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In re K.W.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Highland

April 30, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF: K.W., Adjudicated Dependent Child.

          CIVIL CASE FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT, JUVENILE DIVISION

          J. Allyce Horne, Hillsboro, Ohio, for Appellant D.W.

          Lynn W. Turner, Hillsboro, Ohio, for Appellants P.W. and C.W.

          Anneka P. Collins, Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, and Molly Bolek, Assistant Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, Hillsboro, Ohio, for Appellee.

          Kathyrn Hapner, Hillsboro, Ohio, Guardian Ad Litem.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          PETER B. ABELE, JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} This is a consolidated appeal from a Highland County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, judgment that granted Highland County Children Services (HCCS), appellee herein, permanent custody of thirteen-year-old K. W. This matter has a long and tortured history for everyone involved in this case, but especially for the minor child. D.W., the child's biological father, raises the following assignments of error:

FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION TO GRANT PERMANENT CUSTODY WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE AS THE COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BASED ON THE TOTALITY OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN SUSPENDING THE VISITATION OF FATHER, THAT THE AGENCY DID NOT MAKE REASONABLE EFFORTS IN REGARDS TO FATHER, AND THE AGENCY FAILED TO PROVE BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT K.W. COULD NOT BE REUNIFIED WITH FATHER IN A REASONABLE TIME WITH THE COURT USING EVIDENCE OUTSIDE THOSE FACTS WHICH LEAD UP TO THE ORIGINAL FINDING OF DEPENDENCY IN THIS CASE."
SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE FATHER'S MOTION FOR K.W. TO UNDERGO A NEW PSYCHOLOGICAL AS HE HAS A RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS UNDER THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND THE OHIO CONSTITUTION IS VIOLATED DURING A PERMANENT CUSTODY HEARING WHEN HE IS DENIED ACCESS TO FUNDAMENTALLY FAIR PROCEEDINGS, OF WHICH, THE AVAILABILITY OF EXPERT ASSISTANCE MAY BE ONE WHEN MENTAL HEALTH IS AN ISSUE."
THIRD ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RELYING ON STALE AND CONFLICTING PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION AND MENTAL HEALTH ASSESSMENTS TO DETERMINE FATHER'S MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS AS WELL AS CITING AN INCORRECT DIAGNOSIS FROM THE PSYCHOLOGIST IN THE COURT'S DECISION AND THEN USING THE INCORRECT DIAGNOSIS TO JUSTIFY THE DECISION FOR PERMANENT CUSTODY."
FOURTH ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING FATHER'S MOTION TO EXCLUDE THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM'S REPORT FROM TESTIMONY AS THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM FAILED TO MEET THE DE MINIMIS REQUIREMENTS OF SUPERINTENDENCE RULE 48."

         {¶ 2} Also, the child's paternal grandparents, P.W. and C.W., raise the following assignments of error:

FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION PROCEDURALLY DURING THE PERMANENT CUSTODY HEARINGS, CONSTITUTING PREJUDICIAL ERROR" SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE AGENCY HAD MADE REASONABLE EFFORTS TO REUNIFY THE CHILD WITH HER PARENTS AND/OR GRANDPARENTS."

         {¶ 3} K.W. has been the subject of a custody dispute since 2010, when the child's mother left the child with the parental grandparents. Father later filed a complaint and requested the child's legal custody. The trial court ultimately found the mother and the father to be unsuitable, and placed K.W. in the paternal grandparents' legal custody.[1]

         {¶ 4} The trial court found the mother unsuitable for the following reasons: (1) she relinquished custody; (2) she has not seen or contacted the child since December 24, 2010; (3) she is homeless; and (4) she is incapable of caring for the child. The court also found that the father is unsuitable and that it would be harmful/detrimental to place child in father's custody based upon the following circumstances: (1) "[b]oth parents exert an unhealthy level of control over the child which confuses the child to the extent she is fearful to exhibit any care or love for one parent in the presence of the other"; (2) "[t]he child is concerned over physical violence while in the home of her father"; (3) "[b]oth parents use Parental Alienation techniques by isolating the child from social contacts which have led to academic delays and lack of adequate medical care"; (4) the father displays a "pattern of controlling women" and an "aggressive/assertive nature"; (5) "[t]he father has isolated the child and controlled her to an extent it was detrimental to the child"; (6) the mother testified that the father "beat [her] about a dozen times" and has "threatened to kill" her if she reported him; (7) during her in camera interview, the child stated that "her father had been violent with her and that she wanted to remain with her grandparents"; (8) the father is physically abusive; and (9) the child reported seeing the father abuse the mother.

         {¶ 5} The trial court awarded both mother and father supervised parenting time to be held at the Family Advocacy Center (FAC). The mother occasionally visited the child. The father had some visits with the child, but the grandparents refused to bring the child to visits for over one year. This situation persisted until 2014, when appellee filed a dependency complaint.

         {¶ 6} The dependency complaint alleged that the grandparents violated the court order regarding the mother's and the father's parenting time by permitting the mother to have contact with the child outside of the FAC and by refusing to allow the father to visit the child.

         {¶ 7} On September 16, 2014, the trial court adjudicated the child dependent based upon the following facts: (1) the grandparents live in a camper without running water; (2) between August 2013 and June 2014, the grandparents refused to take the child to visit the father; (3) the grandparents have allowed the child to have contact with her mother outside of the FAC, in violation of a court order; and (4) the grandparents have denigrated the father in the child's presence in an effort to alienate her affections. The court subsequently placed the child in appellee's temporary custody.

         {¶ 8} On January 12, 2016, appellee filed a motion to modify the disposition to permanent custody. Appellee asserted that the child has been in its temporary custody for at least twelve out of the last twenty-two consecutive months and that it is in the child's best interest to place her in appellee's permanent custody. Appellee alleged that although the father has attended most of his visits with the child, "his behavior and demeanor toward the child during some of the visits is cause for concern." Appellee further asserted that the child "is thriving in the [foster home] and bonded with the family and other children in the home."

         {¶ 9} Due to unforeseen circumstances, the trial court continued the permanent custody hearing a few times. While the permanent custody motion remained in abeyance, father filed a motion to increase his visitation time. The court subsequently granted father's request and extended time from two hours to three hours. One month later, however, the court curtailed father's visits. The court found that testimony from the child's counselor, the guardian ad litem and children services "regarding supervision of the current visits indicated that the visits are very problematic and create trauma for the child. [The father] spends a good part of his parenting time correcting or disciplining the child to the point that the child would ask the agency to terminate the visit."

         {¶ 10} Appellee later dismissed its permanent custody motion and filed a new dependency complaint that involved the child. The new complaint alleged that although father regularly visited the child, he has not had any visits outside of the FAC since April 2011. Appellee further asserted that family counseling is a case plan objective, but that it has not yet occurred. Appellee requested the court to grant it temporary custody of the child.

         {¶ 11} On October 7, 2016, father admitted dependency and the trial court adjudicated the child dependent. The court (1) ordered the child to remain in appellee's (HCCS) temporary custody pending further hearings, and (2) found that appellee used reasonable efforts by providing case management services.

