Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF D.D.G AND D.R.G.
Court Case No. 17-ADP-58 17-ADP-59 (Appeal from Domestic
II Appellant, Pro Se.
Appellee, Pro Se.
1} Appellant, T.W. II, father of two children who
are the subjects of step-parent adoption petitions,
challenges the trial court's determination that his
consent to the adoptions is not required on the basis that he
"failed without justifiable cause to provide more than
de minimis contact with [the children] for a period of one
year immediately preceding the filing of the adoption
petition[s]." The record supports the trial court
determination which we affirm.
2} On May 12, 2017, step-father filed petitions to
adopt two minor children of his wife. The petitions allege
that the natural father's consent to the adoptions is not
required because father has not had sufficient contact with
the children. Father objected and the consent issue came
before the court for an evidentiary hearing on June 28, 2017.
On August 30, 2017 the trial court filed judgment entries
finding that father's consent is not required for the
adoptions. Father appealed.
3} The evidence before the trial court is undisputed
that father's last actual contact with the children was
in April of 2013 when he and his girlfriend appeared at the
home of the children, mother, and step-father in order to
inquire whether the children could attend his father's
funeral. Father and his girlfriend were allowed in the home
where they visited for about an hour, although mother would
not allow the children to attend the funeral. Subsequently,
father testified that he attempted to contact the children
through Facebook but did not indicate the times or dates.
Mother testified that she did not become aware of any
attempted Facebook contact until after the initiation of
these proceedings when she learned Facebook has a spam folder
which she then checked. She found one message from 2012 or
2013 and one from earlier in 2017.
4} Much of the testimony at the hearing concerned
the acrimonious split of mother and father in 2006 which was
the last time father had contact with the children before the
2013 home visit. That split involved a domestic violence
conviction of father and a Domestic Violence Protection Order
against father prohibiting contact with mother. The
protection order did not expire until 2011 but its terms
allowed for visitation through mother's grandmother.
Those visits lasted for less than two months before father
moved to Florida. When he returned to Ohio less than a year
later he did not resume visitation. He testified he did not
know where the children lived until the death of his father
in 2013. From the time of the 2013 visit until the filing of
the petition mother, step-father and the children have
continued to live at the same address. During that time
Father never provided birthday or holiday cards, or presents
to or for the children. He has never contacted their school
about their records or attended any school functions.
5} This court has previously stated:
With regard to adoptions, R.C. 3107.07 provides, in pertinent
part, that: Consent to adoption is not required of any of the
following: (A) A parent of a minor, when it is alleged in the
adoption petition and the court, after proper service of
notice and hearing, finds by clear and convincing evidence
that the parent has failed without justifiable cause to
provide more than de minimis contact with the minor or to
provide for the maintenance and support of the minor as
required by law or judicial decree for a period of at least
one year immediately preceding either the filing of the
adoption petition or the placement of the minor in the home
of the petitioner.
"Because cases such as these may involve the termination
of fundamental parental rights, the party petitioning for
adoption has the burden of proving, by clear and convincing
evidence, that the parent failed to communicate with the
child during the requisite one-year period and that there was
no justifiable cause for the failure of communication."
(Citations omitted.) In re Adoption of Holcomb, 18
Ohio St.3d 361, 368, 481 N.E.2d 613 (1985). "Once the
petitioner has established this failure, the burden of going
forward shifts to the parent to show some facially
justifiable cause for the failure. * * * The burden of proof,
however, remains with the petitioner." In re
A.N.B., 12th Dist. Preble No. CA 2012-04-006,
2012-Ohio-3880, ¶ 10, citing In re Adoption of
Bovett, 33 Ohio St.3d 102, 104, 515 N.E.2d 919 (1987).
"The first consideration is whether the parent has had
more than de minimis contact with the child. This is a
factual consideration. If the trial court decides that issue
adversely to the parent, then the court further considers
whether the lack of contact is justifiable." [In re
Adoption of J.R.H., 2d Dist. Clark No. 2013-CA-29,
2013-Ohio-3385] at ¶ 28. We again observed that we
"will not disturb the trial court's determination on
this point unless it is against the manifest weight of the
evidence." Id. at ...