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In re A.J.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

December 20, 2017

IN RE: A.J. A.J.

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE Nos. DN 14-07-0441 DN 14-07-0442.

          JASON D. WALLACE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN R. DIMARTINO, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          ELIZABETH ABBOTT, Guardian ad Litem.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JULIE A. SCHAFER, Presiding Judge.

         {¶1} Appellant, D.J. ("Father"), appeals from a judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, that placed two of his minor children in the legal custody of their paternal grandparents ("Grandparents"). This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} Father is the biological father of two children with the initials A.J.: a girl, born June 7, 2013; and a boy, born April 11, 2014. Although Father has other children, they are not parties to this appeal. The mother of A.J. and A.J. ("Mother") did not participate in the final dispositional hearing and did not appeal from the trial court's judgment.

         {¶3} Before this case began, Summit County Children Services Board ("CSB") had a voluntary case with this family because Mother had attempted suicide and CSB was also concerned about domestic violence and substance abuse in the home. Because Mother did not comply with the requirements of the voluntary case plan, CSB filed this involuntary case on July 10, 2014. A.J. and A.J. were later adjudicated dependent children and placed in the legal custody of CSB.

         {¶4} When this involuntary case began, Mother was living with Father, but had moved in and out of his home several times during their on and off relationship. Father and Mother's relationship had been plagued by ongoing domestic violence, often with Mother as the perpetrator. Even under a court-ordered case plan, Mother refused to engage in any services to address her serious mental health and substance abuse problems. Although the case plan did not require Father to end his relationship with Mother, it did require that they engage in counseling to address the violence in their relationship. Although Father complied with many of the requirements of the case plan, he did not engage in counseling with Mother and/or end his relationship with her. Mother did not maintain contact with CSB or the trial court and continued to struggle with mental health and substance abuse problems. Moreover, incidents of domestic violence continued between the parents throughout this case, including during the months that the final dispositional hearing was held.

         {¶5} Because Mother was not complying with the case plan, she was required to visit the children at the visitation center. Father was permitted to visit the children at the home of their relative caregiver. The children lived with an aunt during most of this case, but they were later placed in the home of Grandparents. CSB eventually moved to have the children placed in the legal custody of Grandparents and Father alternatively moved for legal custody of the children.

         {¶6} Following a four-day hearing that was held over several months, the magistrate decided that A.J. and A.J. should be placed in the legal custody of Grandparents. The trial court adopted the magistrate's decision the same day, pending the filing of timely, written objections. Father objected to the magistrate's decision, arguing only that the best interest finding was not supported by the evidence. The trial court overruled Father's objection and placed A.J. and A.J. in the legal custody of Grandparents. Father appeals and raises two assignments of error.

         II

         Assignment ...


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