         {¶ 12} The case plan that appellee developed indicated that the father "has been involved in several criminal cases regarding drugs and domestic violence. The relationship between [the father] and his parents, [the paternal grandparents], is basically non-existent. [The child] is constantly being put in the middle of [their] altercations, which is making her very confused as to what to do or say to both parties." The case plan stated that the father "will no longer use illegal substances" and "will learn how to cope/respond to unexpected stressors." The case plan required him to submit to random drug screens, sign necessary releases, inform appellee of any address or phone number changes, make himself available for monthly, face-to-face contact with appellee, call his caseworker to inquire about all appointments for the child, and "begin/complete counseling services as recommended by Bobbie Hopes." The case plan also stated that the "[c]aseworker will make a referral for services at an agency-approved provider."

         {¶ 13} On November 1, 2016, mother and the grandparents admitted dependency. The trial court again adjudicated the child dependent. The parties agreed to continue the child in appellee's temporary custody for six months. Additionally, the court (1) allowed mother to have supervised visits at the FAC, (2) did not allow the grandparents to have visitation without appellee's and the GAL's approval, and (3) allowed the father to have visits with the child at the FAC that graduated to supervised visits outside of the FAC and eventually unsupervised visits outside of the FAC, subject to various conditions.[2] The court further found that appellee used reasonable efforts.

         {¶ 14} On January 25, 2017, the GAL filed a motion to suspend father's and grandparents' visitations. She alleged that the child has expressed suicidal ideation as a result of the family counseling currently occurring between the child and father. The GAL indicated that "the child's counselor believes that continued counseling with father would be detrimental to the child." The GAL further asserted that the "[f]ather is not responding well to the child's viewpoint and later uses his visitation time to criticize and belittle her regarding issues she has brought up during counseling session." She additionally claimed that "[t]he father has exhibited unacceptable behavior at his supervised visits at the Family Advocacy Center both toward the child and toward staff members of the Advocacy Center." The GAL asserted that the grandparents "have attempted to discuss issues with the child which are not to be discussed with her."

         {¶ 15} Father opposed the GAL's motion and requested that the court not suspend his visits, but instead, allow him to have supervised visit with the child. He argued that suspending his visits would hinder case plan progress and prevent reunification. He further claimed that the child's counselor is biased against him.

         {¶ 16} Father also filed a motion to request the court to order the child to undergo a new psychological evaluation or assessment. He noted that her last evaluation occurred over two years earlier.

         {¶ 17} On January 30, 2017, the trial court suspended father's and grandparents' visitations.

         {¶ 18} Appellee subsequently filed a motion to modify the disposition to permanent custody and asserted that (1) the child has been in its temporary custody for more than twelve out of the past twenty-two months, and (2) placing the child in appellee's permanent custody is in her best interest. Appellee claimed that the father did not consistently visit the child throughout November and December 2016, and that his visits were suspended as of January 30, 2017. Appellee alleged that family counseling did not benefit the father and the child's interaction and interrelationship and, in fact, the counselors terminated family counseling due to the child's increased anxiety and expressions of self-harm if she would be required to continue to see her father.

         {¶ 19} The trial court interviewed the child twice and heard from more than twenty witnesses over eight days of testimony. Additionally, the parties submitted more than forty exhibits and the depositions of two other witnesses for the court to review.

         {¶ 20} A brief summary of the evidence reveals that appellee presented evidence and testimony that tended to show that, although the father and the child shared many positive visits within the confines of the FAC, the father and the child have had a strained relationship.[3] The child has real or planted memories of her father physically harming her mother. Some of the testimony suggests that the child's grandparents may have planted negative memories of her father. Regardless, the child believed the memories to be true, and father failed to validate her feelings-whether the memories were true or not. Father's failure to validate the child's feelings appears to be the root cause of the parties' strained relationship as the child grew into adolescence. As the child matured, she expressed an unwavering fear of her father and extreme anxiety over the thought that the court might place her in his custody.

         {¶ 21} Until November 2016, father hardly missed a visit with the child. However, beginning in mid to late November 2016 father missed five visits with the child. Father offered varying reasons for missing the visits, claiming that he either "forgot" or that he forgot to confirm the visits twenty-four hours in advance, as he had been doing for the previous two and one-half years when the child was in appellee's temporary custody. Appellee, however, presented evidence that father consciously chose not to visit the child. FAC staff stated that father was upset that his parents were allowed to visit the child immediately before his visit and that father informed FAC staff that he was afraid of his parents. Father denied, however, that he did not visit due to fear of his parents.

         {¶ 22} In November 2016, child and father started family counseling. Throughout six sessions, father was unable or unwilling to demonstrate adequate techniques of relating to his now thirteen-year-old daughter, who had not lived with him since she was approximately six years of age. Instead, father (1) dominated the sessions and would not allow the child to express her feelings of hurt and her wishes for the future, and (2) displayed rigidity and would not yield. The child's counselor believed that the sessions were truly harmful to the child and a source of her recent suicidal ideations. Because the counselor believed the family counseling sessions harmed the child, she recommended the sessions be suspended. Father's counselor likewise believed that the family counseling sessions did not improve the father-child relationship.

         {¶ 23} After considering all of the evidence and testimony, the trial court awarded appellee permanent custody of the child. The court found that the child had been in appellee's temporary custody for more than twelve months out of a consecutive twenty-two-month period and that placing the child in appellee's permanent custody is in her best interest. The court found that the child and father did not share an overly positive relationship, but instead, father displayed controlling and unyielding behavior towards the child. On the other hand, the child has thrived while in the foster home. Her academic performance has improved, her demeanor has improved, and her emotional needs are being met. The court further noted that the child consistently expressed a desire to be placed in appellee's permanent custody so that the foster family could adopt her and did not indicate any desire to live with her father. Consequently, the court placed the child in appellee's permanent custody. These appeals followed.

         I

         {¶ 24} In his first assignment of error, father asserts, in essence, that the trial court's permanent custody decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence. More particularly, father challenges (1) the court's decision to suspend his visits with the child, (2) the court's finding that the agency used reasonable efforts, and (3) the court's finding that the child cannot be placed with the father within a reasonable time or should not be placed with him.

         A

         {¶ 25} Initially, we note that a reviewing court ordinarily will not disturb a trial court's permanent custody decision unless the decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence. E.g., In re B.E., 4th Dist. Highland No. 13CA26, 2014-Ohio-3178, ¶27; In re R.S., 4th Dist. Highland No. 13CA22, 2013-Ohio-5569, ¶29.

"Weight of the evidence concerns 'the inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence, offered in a trial, to support one side of the issue rather than the other. It indicates clearly to the jury that the party having the burden of proof will be entitled to their verdict, if, on weighing the evidence in their minds, they shall find the greater amount of credible evidence sustains the issue which is to be established before them. Weight is not a question of mathematics, but depends on its effect in inducing belief.'"

