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In re N.R.S.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Crawford

January 16, 2018

IN RE: N.R.S., ADJUDGED ABUSED CHILD. [JAMES STEVEY - APPELLANT] IN RE: J.N.S., ADJUDGED DEPENDENT CHILD. [JAMES STEVEY - APPELLANT] IN RE: K.H.S., ADJUDGED DEPENDENT CHILD. [JAMES STEVEY - APPELLANT]

         Appeals from Crawford County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division Trial Court Nos. 2175051, 2175049 and 2155125

          Brian N. Gernert for Appellant, James Stevey

          Michael J. Wiener for Appellee

          OPINION

          ZIMMERMAN, J.

         {¶1} This is an appeal from the August 11, 2017 judgment entry of the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, awarding permanent custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S., all minor children, to Crawford County Children Services ("CCCS"). Appellant, James Stevey ("James"), natural father of all three children, appeals.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} On September 8, 2015, CCCS filed three (3) separate complaints for abuse and/or dependency in the trial court, requesting the temporary custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. The complaint alleged abuse in N.R.S.'s case, alleging her to be the victim of sexual abuse. The complaints regarding J.N.S. and K.H.S. alleged them to be dependent children. (Doc. 1). Upon the filing of the complaints, the trial court conducted a shelter care hearing and placed all three children into the temporary custody of CCCS. At the time of the hearing, the children had been in the legal custody of their paternal grandparents.[1]

         {¶3} On October 1, 2015, an adjudicatory hearing was conducted in the trial court. At the hearing, James stipulated that N.R.S. was an abused child and that J.N.S. and K.H.S. were dependent children. Thus, the trial court adjudicated the children as such.[2] The parties agreed to proceed to disposition immediately following the adjudicatory hearing.[3] At the dispositional hearing, the trial court awarded temporary custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. to CCCS, terminated the paternal grandparents grant of legal custody and dismissed them as parties. (Docs. 26, 27). The children were then placed into a foster home by CCCS.

         {¶4} On September 2, 2016, CCCS filed a motion to modify the dispositional orders by requesting that temporary custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S.be placed with their paternal aunt. (Doc. 43). All parties agreed to the placement and, in its September 6, 2016 judgment entry, the trial court terminated its temporary custody to CCCS and awarded temporary custody of the children to their paternal aunt with protective supervision to CCCS. (Doc. 44).

         {¶5} Thereafter, on November 14, 2016, CCCS filed a motion in the trial court to place N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. into the legal custody of their paternal aunt and to close its case. CCCS's motion was set for hearing on December 14, 2016. However, at the hearing CCCS withdrew the motion and requested that the temporary custody order (to the paternal aunt with protective supervision to CCCS) continue. In its judgment entry of January 11, 2017, the trial court extended the temporary custody order until April 1, 2017. (Doc. 51).

         {¶6} Thereafter, on January 26, 2017, CCCS filed another motion for modification, this time requesting the trial court to terminate the paternal aunt as the temporary custodian of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. In its motion, CCCS requested that temporary custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. be returned to the agency due to the inability of the paternal aunt to provide adequate care for the children. (Doc. 52). The trial court granted CCCS's request on March 6, 2017. (Doc. 54).

         {¶7} On March 28, 2017, CCCS filed its motion for the permanent custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. pursuant to R.C. 2151.414 and the case was set for a permanent custody hearing to commence May 18, 2017. However, due to the failure of service upon James, the hearing was rescheduled by the trial court. Ultimately, service upon James was perfected on May 16, 2017.

         {¶8} On August 10, 2017, a permanent custody hearing occurred in the trial court and on August 11, 2017, the trial court issued its judgment entry granting the permanent custody of N.R.S., J.N.S. and K.H.S. to CCCS. Although she was served with notice of the permanent custody hearing, Rhonda Stevey, the mother of the children, did not attend. Furthermore, due to his incarceration, James did not attend the hearing. However, his attorney was present on his behalf.

         {¶9} James appeals the entry of permanent custody, raising the following assignments of error for our review.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. I

         CRAWFORD COUNTY DEPARMTNET (sic) OF JOB AND FAMILY SERVICES DID NOT ACT IN GOOD FAITH/MAKE A GOOD FAITH EFFORT TO REUNIFY PARENT AND CHILD/PREVENT THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENT CHILD RELATIONSHIP.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. II

         CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE DID NOT EXIST TO JUSTIFY A FINDING THAT IT WAS IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE MINOR CHILDREN TO TERMINATE PARENTAL RIGHTS AND AWARD PERMANENT CUSTODY OF THE MINOR CHILDREN TO CRAWFORD COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF JOB AND FAMILY SERVICES.

         {¶10} For ease of discussion, we elect to address the assignments of error out of the order in which they appear, ...


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