Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE: A.M.R. A Minor Child
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
T. GALLAGHER, J.
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
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.
Procedural and Factual History
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.
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.
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.
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.
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