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S.D. v. K.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 29, 2018

S.D. PETITIONER-APPELLANT
v.
K.H., ET AL. RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division Case No. DR-16-363671

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Leeann M. Massucci Colleen L. Marshall Massucci Law Group, L.L.C.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Leslie Johns The Martinez Firm.

          Also Listed: M.T.

          BEFORE: Kilbane, P.J., Stewart, J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          MARY EILEEN KILBANE, P.J.

         {¶1} Petitioner-appellant, S.D. ("Mother 2"), appeals from the decision of the domestic relations court, denying her petition to register a foreign parentage order. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         {¶2} The underlying facts of this appeal present us with a situation where mother-respondent-appellee, K.H. ("Mother 1"), and M.T. ("Father"), the biological parents of the minor child, A.T. (d.o.b. 2/17/2006), divorced in November 2007. The terms of the divorce decree provided Mother 1 with full and legal custody of A.T. and Father with visitation rights. The decree also provided that Mother 1 could relocate without notice to Father.

         {¶3} Shortly after the divorce, Mother 1 and Mother 2 began a relationship. In September 2008, Mother 1, Mother 2, and A.T. moved to California. The three of them lived together as a family with Mother 1 and Mother 2 sharing parenting responsibilities. Mother 2 was the "stay-at-home parent." Mother 1 and Mother 2 ended their relationship in May 2010, at which point in time the women continued to share parenting responsibilities and split their parenting time 50/50 until July 2013, when Mother 1 ceased A.T.'s contact with Mother 2.

         {¶4} In response, Mother 2 sought to legally formalize her parental role in A.T.'s life by filing with the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara ("California Court") a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. In October 2013, the California Court entered temporary orders giving Mother 2 custody and visitation rights. At a hearing in January 2014, Mother 1 withdrew her objection to Mother 2 being recognized as a parent, and the court issued a parentage order that was stipulated to by both Mother 1 and Mother 2. This parentage order found Mother 2 to be a parent of A.T. Thereafter, the two women shared joint physical custody of A.T., and Mother 2 continued her parenting responsibilities.

         {¶5} In 2016, Mother 1 filed a request for orders in the California Court, seeking permission to move back to Ohio with A.T. Prior to the California Court's ruling on the motion, Mother 1 returned to Ohio with A.T. in April 2016. In the interim, Father filed a motion with the California Court requesting to set aside the 2014 parentage order. A hearing was held on the matter in June 2016. At this hearing, the California Court indicated that it would contact the Domestic Relations Division of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court ("Ohio Court") to determine whether the Ohio Court wished to relinquish jurisdiction over issues related to A.T.'s custody and visitation to the California Court.

         {¶6} On June 30, 2016, the Ohio Court communicated its findings in the matter with the California Court through a letter and a copy of its judgment entry. In the letter, the Ohio Court advised that it has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over any custody and parenting determinations with respect to A.T. The Ohio Court also noted that R.C. 3109.051(B)(1) does permit it to grant reasonable companionship or visitation rights to a third party where the court determines that such companionship or visitation is in the best interest of the child. The Ohio Court advised that should Mother 2 "wish to pursue visitation rights pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code, she would need to file a motion to intervene in the matter before our Court and file the appropriate motion to seek visitation."

         {¶7} In the judgment entry, the Ohio Court found that it has "exclusive continuing jurisdiction over any custody and parenting determinations with respect to [A.T. under] the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ('UCCJEA'), when it issued a parenting order on November 8, 2007, as part of a decree of divorce between [Mother 1 and Father]."[1] The court reasoned that under both Ohio and California law, when at least one of the parents still resides in the state that made the original custody determination, that state has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction to modify its own order. The court stated that this is the law in both Ohio and California. The court went on to state that "at no time did [the Ohio Court] decline to exercise its exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the parties and [A.T.], or consent to the California [C]ourt assuming jurisdiction over the issue of parenting [A.T.]." The Ohio Court concluded that "the orders issued by the [California Court] involving [A.T.] are void as a matter of law." The Ohio Court further found that "the custody and visitation orders issued by this Court on November 8, 2007 and June 14, 2016, were the only valid parenting orders with respect to [A.T.]."

         {¶8} Thereafter, on July 19, 2016, the California Court issued the following findings: (1) the jurisdictional provisions of the UCCJEA do not apply to a parentage determination; (2) the jurisdictional provisions of the UCCJEA do apply to custody and visitation orders, and Ohio retained continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over all issues related to A.T.'s custody and visitation; and (3) Father had proper notice of the proceedings. In light of these findings, the California court ...


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