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In re L.B.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Sandusky

May 18, 2018

In re L.B.

          Trial Court No. 21130108

          Amanda A. Andrews, for appellant.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

          PIETRYKOWSKI, J.

         {¶ 1} This is an appeal from the judgment of the Sandusky County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, which denied appellant-mother's, T.B., motion to change custody of her minor child, L.B. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} This case began with a complaint in dependency and neglect filed by the Sandusky County Department of Job and Family Services ("the agency"). The complaint alleged that in the spring of 2011, appellant tried to commit suicide on a couple of occasions as she and appellee-father, B.B., were going through a divorce. In addition, the complaint alleged an occasion where appellee was drunk and became aggressive and violent. Appellee was arrested for domestic violence as a result of the incident, but ultimately was not convicted.

         {¶ 3} The parties consented to a finding of dependency. On October 3, 2011, following a dispositional hearing, the trial court awarded temporary custody of L.B. to the paternal grandmother, J.R., under the protective supervision of the agency.[1] Effective July 24, 2012, protective supervision of L.B. was terminated, and appellee was awarded legal custody of L.B.

         {¶ 4} On November 17, 2014, appellant filed the present motion for emergency and full custody. Appellant alleged that appellee contacted her and told her to come and get L.B. because he could not care for the child.

         {¶ 5} A hearing on the motion was held on August 28, 2015. At the hearing, the guardian ad litem, appellant, and appellee testified.

         {¶ 6} The guardian ad litem testified that it was her recommendation that custody be awarded to appellant, with appellee to have liberal visitation. The guardian ad litem described appellant's home as appropriate, and stated that there were no safety concerns regarding the housing. She also testified that L.B. would be sharing a room with his older brother, J.B., with whom there had been inappropriate interactions in the past. However, the guardian ad litem testified that J.B. has matured, and that the two now enjoy spending time together. Regarding appellant's emotional stability, the guardian ad litem testified that based on her discussions with appellant, she feels that those issues have been resolved and would not prevent appellant from adequately caring for L.B. On cross-examination, the guardian ad litem admitted that she did not investigate what, if any, treatments or professional assistance appellant has engaged in to deal with her mental health issues.

         {¶ 7} The guardian ad litem next expressed concern with appellee's personal relationships, in that he has lived with, and had volatile relationships with, a number of women that resulted in him and L.B. having to move frequently. The guardian ad litem counted that appellee has moved six times in the last two to three years. L.B., however, has only attended two different schools. In kindergarten, he was in the Lakota School District, and in first and second grade, he has been in the Clyde School District. The guardian ad litem acknowledged that L.B. was well-adjusted to his school, and was performing well. If custody of L.B. were to be awarded to appellant, L.B. would then attend school in the Port Clinton School District. The guardian ad litem also commented on appellee's alcohol usage, noting that while appellee still drinks alcohol, it no longer prevents him from going to work, and there have been no legal issues involving the use of alcohol.

         {¶ 8} The guardian ad litem concluded that it would be in L.B.'s best interest to live with appellant. The guardian ad litem described L.B. as a sensitive and very loving child, and she wished for him to be in a stress-free environment, without arguing and fighting, which she believed would be with appellant. The guardian ad litem did comment, however, that she could not predict the future, and both parents have a history of instability.

         {¶ 9} Appellant testified next. She testified that the main reason the court should award her custody of L.B. is that her home is more stable. Appellant testified that she has a close, loving relationship with L.B., and she described the activities they enjoy doing together and L.B.'s interests. She also described that when he is with her, L.B. enjoys the fact that he knows what the agenda is and what the expectations are for each day. Appellant further explained that there is not any fighting at her house, and that any issues are discussed instead of argued with raised voices.

         {¶ 10} In contrast, appellant testified that appellee has had six different residences since he has had custody of L.B., and she was not always certain where she would be dropping off or picking up L.B. In addition, appellant testified that L.B. would become attached to the different women in appellee's life, and it impacts L.B. when those relationships end. Appellant then testified that as recently as the prior summer, appellee has called her on several occasions when he was drunk, and asked her to come take care of L.B. because he could not take care of him.

         {¶ 11} Concerning her own mental health, appellant testified that she attempted suicide four or five years ago, but she is no longer in that state of mind or suffering from mental instability. Appellant explained that, at the time, she was going through a messy divorce, her father was sick with two different kinds of cancer, and her family did not get along because of the divorce. She stated that none of those issues were currently present in her life.

         {¶ 12} Finally, appellant called appellee as a witness as upon cross-examination. Appellee described that he has dated a number of women in the past few years, and has stayed with them on occasion, but he has also had a permanent address where he lived. Appellee listed five different places where he has lived since being married to appellant, each one lasting for less than a year. Appellee testified that regardless of where they were, L.B. has always had his own bed in which to ...


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