Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Geauga
IN THE MATTER OF: J.W., M.W., L.W., AND K.W., ABUSED, NEGLECTED AND DEPENDENT CHILDREN
Appeal from the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile
Division, Case No. 2014 JF 000213.
R. Flaiz, Geauga County Prosecutor, and Kelly M. Wallenfelsz,
Assistant Prosecutor, Courthouse Annex, 231 Main Street,
Suite 3A, Chardon, OH 44024 (For Appellee, Geauga County
Department of Job and Family Services).
Gregory J. Wysin, 2037 Brady Lake Road, Kent, OH 44240 (For
Appellant, Alison Ward).
R. WRIGHT, P. JUDGE
Appellant, Alison Ward, appeals the September 19, 2017
judgment terminating her parental rights and granting
permanent custody of her four minor children to the Geauga
County Department of Job and Family Services
("GCDJFS"). We affirm.
On June 10, 2014, GCDJFS filed a complaint alleging that
appellant's children, J.W., M.W., L.W., and K.W., were
neglected and dependent children and that L.W. was also an
abused child. The complaint alleged that in June of 2014,
appellant was intoxicated and contacted the police seeking
the removal of her children from the home. She had threatened
the children causing them to be fearful for their safety. The
police removed the children and placed them into temporary
custody of GCDJFS. Appellant was arrested and charged with
Dotty Ciciretto was appointed guardian ad litem
("GAL") for the children. On October 31, 2014, the
children were adjudicated dependent and L.W. was also found
to be abused. The children were placed together in a foster
home in central Ohio, moved to a second in Geauga County, and
finally a third in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Appellant was convicted of attempted child endangering, and
in October 2015, she violated the terms of her probation.
Thereafter, she successfully completed treatment for alcohol
In December of 2015, the children's father, James Ward,
moved for legal custody of the children. He was represented
by counsel at the time, but his attorney moved to withdraw in
January of 2016 citing fundamental disagreements with her
client's directives. The trial court granted
counsel's motion to withdraw and noted in part, "the
Court will not appoint a third free lawyer to father to
pursue his private custody claim."
On May 5, 2016, GCDJFS moved the court to grant legal custody
of the children to their paternal aunt and uncle, Susan and
Steven Manning ("the Mannings"). The children's
father is listed on the certificate of service as residing in
South Carolina. He did not file anything in opposition to
Father also filed a motion for a Thanksgiving visit that
states in part that he does not have a driver's license,
but that he owns a four-bedroom home that he would like the
children to visit and "see the home that they would be
living in." The trial court noted that it would address
his motion for a Thanksgiving visit at the upcoming motions
Thereafter, father moved for an eight-week continuance of the
hearing explaining that he was physically unable to attend
due to his physical injuries. He states he is unable to work,
travel, and is "medicated" due to tremendous pain.
He also moved for copies of all court records and another
motion for court-appointed counsel on November 28, 2016. His
motion for counsel was denied because he failed to complete
the necessary paperwork and provide copies of his 2015 tax
returns and 2016 pay stubs. The trial court also overruled
father's motion for a continuance because he failed to
provide anything from a doctor validating his injuries.
Notwithstanding, the trial court permitted father to
participate in the upcoming proceedings via Skype or
telephone and ordered him to provide his current contact
information to the court to facilitate his participation in
At the December 5, 2016 hearing the trial court noted that
father failed to appear and that it attempted to contact him
via phone without success. Notwithstanding his absence, the
trial court again considered his motions and found that he
had not produced the necessary documentation to establish
indigency for court-appointed counsel and likewise failed to
provide the court with documentation verifying his injuries
and inability to attend the court proceedings. Thus, his
motions to continue and appointed counsel were denied.
The parties present at the hearing agreed for legal custody
of the children to be placed with the Mannings, finding in
"The Court hereby finds that in the best interests of
the children, legal custody of J.W., M.W., L.W., & K.W.
is granted to Susan and Steven Manning effective June 15,
2017. GCJFS shall continue to maintain temporary custody of
J.W., M.W., L.W., & K.W. until June 15, 2017. GCJFS shall
continue to maintain J.W., M.W., L.W., & K.W. in their
current foster home placement with Mr. & Mrs. Brown
through the end of the 2016-2017 schoolyear.
"Marty Gelfand, counsel for [appellant], indicated that
[she] wishes to withdraw her Motion for Dispositional Order
Returning Children to mother at this time.
"* * *
"The Case Plan shall continue as previously Ordered.
"[Appellant's] visitation with the children shall
continue as previously Ordered.
"The children shall continue to attend individual
counseling services as recommended by their counselors).
"GCJFS shall make a referral to initiate family
counseling services for [appellant] and the children. GCJFS
shall use its best efforts to facilitate ongoing family
counseling for [appellant] and the children as recommended by
the children's counselors) and the family counselor.
"[Appellant] is permitted to exchange text messages with
the children; said text messages are subject to monitoring ...