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In re A.M.R.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 21, 2017

IN RE: A.M.R. A Minor Child

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division Case No. PR 06703600

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Susan M. Jankite.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES For Father Jennifer L. Malensek Denise M. Cook Denise M. Cook Co., L.P.A. For Mother John V. Heutsche John V. Heutsche Co., L.P.A. For Maternal Grandfather James L. Lane Kohrman, Jackson & Krantz, P.L.L. Guardian Ad Litem Carla L. Golubovic.

          BEFORE: E.T. Gallagher, J., McCormack, P.J., and Jones, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN T. GALLAGHER, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, A.M.R., by and through counsel, appeals from the juvenile court's order denying counsel for A.M.R. access to the transcript of an in camera interview conducted during this private custody case. A.M.R. raises the following assignment of error for review:

The trial court erred in denying requests made by child's counsel, thus not affording the child appropriate status as a party in a custody proceeding and adversely impacting her basic procedural protections and right to zealous representation.

         {¶2} After careful review of the record and relevant case law, we reverse the juvenile court's judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Procedural and Factual History

         {¶3} This appeal stems from an order of the juvenile court during the pendency of custody proceedings involving Mother and Father's minor child, A.M.R. (d.o.b. 1/14/2006). Mother and Father were never married.

         {¶4} On July 7, 2011, Mother and Father entered into a shared parenting plan for A.M.R. On December 21, 2011, however, Father filed a motion for emergency termination of the shared parenting plan. In response, Mother opposed Father's motion and filed a motion for immediate sole custody of A.M.R. In her motion, Mother agreed that sole custody was necessary because Father had made fraudulent allegations of abuse against Mother to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.

         {¶5} The custody matter proceeded to trial in August 2016. Following several days of trial and various motions to continue, the trial was set to recommence on January 9, 2017, through January 13, 2017. On January 6, 2017, however, counsel for A.M.R. filed a motion to continue the trial to a later date because she injured her back and was unable to return to work by the date scheduled for trial.

         {¶6} On January 9, 2017, the trial court ordered the parties to appear for an attorney conference. Counsel for A.M.R. was unable to attend the conference in person due to her injury, but participated telephonically. During that discussion, the trial court advised the parties that an in camera interview of A.M.R. was necessary. Thus, the trial court conducted an in camera interview of A.M.R. on January 11, 2017. Counsel for A.M.R. was not present for the in camera interview, but concedes that she provided the trial court with consent to conduct the interview in her absence.

         {¶7} Following the January 11, 2017 in camera interview, counsel for A.M.R. filed a motion requesting "the trial court to order production of the transcript of the in camera interview held on January 11, 2017, and to provide the child's attorney access to the transcript." Counsel argued that production of the transcript was necessary for counsel to adequately advise and serve the child's best interests. Counsel for Mother filed a brief in opposition, arguing that counsel was not entitled to access the transcript pursuant to ...


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