Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette
FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
Case No. AD20110034
J. Pitstick, for plaintiff-appellee Melissa S. Upthegrove,
Melissa S. Upthegrove, for defendant-appellant.
Judkins & Hayes, John W. Judkins, West Jefferson Street,
P.O., for appellee, Teresa Chaffin.
C. Weade, Fayette County Courthouse, for appellee Fayette
County Department of Job & Family Services.
Kristina Oesterle, P.O., Guardian Ad Litem.
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").
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 ...