Eastley v. Volkman, 132 Ohio St.3d 328, 2012-Ohio-2179, 972 N.E.2d 517, ¶12, quoting State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 387, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997), quoting Black's Law Dictionary 1594 (6th Ed.1990).

         {¶ 26} When an appellate court reviews whether a trial court's permanent custody decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence, the court "'"weighs the evidence and all reasonable inferences, considers the credibility of witnesses and determines whether in resolving conflicts in the evidence, the [finder of fact] clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the [judgment] must be reversed and a new trial ordered."'" Eastley at ¶20, quoting Tewarson v. Simon, 141 Ohio App.3d 103, 115, 750 N.E.2d 176 (9th Dist.2001), quoting Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d at 387, quoting State v. Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175, 485 N.E.2d 717 (1st Dist.1983); accord In re Pittman, 9th Dist. Summit No. 20894, 2002-Ohio-2208, ¶¶ 23-24.

         {¶ 27} The question that we must resolve when reviewing a permanent custody decision under the manifest weight of the evidence standard is "whether the juvenile court's findings * * * were supported by clear and convincing evidence." In re K.H., 119 Ohio St.3d 538, 2008-Ohio- 4825, 895 N.E.2d 809, ¶43. "Clear and convincing evidence" is:

the measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations sought to be established. It is intermediate, being more than a mere preponderance, but not to the extent of such certainty as required beyond a reasonable doubt as in criminal cases. It does not mean clear and unequivocal.

In re Estate of Haynes, 25 Ohio St.3d 101, 103-04, 495 N.E.2d 23 (1986). In determining whether a trial court based its decision upon clear and convincing evidence, "a reviewing court will examine the record to determine whether the trier of facts had sufficient evidence before it to satisfy the requisite degree of proof." State v. Schiebel, 55 Ohio St.3d 71, 74, 564 N.E.2d 54 (1990); accord In re Holcomb, 18 Ohio St.3d 361, 368, 481 N.E.2d 613 (1985), citing Cross v. Ledford, 161 Ohio St. 469, 120 N.E.2d 118 (1954) ("Once the clear and convincing standard has been met to the satisfaction of the [trial] court, the reviewing court must examine the record and determine if the trier of fact had sufficient evidence before it to satisfy this burden of proof.") In re Adoption of Lay, 25 Ohio St.3d 41, 42-43, 495 N.E.2d 9 (1986). Cf. In re Adoption of Masa, 23 Ohio St.3d 163, 165, 492 N.E.2d 140 (1986) (stating that whether a fact has been "proven by clear and convincing evidence in a particular case is a determination for the [trial] court and will not be disturbed on appeal unless such determination is against the manifest weight of the evidence"). Thus, if the children services agency presented competent and credible evidence upon which the trier of fact reasonably could have formed a firm belief that permanent custody is warranted, then the court's decision is not against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re R.M., 4th Dist. Athens Nos. 12CA43 and 12CA44, 2013-Ohio-3588, ¶62; In re R.L., 2nd Dist. Greene Nos. 2012CA32 and 2012CA33, 2012-Ohio-6049, ¶17, quoting In re A.U, 2nd Dist. Montgomery No. 22287, 2008-Ohio-187, ¶9 ("A reviewing court will not overturn a court's grant of permanent custody to the state as being contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence 'if the record contains competent, credible evidence by which the court could have formed a firm belief or conviction that the essential statutory elements * * * have been established.'"). Once the reviewing court finishes its examination, the court may reverse the judgment only if it appears that the fact-finder, when resolving the conflicts in evidence, "'clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the [judgment] must be reversed and a new trial ordered.'" Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d at 387, quoting State v. Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175, 485 N.E.2d 717 (1st Dist.1983). A reviewing court should find a trial court's permanent custody decision against the manifest weight of the evidence only in the " 'exceptional case in which the evidence weighs heavily against the [decision].'" Id., quoting Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d at 175; accord State v. Lindsey, 87 Ohio St.3d 479, 483, 721 N.E.2d 995 (2000).

         {¶ 28} Furthermore, when reviewing evidence under the manifest weight of the evidence standard, an appellate court generally must defer to the fact-finder's credibility determinations. Eastley at ¶21. As the Eastley court explained:

"[I]n determining whether the judgment below is manifestly against the weight of the evidence, every reasonable intendment must be made in favor of the judgment and the finding of facts. * * *
If the evidence is susceptible of more than one construction, the reviewing court is bound to give it that interpretation which is consistent with the verdict and judgment, most favorable to sustaining the verdict and judgment."

Id., quoting Seasons Coal Co., Inc. v. Cleveland, 10 Ohio St.3d 77, 80, 461 N.E.2d 1273 (1984), fn.3, quoting 5 Ohio Jurisprudence 3d, Appellate Review, Section 60, at 191-192 (1978).

         {¶ 29} Moreover, deferring to the trial court on matters of credibility is "crucial in a child custody case, where there may be much evident in the parties' demeanor and attitude that does not translate to the record well." Davis v. Flickinger, 77 Ohio St.3d 415, 419, 674 N.E.2d 1159 (1997); accord In re Christian, 4th Dist. Athens No. 04CA10, 2004-Ohio-3146, ¶7. As the Ohio Supreme Court long-ago explained:

In proceedings involving the custody and welfare of children the power of the trial court to exercise discretion is peculiarly important. The knowledge obtained through contact with and observation of the parties and through independent investigation can not be conveyed to a reviewing court by printed record.

Trickey v. Trickey, 158 Ohio St. 9, 13, 106 N.E.2d 772 (1952).

         {¶ 30} Furthermore, unlike an ordinary civil proceeding in which a jury has no contact with the parties before a trial, in a permanent custody case a trial court judge may have had significant contact with the parties before a permanent custody motion is even filed. In such a situation, it is not unreasonable to presume that the trial court judge had far more opportunities to evaluate the credibility, demeanor, attitude, etc., of the parties than this court ever could from a mere reading of the permanent custody hearing transcript.

         B

         {¶ 31} R.C. 2151.414(B)(1) permits a trial court to grant permanent custody of a child to a children services agency if the court determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child's best interest would be served by the award of permanent custody and that:

(a) The child is not abandoned or orphaned or has not been in the temporary custody of one or more public children services agencies or private child placing agencies for twelve or more months of a consecutive twenty-two month period ending on or after March 18, 1999, and the child cannot be placed with either of the child's parents within a reasonable time or should not be placed with the child's parents.
(b) The child is abandoned.
(c) The child is orphaned, and there are no relatives of the child who are able to take permanent custody.
(d) The child has been in the temporary custody of one or more public children services agencies or private child placing agencies for twelve or more months of a consecutive twenty-two month period ending on or after March 18, 1999.
(e) The child or another child in the custody of the parent or parents from whose custody the child has been removed has been adjudicated an abused, neglected, or dependent child on three separate occasions by any court in this state or another state.

         {¶ 32} Thus, before a trial court may award a children services agency permanent custody, it must find that (1) one of the circumstances described in R.C. 2151.414(B)(1) applies, and (2) awarding the children services agency permanent custody would further the child's best interests.

