of guardianship of
the estate to Mr. Simonoff and denied all other pending
applications for guardian of the estate. The court further
issued letters of guardianship to Mr. Simonoff as guardian of
Fourough's person, pending final hearing on the matter.
Again, the probate court ordered that neither the parties nor
the guardian may proceed with a final divorce hearing
relative to Mehdi and Fourough.
A year-and-a-half after the initiation of this guardianship
case, the probate court held a final hearing and issued a
final judgment disposing of the pending applications. It
denied the applications for guardianship filed by Mehdi
Saghafi, Dariush Saghafi, and Kourosh Saghafi. It issued
letters of guardianship of the person of Fourough to Jaleh
Presutto and letter of guardianship of the estate of Fourough
to Zachary Simonoff. [In] addition, the probate court ordered
Fourough's attorney, Stephen Wolf, to "file [a]
brief with Court on issue of divorce of the Ward." The
court granted a 21-day period for responses to Attorney Wolfs
Fourough, through Attorney Wolf, moved for an order allowing
Mehdi and Fourough to proceed with a final divorce hearing.
The guardian of the estate filed a brief in support. Mehdi
filed briefs in opposition to both. Upon consideration of the
briefs, the probate court ordered that "the Guardian is
to proceed in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations case
through to final divorce."
In re Guardianship of Fourough Bakhtiar, 9th Dist.
Lorain No. 15CA010721, 2016-Ohio-8199, ...