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O'Conner v. Stires

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette

December 11, 2017

REGINA O'CONNER, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
JASON STIRES, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case No. AD20110034

          Mark J. Pitstick, for plaintiff-appellee Melissa S. Upthegrove, for defendant-appellant.

          Melissa S. Upthegrove, for defendant-appellant.

          Judkins & Hayes, John W. Judkins, West Jefferson Street, P.O., for appellee, Teresa Chaffin.

          Jess C. Weade, Fayette County Courthouse, for appellee Fayette County Department of Job & Family Services.

          Kristina Oesterle, P.O., Guardian Ad Litem.

          OPINION

          M. POWELL, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Jason Stires ("Father"), appeals a decision of the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting legal custody of his daughter, J.S., to the child's maternal grandmother, Teresa Chaffin ("Grandmother").[1]

         {¶ 2} Regina O'Conner ("Mother") and Father are the unmarried parents of J.S., who was born in September 2010. The parties lived together from late 2009 to early 2013. Following the parties' separation, J.S. remained with Mother. The parties' testimony indicates that sometime in 2013, Father was granted standard parenting time with J.S. by court order.

         {¶ 3} In July 2016, Mother was arrested and charged with several criminal offenses. J.S. was released to Grandmother. Upon release from jail, Mother entered into a safety plan with the Fayette County Department of Job & Family Services ("the Agency"). Under the safety plan, J.S. was to stay with Grandmother and Mother was to have supervised visitation.

         {¶ 4} On July 21, 2016, Father moved for emergency custody. That same day, the juvenile court denied Father's motion for emergency custody, ostensibly construed Father's motion as a motion for custody, and scheduled a hearing for August 4, 2016. By judgment entry filed on August 5, 2016, the juvenile court granted temporary custody of J.S. to the Agency, noting the lack of evidence presented at the hearing, Mother's unresolved pending criminal charges, and the fact J.S. had been placed with Grandmother pursuant to the safety plan. Upon receiving temporary custody of J.S., the Agency placed the child with Grandmother. The safety plan was terminated. Father's parenting time with J.S. was increased.

         {¶ 5} Subsequently, Grandmother moved for custody of J.S. In turn, Father filed a motion to modify parental rights and responsibilities, seeking custody. The juvenile court held a hearing on the motions on March 7, 2017. Mother, Father, Grandmother, the guardian ad litem for J.S., a caseworker from the Agency, and two relatives testified at the hearing. Mother testified that in exchange for her recent guilty plea to criminal charges, she was going to be incarcerated for four years and nine months. Mother stated her desire that legal custody of J.S. be granted to Grandmother. Both at the hearing and in a report filed prior to the hearing, the guardian ad litem recommended that legal custody be granted to Grandmother and that Father's current parenting time be continued. The caseworker stated she had no concerns with either Father or Grandmother being granted legal custody. Father's relative testified Father had the ability to parent J.S. full time.

         {¶ 6} On March 15, 2017, the juvenile court granted legal custody of J.S. to Grandmother and standard parenting time to Father. Upon considering the factors set forth in R.C. 3109.04(F)(1) and noting Mother's wish that Grandmother be granted legal custody, the fact that Grandmother and Father live in close proximity to one another, and Grandmother's shown adaptability in fostering visitation with both parents, the juvenile court found it was in the best interest of J.S. to grant legal custody to Grandmother. Father subsequently filed a motion for a new trial and relief from judgment which was denied by the juvenile court.

         {¶ 7} Father now appeals, raising three ...


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