         {¶ 33} R.C. 2151.414(D) directs a trial court to consider "all relevant factors, " as well as specific factors, to determine whether a child's best interests will be served by granting a children services agency permanent custody. The listed factors include: (1) the child's interaction and interrelationship with the child's parents, siblings, relatives, foster parents and out-of-home providers, and any other person who may significantly affect the child; (2) the child's wishes, as expressed directly by the child or through the child's guardian ad litem, with due regard for the child's maturity; (3) the child's custodial history; (4) the child's need for a legally secure permanent placement and whether that type of placement can be achieved without a grant of permanent custody to the agency; and (5) whether any factors listed under R.C. 2151.414(E)(7) to (11) apply.

         {¶ 34} Determining whether granting permanent custody to a children services agency will promote a child's best interest involves a delicate balancing of "all relevant [best interest] factors, " as well as the "five enumerated statutory factors." In re C.F., 113 Ohio St.3d 73, 2007-Ohio-1104, 862 N.E.2d 816, ¶57, citing In re Schaefer, 111 Ohio St.3d 498, 2006-Ohio-5513, 857 N.E.2d 532, ¶56; accord In re C.G., 9th Dist. Summit Nos. 24097 and 24099, 2008-Ohio-3773, ¶28; In re N.W., 10th Dist. Franklin Nos. 07AP-590 and 07AP-591, 2008-Ohio-297, 2008 WL 224356, ¶19. However, none of the best interest factors requires a court to give it "greater weight or heightened significance." C.F. at ¶57. Instead, the trial court considers the totality of the circumstances when making its best interest determination. In re K.M.S., 3rd Dist. Marion Nos. 9-15-37, 9-15-38, and 9-15-39, 2017-Ohio-142, 2017 WL 168864, ¶24; In re AC, 9th Dist. Summit No. 27328, 2014-Ohio-4918, ¶46. In general, "[a] child's best interest is served by placing the child in a permanent situation that fosters growth, stability, and security." In re C.B.C., 4th Dist. Lawrence Nos. 15CA18 and 15CA19, 2016-Ohio-916, 2016 WL 915012, ¶66, citing In re Adoption of Ridenour, 61 Ohio St.3d 319, 324, 574 N.E.2d 1055 (1991).

         C

         {¶ 35} In the case at bar, we initially note that absent from the father's brief is any discussion regarding the child's best interest and how the best-interest factors apply to this case. Moreover, father does not directly correlate the trial court's suspension of his visits to any of the best-interest factors. Instead, father focuses upon how the court's decision to suspend his visits negatively affected his ability to reunify with the child. We nevertheless construe father's argument as asserting that suspending his visits with the child deprived him of the opportunity to strengthen his relationship with the child so that the best interest factors would tilt in favor of placing the child in his custody. Father also complains that the trial court incorrectly suspended his visits without holding a hearing and without hearing any evidence, beyond the GAL's motion. Father claims that the evidence presented at the permanent custody hearing failed to support the court's decision to suspend visits, but instead shows that the court based its decision upon "speculation and testimony from persons biased towards the father." Father continues: "With absolutely no testimony as to the source of the child's behavioral problems other than pure speculation on the part of the counselor, foster parent, and doctor, the court completely hindered father's ability to reunify."

         {¶ 36} Appellee counters that the trial court's decision to terminate visits was not based upon speculation, but instead upon the child's expression of self-harm and suicide. Appellee alleges that father criticized and belittled the child during counseling sessions and exhibited unacceptable behavior during his supervised visits. Appellee additionally points out that the child's counselor stated that continued counseling with father would be detrimental to the child.

         {¶ 37} The GAL likewise responds that the trial court did not terminate father's visits based solely upon speculation, but instead asserts that the court interviewed the child on March 8, 2017 to ascertain her wishes and desires concerning both visitation and permanent custody. Moreover, during a November 2016 family counseling session, the child told her father that she did not want to live with him and wants her foster parents to adopt her. Additionally, the child's counselor testified that the child displayed high levels of stress during family counseling, did not want to make eye contact with her father, and refused her father's hugs.

         {¶ 38} Generally, we review a trial court decision regarding a parent's visitation rights in the context of an abuse, neglect, or dependency action for an abuse of discretion. In re C.J., 4th Dist. Vinton No. 10CA681, 2011-Ohio-3366, 2011 WL 2650841, ¶11, citing In re Carpenter, Washington App. No. 01 CA26, 2002-Ohio-509, 2002 WL 185569, at *3; In re Unger Children, 5th Dist. Coshocton No. 04 CA 6, 2005-Ohio-2414, 2005 WL 1163915, ¶81. "'[A]buse of discretion' [means] an 'unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable use of discretion, view or action that no conscientious judge could honestly have taken.'" State v. Kirkland, 140 Ohio St.3d 73, 15 N.E.3d 818, 2014-Ohio-1966, ¶67, quoting State v. Brady, 119 Ohio St.3d 375, 2008-Ohio-4493, 894 N.E.2d 671, ¶23. "A court abuses its discretion by taking action that lacks reason, justification, or conscience." In re D.S., ___ Ohio St.3d ___, 2017-Ohio-8289, ___ N.E.3d --, ¶8. "An abuse of discretion includes a situation in which a trial court did not engage in a '"sound reasoning process."'" State v. Darmond, 135 Ohio St.3d 343, 2013-Ohio-966, 986 N.E.2d 971, ¶34, quoting State v. Morris, 132 Ohio St.3d 337, 2012-Ohio-2407, 972 N.E.2d 528, ¶14, quoting AAAA Ents., Inc. v. River Place Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., 50 Ohio St.3d 157, 161, 553 N.E.2d 597 (1990). The abuse-of-discretion standard is deferential and does not permit an appellate court to simply substitute its judgment for that of the trial court. Darmond at ¶34.

         {¶ 39} Case plans should ordinarily include "'regular and frequent visitation and communication or other contact between the parents and child * * *.'" In re Jones, 29 Ohio App.3d 176, 180, 504 N.E.2d 719 (8th Dist.1985), quoting former R.C. 2151.412(B)(1)(b)(I). However, "the child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern." R.C. 2151.412(H).

         {¶ 40} A court that is reviewing visitation issues in an abuse, neglect, or dependency case should consider "the totality of circumstances as they relate to the child's best interest." C.J. at ¶15; In re Knisley, 4th Dist. No. 97CA2316, 1998 WL 372703 (May 26, 1998), *6 (explaining that in dependency proceedings, "the juvenile court should consider the issue of visitation under the totality of the circumstances, considering, to the extent they are applicable, those [best interest] factors set forth in R.C. 3109.051(D)"); accord In re J.S., 11th Dist. Lake No. 2011-L-162, 2012-Ohio-4461, 2012 WL 4481311, ¶30; In re C.H., 10th Dist. No. 10AP-579, 2011-Ohio-1386, ¶12; In re C.C., 2nd Dist. No. 21707, 2007-Ohio-3696, ¶8. "Until permanent custody is granted by the court, visitations should not be prematurely curtailed, unless it can be shown that the child will truly be harmed by the visitations." In re Jeffrey S., 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-96-178, 1998 WL 879652, *12. Thus, a court ordinarily should deny visitation only in "exceptional cases." Jones, 29 Ohio App.3d at 180.

