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In re K.M.F.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Highland

June 12, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF: K.M.F. AND K.A.F.

          CIVIL CASE FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT, PROBATE DIVISION

          Justin Chase Taylor, London, Ohio, pro se Appellant.

          J. Allyce Horne, Hillsboro, Ohio, for Appellees. [1]

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Peter B. Abele, Judge

         {¶ 1} This is a consolidated appeal from Highland County Common Pleas Court, Probate Division, judgments that granted the petitions to adopt K.M.F. and K.A.F. K.M.F.'s biological father (J.T.), [2] respondent below and appellant herein, assigns the following errors for our review:

         FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:

         "THE PROBATE COURT ERRED WHEN IT FOUND THAT MY CONSENT TO ADOPTION WAS NOT REQUIRED BASED UPON INCOMPLETE AND/OR ERRONEOUS INFORMATION REGARDING ALLEGED DE MINIMIS CONTACT WITH MY CHILDREN WHEN, IN FACT, THE ADOPTING COUPLE, WHO HAVE CUSTODY OF MY CHILDREN, DENIED ME ANY CONTACT WITH [THE CHILDREN]."

         SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:

         "THE PROBATE COURT ERRED WHEN IT ERRONEOUSLY FOUND THAT MY CONSENT TO ADOPTION WAS NOT REQUIRED DUE TO AN ALLEGED FAILURE TO REGISTER AS A PUTATIVE FATHER WHEN THE STATE OF OHIO HAD ALREADY DETERMINED I AM THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER."

         {¶ 2} In February 2018, the children were placed in the legal custody of P.F. and L.F., petitioners below. Seven months later, petitioners filed petitions to adopt the minor children and alleged that the biological mother's consent is required and that she consented to the adoption. The petitions further asserted that appellant's consent is not required because he failed, without justifiable cause, to provide (1) more than de minimis contact with the children for at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition, and (2) for the maintenance and support of the children, as required by law or judicial decree, for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition.

         {¶ 3} Appellant objected and asserted that petitioners did not permit him to have contact with the children and that petitioners' "egregious, selfish, and unwarranted actions" is the reason he has not had contact with the children.

         {¶ 4} On December 19, 2018, the trial court held a hearing. At the hearing, the court noted that the biological mother and appellant are currently incarcerated on involuntary manslaughter charges that arose out of a drug overdose. Additionally, L.F. testified that the father has not seen K.M.F. since March 2017. L.F. indicated that, after she and her husband filed the petitions to adopt, appellant sent two letters and later a Christmas card.

         {¶ 5} At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court determined that appellant's consent to the adoption is not required. The court found that appellant failed, without justifiable cause, to provide more than de minimis contact with the children for at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition. The court noted that appellant recently sent letters and a Christmas card, but observed that appellant did so only after petitioners filed the petitions to adopt. The court concluded that although appellant had the means to send letters to the children before the petitions were filed, he apparently chose not to do so. The court additionally found that appellant did not register as a ...


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