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Cutlip v. Gizzo

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

February 21, 2018



          THOMAS C. LOEPP, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          PAMELA J. GIZZO, pro se, Appellee.



         {¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant, Randy Cutlip, appeals the January 27, 2017 judgment entry of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division. Based on the following, this Court affirms.


         {¶2} Cutlip was married to Defendant-Appellee, Pamela Gizzo, on July 4, 2001. The parties had a child, R.C., on June 18, 2002. Cutlip and Gizzo were divorced on September 29, 2006. R.C. was a minor at the time of the divorce. The divorce decree included a shared parenting plan regarding R.C. Over the course of nearly nine years post-decree, the parties continually filed motions concerning custody and visitation of R.C. On June 25, 2015, the court adopted an "agreed judgment entry[1]" resolving custody and visitation matters and stating the parties' respective parental rights and responsibilities.

         {¶3} An incident occurred on September 16, 2015, involving a physical altercation between R.C. and Gizzo. In response to the incident, Gizzo called the police. This resulted in R.C.'s arrest and detention at the Medina County Juvenile Detention Center. While in detention, R.C. made abuse allegations against Gizzo, refused release from the detention center, and refused to return to Gizzo's home. The Medina County Juvenile Court appointed a guardian ad litem for R.C. Subsequent to the guardian ad litem's investigation and recommendation, R.C. was released from detention and returned to Gizzo's home.

         {¶4} Cutlip filed a "motion to modify custody/parenting plan and/or visitation" and "motion to modify child support upon either substantial change in visitation or residential parent" on October 21, 2015. In the motion, he argued a change in circumstances surrounding the September 15, 2015, domestic violence incident resulting in R.C.'s arrest. Gizzo submitted her opposition to Cutlip's motion on December 14, 2015.

         {¶5} The visiting judge presiding over this matter in the trial court held an in camera interview with R.C. on May 25, 2016. The matter was set for a trial on the custody issues. Meanwhile, on September 23, 2016, Gizzo filed a motion to modify parenting time. The custody trial commenced on September 29, 2016 and continued intermittently, concluding on December 5, 2016. Both Cutlip and Gizzo were represented by counsel in the trial court. R.C. testified during the custody trial, but the record does not indicate that she was represented by counsel.

         {¶6} In the January 27, 2017 entry, the trial court found that "throughout the years both [Cutlip and Gizzo] have been unable to cooperate or effectively communicate with each other" and that both Cutlip and Gizzo, "during the pendency of this case, have been involved with allegations and negative events that have caused the parties to be unable to trust or communicate with each other." Further, the trial court found that Cutlip had not acted in good faith with respect to court-ordered family counseling, and that Cutlip believes counseling to be unnecessary because he does not acknowledge any problems in his relationship with R.C. The trial court took issue with Cutlip's "fail[ure] to recognize his responsibility to assist [R.C] to have a better relationship with [Gizzo, ]" because the trial court found facilitating a better relationship to be in the best interest of R.C.

         {¶7} Recognizing that Gizzo "is designated residential/legal custodian" the trial court found that both parents need to "be involved, informed, and consulted about concerns of [R.C.]" and that both Cutlip and Gizzo need to work together for the benefit of R.C. The trial court indicated that it considered the testimony of the several witnesses called by each party, reviewed the evidence, and considered the expert report of Dr. Craig Childress-which it found to be "insightful" but "speculative" and of "little assistance." The trial court made a finding that it had considered and evaluated the sworn testimony of R.C. and assessed the event concerning her detention.

         {¶8} Based on its findings the court denied Cutlip's motion to modify custody and child support. The trial court did order certain modifications to the June 25, 2015 agreed judgment entry, but otherwise left the entry in effect. Cutlip has ...

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