         {¶ 41} In Jones, for example, the court concluded that the trial court properly exercised its discretion by denying visitation when the court based its decision upon the child's wishes, as well as the testimony of therapists and psychologists. In Jones, the child's mental health professionals "concluded that forced visitation with [the parent] would be deleterious to [the child]'s mental and emotional health." Id. At 180.

         {¶ 42} In Unger, the court concluded that the evidence established that the child's visits with the parent caused "trauma." Additionally, the child explained reasons why he did not wish to visit the parent. Moreover, both the child's counselor and the guardian ad litem recommended against visitation.

         {¶ 43} On the other hand, in Jeffrey S. the court determined that the trial court abused its discretion by preventing visits between the children and their parents. In Jeffrey S., the guardian ad litem filed a motion to terminate visits based upon an allegation that the mother advised "the children not to speak to anyone, including therapists, regarding abuse issues." The evidence showed, however, that the visits occurred under "close supervision" and were "positive." Id. at *12. Additionally, "the children looked forward to the visits with all the parents" and "were reluctant to leave the visits." Id. at *13. The court determined that the guardian ad litem's concerns "were thus too speculative to warrant a continuing no contact order." Id.

         {¶ 44} In the case at bar, we do not believe that the trial court abused its discretion by suspending visits between father and child. The guardian ad litem asserted that the child was expressing thoughts of suicide due to her fear of being placed in her father's custody. At the permanent custody hearing, the GAL testified that the child's counselor had called the GAL, and the counselor "was very concerned." The GAL indicated that she believed that she "needed to do something." The GAL stated that she spoke with the child, and she thought that her "only option at that point in time was to ask the court to suspend any visitation before any harm could come to [the child]." The GAL additionally stated that although the child initially was willing to visit with her father at the FAC, "she no longer wants to have any contact with him."

         {¶ 45} The child's counselor opined that father was "emotionally abusive" to the child because he "wouldn't acknowledge [the child's] thoughts or her feelings, " "he wanted to dominate, " and "he wanted to tell his story, but he wasn't willing to listen to hers." The child's pediatrician believed that the entire reunification process had been traumatic for the child.

         {¶ 46} The trial court interviewed the child twice-in November 2016 and March 2017-and each time the child consistently stated that she did not want to live with her father, but instead she wanted to be adopted "real quick." During the March 2017 interview, the child related her fear of her father and her concerns about being placed in his custody.

         {¶ 47} The trial court briefly addressed the father's motion to reinstate his visits following the March 20, 2017 permanent custody hearing, and the guardian ad litem indicated that the child "does not wish to visit." The GAL additionally stated that she does not believe that visits with father are in the child's best interest.

         {¶ 48} The trial court found that, in light of the child's "delicate emotional situation, " visits with father would not be prudent. The court expressed its "fear that she could * * * possibly * * * and I'm using this term very speculatively * * * do harm to herself. And I'm not going to have that risk on my conscience."

         {¶ 49} In light of all of the foregoing circumstances, we are unable to conclude that the trial court acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, or unconscionably by suspending father's visits. Instead, the court could have reasonably concluded that the visits caused the child emotional harm and, thus, were not in her best interest.

         {¶ 50} To the extent that appellant contends that the trial court erred by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing before the court granted the motion to terminate the visits, we observe that father did not file a timely request for a hearing. R.C. 2151.412(F)(2) specifies the procedure that applies when any party "propose[s] a change to a substantive part of the case plan, including, but not limited to, the child's placement and the visitation rights of any party." The statute states:

* * * * A party proposing a change to the case plan shall file the proposed change with the court and give notice of the proposed change in writing before the end of the day after the day of filing it to all parties and the child's guardian ad litem. All parties and the guardian ad litem shall have seven days from the date the notice is sent to object to and request a hearing on the proposed change.

         The statute thus contemplates that a party who opposes a proposed change must request a hearing in order to be entitled to one. Otherwise, "the court may approve the proposed change without a hearing." R.C. 2151.412(F)(2)(b).

         {¶ 51} In the case at bar, father did not request the court to hold a hearing within seven days from the date the GAL filed her motion to suspend visitations. Consequently, the statute did not require the trial court to hold a hearing.

         {¶ 52} While we also recognize that suspending father's visits impacted his relationship with the child, the suspension of the visits occurred at the end of a very long road. The child already had been in appellee's temporary custody for more than two and one-half years, and, during that time frame, father had more than ample opportunities to establish a healthy parent-child bond. However, father did not progress to the point that he could exercise unsupervised visits with the child. We thus believe that father's conduct, and the reactions to his conduct, caused the missed opportunities to develop a healthy parent-child bond.

         {¶ 53} Accordingly, we disagree with father that the trial court abused its discretion by suspending his visits or that the suspension of his visits contributed to the trial court's finding that placing the child in appellee's permanent custody is in her best interest.

         D

         {¶ 54} Father next asserts that appellee failed to use reasonable efforts to reunify the family. He claims that he completed his case plan and "used every resource available to him to address his mental health, to improve his parenting skills, to improve his overall functioning and ability to parent [the child], to have adequate housing for her and to have financial stability to provide for [the child]." The father additionally points out that he attended the vast majority of his visits with the child and that he engaged in family counseling sessions in an attempt to deepen his relationship with his daughter. Father contends that despite all of his efforts, appellee did not use reasonable efforts. He faults the caseworker for failing to hold case review meetings or semiannual administrative reviews (SARs). He also claims that appellee should have subjected the child to further psychological evaluation after she expressed thoughts of suicide and that appellee should have instituted family counseling much sooner than November 2016.

         {¶ 55} Appellee responds that the trial court made several reasonable-efforts findings in the prior case and also made a reasonable-efforts finding on November 1, 2016. Appellee further points out that contact with the father became difficult once the father informed his caseworker and the GAL not to contact him anymore, but rather, to contact his attorney. Appellee claims that the father "created his own hurdles which made it difficult for the Agency to provide services."

         {¶ 56} R.C. 2151.419(A)(1) requires a trial court to determine whether a children services agency "made reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of the child from the child's home, to eliminate the continued removal of the child from the child's home, or to make it possible for the child to return safely home." However, this statute applies only at "adjudicatory, emergency, detention, and temporary-disposition hearings, and dispositional hearings for abused, neglected, or dependent children * * *." C.F., supra, at ¶41; accord In re C.B.C., 4th Dist. Lawrence Nos. 15CA18 and 15CA19, 2016-Ohio-916, 2016 WL 915012, ¶72. Thus, "'[b]y its plain terms, the statute does not apply to motions for permanent custody brought pursuant to R.C. 2151.413, or to hearings held on such motions pursuant to R.C. 2151.414.'" C.F. at ¶41, quoting In re A.C, 12th Dist. Clermont No. CA2004-05-041, 2004-Ohio-5531, ¶30. Nonetheless, "[t]his does not mean that the agency is relieved of the duty to make reasonable efforts" before seeking permanent custody. Id. at ¶42. Instead, at prior "stages of the child-custody proceeding, the agency may be required under other statutes to prove that it has made reasonable efforts toward family reunification." Id. Additionally, "[if] the agency has not established that reasonable efforts have been made prior to the hearing on a motion for permanent custody, then it must demonstrate such efforts at that time." Id. at ¶43.

         {¶ 57} We discussed the meaning of "reasonable efforts" in C.B.C., supra, at ¶76, as follows:

In general, "reasonable efforts" mean "'[t]he state's efforts to resolve the threat to the child before removing the child or to permit the child to return home after the threat is removed.'" C.F. at ¶28, quoting Will L. Crossley, Defining Reasonable Efforts: Demystifying the State's Burden Under Federal Child Protection Legislation, 12 B.U.Pub.Int.L. J. 259, 260 (2003). "'Reasonable efforts means that a children's services agency must act diligently and provide services appropriate to the family's need to prevent the child's removal or as a predicate to reunification.'" In re H.M.K., 3d Dist. Wyandot Nos. 16-12-15 and 16-12-16, 2013-Ohio-4317, ¶95, quoting In re DA, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-11-1197, 2012-Ohio-1104, ¶30. In other words, the agency must use reasonable efforts to help remove the obstacles preventing family reunification. Bean, Reasonable Efforts: What State Courts Think, 36 U. Tol. L.Rev. 321, 366 (2005), quoting In re Child of E.V., 634 N.W.2d 443, 447 (Minn.Ct.App.2001), and In re K.L.P., No. C1-99-1235, 2000 WL 343203, at *5 (Minn.Ct.App. Apr. 4, 2000) (explaining that the agency must address what is "necessary to correct the conditions that led to the out-of-home placement" and must "provide those services that would assist in alleviating the conditions leading to the determination of dependency"). However, "'[r]easonable efforts' does not mean all available efforts. Otherwise, there would always be an argument that one more additional service, no matter how remote, may have made reunification possible." In re Lewis, 4th Dist. Athens No. 03CA12, 2003-Ohio-5262, ¶16. Furthermore, the meaning of "reasonable efforts" "will obviously vary with the circumstances of each individual case." Suter v. Artist M, 503 U.S. 347, 360, 112 S.Ct. 1360, 118 L.Ed.2d 1 (1992). Additionally, "[i]n determining whether reasonable efforts were made, the child's health and safety shall be paramount." R.C. 2151.419(A)(1).

         {¶ 58} In the case at bar, after our review of the record we believe that the record shows that appellee used reasonable efforts. Appellee provided extensive case management services over the course of more than two years. Appellee offered referrals and supervised visitations. Wheaton testified as to the amount of time and energy she spent on this case, and indicated that she spent more time on this case than any other case in her career.

         {¶ 59} While appellee may not have implemented family counseling as quickly as the father would have preferred, appellee cited a valid reason for the delay-the child's counselor did not believe that the child was ready to engage in family counseling. Indeed, the main point of appellee's decision to dismiss its first permanent custody motion and to file a new case was to allow father and child to engage in family counseling. Father and the child engaged in six family counseling sessions, but the sessions did not help the father and the child establish a healthy relationship such that reunification could be a possibility. Instead, both the father's counselor and the child's counselor described the family counseling sessions as unsuccessful. The child's counselor believed the sessions emotionally harmed the child and did not believe that subjecting her to this continued emotional abuse would strengthen the parties' relationship sufficiently that reunification could be attempted. In sum, we have reviewed the record and find nothing to suggest that appellee's efforts fell short of reasonable.

         {¶ 60} Furthermore, even though father may have engaged in the services that appellee requested of him, case plan compliance is not necessarily dispositive on the issue of reunification and does not preclude a grant of permanent custody to a children's services agency. In re W.C.J., 4th Dist. Jackson No. 14CA3, 2014-Ohio-5841, ¶46 ("[substantial compliance with a case plan is not necessarily dispositive on the issue of reunification and does not preclude a grant of permanent custody to a children's services agency."); see In re M.H., 4th Dist. Pike No. 17CA882, 2017-Ohio-7365, 2017 WL 3701168, ¶102; In re S.S., 4th Dist. Jackson No. 16CA7 and 16CA8, 2017-Ohio-2938, ¶164; In re M.B., 4th Dist. Highland No. 15CA19, 2016-Ohio-793, ¶59; In re N.L., 9th Dist. Summit No. 27784, 2015-Ohio-4165, ¶35 (stating that substantial compliance with a case plan, in and of itself, does not establish that a grant of permanent custody to an agency is erroneous"); In re S.C, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 102349, 2015-Ohio-2280, ¶40 ("Compliance with a case plan is not, in and of itself, dispositive of the issue of reunification."); In re West, 4th Dist. Athens No. 03CA20, 2003-Ohio-6299, ¶19. Indeed, because the trial court's primary focus in a permanent custody proceeding is the child's best interest, "it is entirely possible that a parent could complete all of his/her case plan goals and the trial court still appropriately terminate his/her parental rights." In re Gomer, 3rd Dist. Wyandot Nos. 16-03-19, 16-03-20, and 16-03-21, 2004-Ohio-1723, ¶36; accord In re AS, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100530 and 100531, 2014-Ohio-3035, ¶32. Consequently, even if father complied with the case plan services, these actions do not necessarily demonstrate that placing the child in his custody would serve her best interest.

         {¶ 61} Accordingly, based upon the foregoing reasons, we disagree with the father that the evidence shows that appellee failed to use reasonable efforts.

         E

         PLACEMENT WITH FATHER WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME

         {¶ 62} The father next argues that the trial court erred by concluding that the child could not be placed with the father within a reasonable time.

         {¶ 63} In the case sub judice, the trial court determined that R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(d) applies. The father does not dispute that the child has been in appellee's temporary custody for twelve or more months of a consecutive twenty-two-month period within the meaning of R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(d). If the court finds that R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(d) applies, then it need not also find that the child cannot or should not be placed with either parent within a reasonable time. E.g., In re C.W., 104 Ohio St.3d 163, 2004-Ohio-6411, 818 N.E.2d 1176, ¶21; In re A.M.1, 4th Dist. Athens Nos. 10CA21 through 10CA31, 2010-Ohio-5837, ¶31; In re T.F., 4th Dist. Pickaway No. 07CA34, 2008-Ohio-1238, ¶23; In re Williams, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 02AP-924, 2002-Ohio-7205; accord In re J.F., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 105504, 2018-Ohio-96, 2018 WL 386668, ¶51. Instead, the statute requires a trial court to find the existence of only one of the R.C. 2151.414(B) factors. See In re W.W., 1st Dist. Nos. C-110363 and C-110402, 2011-Ohio-4912, ¶ 54 (observing that if one of R.C. 2151.414(B)(1) factors exists, court need not find that other (B)(1) factors apply). Consequently, any error that may exist with respect to a reasonable-time finding would not constitute reversible error. See In re R.S., 4th Dist. Highland No. 11CA29, 2012-Ohio-2016, 2012 WL 1594247, ¶34. We therefore do not address the father's reasonable-time argument.

         {¶ 64} Accordingly, based upon the foregoing reasons, we overrule the father's first assignment of error.

         II

         PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION

         {¶ 65} In his second assignment of error, father argues that the trial court violated his due process rights by denying his request that the child to undergo a new psychological examination. Appellee contends, however, that the evidence did not justify a new psychological evaluation and that father does not possess a due process right to demand that the child undergo a new psychological evaluation.

         {¶ 66} "The right of a natural parent to the care and custody of his children is one of the most precious and fundamental in law." In re Adoption of Masa, 23 Ohio St.3d 163, 164, 492 N.E.2d 140 (1986), citing Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982); accord Lassiter v. Durham Cty. Dept. of Social Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 27, 101 S.Ct. 2153, 68 L.Ed.2d 640 (1981), quoting Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 1212, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972) (explaining that "a parent's desire for and right to 'the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children' is an important interest"); In re C.F., 113 Ohio St.3d 73, 2007-Ohio-1104, 862 N.E.2d 816, ¶28 (stating that "[t]he right to parent one's children is a fundamental right"). Indeed, "the upbringing of children [is] among [the] associational rights th[e United States Supreme] Court has ranked as 'of basic importance in our society.'" MLB. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 116-17, 117 S.Ct. 555, 136 L.Ed.2d 473 (1996), quoting Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 376, 91 S.Ct. 780, 28 L.Ed.2d 113 (1971) (citations omitted); accord In re B.C., 141 Ohio St.3d 55, 2014-Ohio-4558, 21 N.E.3d 308, 2014 WL 5285371, ¶17, citing MLB., 519 U.S. at 116, 117 S.Ct. 555 ("A parent's relationship with his or her child is among the 'associational rights' sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution against unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect by the state."); Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 257-58, 103 S.Ct. 2985, 77 L.Ed.2d 614 (1983), quoting Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166, 64 S.Ct. 438, 88 L.Ed. 645, 88 L.Ed.2d 645 (1944) ("'[T]he custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.'"). "'[T]he interest of parents in their relationship with their children is sufficiently fundamental to come within the finite class of liberty interests protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.'" MLB., 519 U.S. at 119, 117 S.Ct. 555, quoting Santosky, 455 U.S. at 774, 102 S.Ct. 1388 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). Consequently, the parent-child relationship "'undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection.'" Lassiter, 452 U.S. at 27, 101 S.Ct. 2153, quoting Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972); MLB., 519 U.S. at 116, 117 S.Ct. 555 (stating that the parent-child relationship deserves "shelter[ ] * * * against the State's unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect").

         {¶ 67} "'[F]ew consequences of judicial action are so grave as the severance of natural family ties.'" MLB., 519 U.S. at 119, 117 S.Ct. 555, quoting Santosky, 455 U.S. at 787, 102 S.Ct. 1388 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). "[P]arental status termination is 'irretrievably] destructive]' of the most fundamental family relationship" and permanently destroys "'all legal recognition of the parental relationship.'" Id. at 121, 127-28, 117 S.Ct. 555 quoting Santosky, 455 U.S. at 753, 102 S.Ct. 1388, and Rivera, 483 U.S. at 580, 107 S.Ct. at 3005. Indeed, "permanent termination of parental rights has been described as 'the family law equivalent of the death penalty in a criminal case.' In re Smith (1991), 77 Ohio App.3d 1, 16, 601 N.E.2d 45, 54. Therefore, parents 'must be afforded every procedural and substantive protection the law allows.' Id." In re B.C., 141 Ohio St.3d 55, 2014-Ohio-4558, 21 N.E.3d 308, ¶19, quoting In re Hayes, 79 Ohio St.3d 46, 48, 679 N.E.2d 680 (1997). Thus, "'state intervention to terminate [a parent-child] relationship * * * must be accomplished by procedures meeting the requisites of the Due Process Clause.'" Lehr, 463 U.S. at 258, 103 S.Ct. 2985, quoting Santosky, 455 U.S. at 752, 102 S.Ct. 1388; B.C. at ¶17 ("In the context of termination of parental rights, due process requires that the state's procedural safeguards ensure that the termination proceeding is fundamentally fair.").

         {¶ 68} The Due Process Clause contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "No State shall * * * deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law * * *." The Due Course of Law Clause in Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution provides: "All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his land, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and shall have justice administered without denial or delay." The two clauses provide equivalent due process protections. State v. Aalim, 150 Ohio St.3d 489, 2017-Ohio-2956, 83 N.E.3d 883, ¶15; State v. Hand, 149 Ohio St.3d 94, 2016-Ohio-5504, 73 N.E.3d 448, ¶11; Direct Plumbing Supply Co. v. Dayton, 138 Ohio St. 540, 544-545, 38 N.E.2d 70 (1941).

         {¶ 69} "Procedural due process imposes constraints on governmental decisions which deprive individuals of 'liberty' or 'property' interests within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment." Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976). "'[D]ue process' has never been, and perhaps can never be, precisely defined." Lassiter, 452 U.S. at 24, 101 S.Ct. 2153. Instead, due process is "a flexible concept that varies depending on the importance attached to the interest at stake and the particular circumstances under which the deprivation may occur." Aalim at ¶22, citing Walters v. Natl. Assn. of Radiation Survivors, 473 U.S. 305, 320, 105 S.Ct. 3180, 87 L.Ed.2d 220 (1985). "Applying the Due Process Clause is therefore an uncertain enterprise which must discover what 'fundamental fairness' consists of in a particular situation by first considering any relevant precedents and then by assessing the several interests that are at stake." Lassiter, 452 U.S. at 24-25, 101 S.Ct. 2153; accord Aalim at ¶22; In re B.C., 141 Ohio St.3d 55, 2014-Ohio-4558, 21 N.E.3d 308, ¶17, citing Santosky, 455 U.S. at 753-754, 102 S.Ct. 1388 ("In the context of termination of parental rights, due process requires that the state's procedural safeguards ensure that the termination proceeding is fundamentally fair"). "The fundamental requirements] of due process [are notice and] the opportunity to be heard 'at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.'" Eldridge, 424 U.S. at 333, 96 S.Ct. 893, quoting Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552, 85 S.Ct. 1187, 14 L.Ed.2d 62 (1965); B.C. at ¶17.

         {¶ 70} Determining what process is due and whether a parental rights termination proceeding is fundamentally fair generally requires courts to consider three factors:

First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail.

Eldridge, 424 U.S. at 335, 96 S.Ct. 893; accord Lassiter, 452 U.S. at 27, 101 S.Ct. 2153; B.C. at ¶18.

         {¶ 71} In the case at bar, we recognize that father possesses a significant private interest in the care, custody, and control of his child. See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000) (recognizing parents' interest in the care, custody, and control of child "is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court"). "But it is not only [the father]'s private interest that we must consider." B.C. at ¶20. Instead, "'"the natural rights of a parent are not absolute, but are always subject to the ultimate welfare of the child, which is the polestar or controlling principle to be observed."'" Id., quoting In re Cunningham, 59 Ohio St.2d 100, 106, 391 N.E.2d 1034 (1979), quoting In re R. J.C, 300 So.2d 54, 58 (Fla.App.1974). Accordingly, "parental interests are subordinate to the child's interest when determining the appropriate resolution of a petition to terminate parental rights." Id.

         {¶ 72} In addition to examining a parent's interest in a parental-rights-termination action, courts also must consider the child's interest. Id. In the case sub judice, the child, at least initially, may have had an interest in preserving her familial relationship. However, the child later made it clear that she no longer wishes to preserve her relationship with her father and would like the foster parents to adopt her. The child indicated that she is fearful of her father and has threatened to harm herself if placed in his custody. Thus, her interest is "a permanent placement in a stable, secure, and nurturing home without undue delay." Id., citing In re Adoption of Zschach, 75 Ohio St.3d 648, 651, 665 N.E.2d 1070 (1996). For "'[t]here is little that can be as detrimental to a child's sound development as uncertainty over whether [s]he is to remain in h[er] current "home, " under the care of h[er] parents or foster parents, especially when such uncertainty is prolonged.'" Id., quoting Lehman v. Lycoming Cty. Children's Servs. Agency, 458 U.S. 502, 513-514, 102 S.Ct. 3231, 73 L.Ed.2d 928 (1982).

         {¶ 73} In the case at bar, the evidence reveals that the child has displayed outward signs of distress due to the reunification process and permanent custody proceedings. The child's counselor and pediatrician both testified that the entire process has been detrimental to the child's mental health. Thus, the child possesses a significant interest in securing a permanent placement in a stable, secure, and nurturing home without undue delay. Prolonging her uncertainty would only continue to be detrimental to her sound development.

         {¶ 74} The second Mathews factor evaluates the risk of erroneous deprivation of father's interest under the current procedures and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards. Id. at ¶21. In B.C., the Ohio Supreme Court held that the current statutory procedures satisfy due process and minimize the risk of an erroneous deprivation of parental rights. The court explained:

Procedural safeguards already exist in parental-termination cases. R.C. Chapter 2151 contains the procedures for cases involving juveniles, including the award of permanent custody of a child away from the natural parents. R.C. 2151.01 requires courts to construe those provisions liberally in favor of retaining the family unit, "separating the child from the child's parents only when necessary for the child's welfare or in the interests of public safety." R.C. 2151.01(A). Division (B) further provides that the purpose of the statutes is also to "provide judicial procedures * * * in which the parties are assured of a fair hearing, and their constitutional and other legal rights are recognized and enforced." For example, R.C. 2151.35(A)(2) requires testimony and other oral proceedings to be recorded; R.C. 2151.35(C) ensures parental notice of adjudicatory and dispositional hearings; R.C. 2151.352 gives the parent a right to appointed counsel; R.C. 2151.353(B) provides that when a motion for temporary or permanent custody is filed, parents shall be provided a full explanation that permanent custody permanently divests the parents of all rights and that temporary custody is the removal of the child from their legal custody.
R.C. 2151.414 sets forth the procedures that follow the filing of a motion for permanent custody, many of which are designed to protect the parent's interest in retaining the parent-child relationship. A hearing is required to be held within 120 days. R.C. 2151.414(A)(1). The agency moving for permanent custody must by clear and convincing evidence prove that the grant of permanent custody is in the best interest of the child. R.C. 2151.414(B)(1). Before awarding permanent custody, the court is required to consider all relevant factors, including the child's interaction and relationship with the parent. R.C. 2151.414(D)(1). A written report from a guardian ad litem must be submitted to the court before the hearing under R.C. 2151.414(C). Portions of the statute require clear and convincing evidence when the child cannot be placed with either parent within a reasonable period of time. R.C. 2151.414(D) and (E). The agency is required to prove that it used reasonable efforts to reunite parent and child. R.C. 2151.419(A)(1).
In summation, statutory protections already ensure that a parent faced with termination of parental rights has the opportunity to participate in the proceedings fully, with notice, representation, and the remedy of an appeal. We therefore hold that Ohio's current procedures comport with due process * * *.

B.C. at ¶¶ 25-27.

         {¶ 75} Two decades before B.C., the Third District Court of Appeals determined that the risk of an erroneous determination regarding a parent's mental health appears high when the parent does not have the resources to counter the state's expert psychiatric evidence. In re Shaeffer Children, 85 Ohio App.3d 683, 690, 621 N.E.2d 426 (3rd Dist.1993). The court explained: "Psychiatry is not an exact science, and psychiatrists disagree widely and frequently on what constitutes mental illness, on the appropriate diagnosis to be attached to given behavior and symptoms, and on the cure and treatment." Id. The court thus determined "that the assistance of a psychiatrist to conduct an examination, to testify, and to aid in preparing the cross-examination of the state's psychiatric expert witness would greatly reduce the risk of an erroneous determination on the mental health issue." Id.

         {¶ 76} In the case at bar, we do not believe that permitting father to force his child to undergo an updated psychological evaluation is necessary to prevent an erroneous deprivation of his parental rights. The child has been in counseling since shortly after appellee obtained temporary custody. Father believed that the child should undergo a new psychological evaluation in order to determine the cause of her suicidal ideations. The child, however, made it clear why she had suicidal ideations-her fear of being placed in her father's custody. Thus, unlike Shaeffer, the case sub judice does not involve potentially differing psychiatric diagnoses, but instead the evidence is clear that the child's suicidal ideations resulted from her fear of being placed in father's custody. Moreover, father does not explain how an updated psychological evaluation would change this fact. Consequently, we do not believe that forcing the child to undergo an updated psychological evaluation is necessary to reduce the risk of an erroneous deprivation of father's parental rights.

         {¶ 77} The final Mathews factor is the government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal or administrative burdens of providing additional or substitute procedural requirements. "The government's interest is twofold. First, the state has an interest in minimizing fiscal and administrative costs." B.C. at ¶23. However, this interest does not override father's significant private interest in the right to a relationship with his child. Id. "Second, the state has an interest in the function involved in these cases, i.e., the state's role as parens patriae in promoting the welfare of the child." Id.

         {¶ 78} In the case at bar, we believe that the state's interest in promoting the child's welfare overrides father's private interest in his right to a relationship with his child. The reunification process and permanent custody proceedings have placed the child in a fragile emotional state, and she has consistently expressed her desire for the proceedings to end. Unfortunately, father fails to realize that what is best for him is not necessarily best for his child. While father's continued fight for his child may indicate that he deeply and sincerely loves his child, this case has reached the point of continued harm to the child. Consequently, under the circumstances present in the case at bar, we do not believe that due process mandates an updated psychological evaluation.

         {¶ 79} Accordingly, based upon the foregoing reasons, we overrule father's second assignment of error.

         III

         {¶ 80} In his third assignment of error, father challenges the trial court's factual findings regarding his mental health diagnosis. Father contends that the court relied upon an outdated psychological evaluation and incorrectly determined that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. He further ...


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