Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Scioto
CASE FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT, PROBATE DIVISION
Brigham M. Anderson, Ironton, Ohio, for Appellant. 
S. Hanes, Wheelersburg, Ohio, for Appellee.
DECISION & JUDGMENT ENTRY
1} Tyler M.R. Hollar, petitioner below and appellant
herein, appeals the Scioto County Common Pleas Court, Probate
Division, judgment that denied his petition for the adoption
of his stepson, P.K.H. Appellant raises the following
assignments of error for review:
FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE PROBATE COURT ERRED BY DENYING THE PETITION FOR
ADOPTION WHEN NO MATERIAL EVIDENCE WAS PUT FORTH BY THE
APPELLEE AS REQUIRED BY O.R.C. SECTION 3107.161(C) REGARDING
THE BEST INTEREST DETERMINATION AND APPELLEE FAILED TO PROVE
THAT THE CHILD'S CURRENT PLACEMENT IS NOT THE LEAST
DETRIMENTAL AVAILABLE ALTERNATIVE" SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF
"THE PROBATE COURT ERRED IN DENYING APPELLANT'S
PETITION FOR ADOPTION AS SUCH IS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT
OF THE EVIDENCE."
2} On February 27, 2015, appellant filed a petition
to adopt P.K.H., his minor stepson. In his petition,
appellant alleged that the biological father's consent is
not required because, for a period of at least one year
immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition,
the child's biological father failed, without justifiable
cause, to: (1) have more than de minimis contact with the
child, and (2) provide for the child's maintenance and
support as required by law or judicial decree.
3} At the October 21, 2015 hearing, the trial court
found that the child's biological father, Jeremy Tyler
Booker, the respondent below and appellee herein, filed his
objection to the adoption eleven days late. Thus, because
appellee's consent was not necessary under R.C.
3107.07(K), the court proceeded to the best interest hearing.
4} At the best interest hearing, appellee testified
that he met P.K.H.'s mother, Tyler Ann Hollar (Mrs.
Hollar), in 2008, approximately one year prior to
P.K.H.'s birth. Later, appellee was away for military
training, but came home to see P.K.H. before appellee's
year long deployment the following month. Appellee testified
that he has been deployed on active military duty three
times, twice after P.K.H.'s birth. During appellee's
deployment, he maintained medical insurance for the
child and he and Mrs. Hollar kept in
communication. When appellee returned from deployment, he
testified that he visited P.K.H. and that contact remained
civil between appellee and Mrs. Hollar. When appellee later
married Joannie Book (Mrs. Book), the Books continued to
visit P.K.H., and Mrs. Book, the appellee's son M.B., and
appellee's mother also attended the Hollars' wedding.
5} Appellee stated that their informal visitation
arrangement worked well until his last deployment around
2014, when things soured. Appellee testified that he saw
P.K.H. on May 12, 2014 and then "tried to get him a
couple of times after that and they always had plans and then
I talked to him on his birthday and that was it."
Appellee wanted to see P.K.H. once more before his
deployment, but Mrs. Hollar did not allow it. Appellee stated
that he had been friends with Mrs. Hollar on Facebook prior
to his deployment, but after his 2014 deployment, Mrs. Hollar
blocked him. Eventually, appellee and his wife consulted an
attorney who advised them to wait until appellee returned
from his deployment. When appellee returned, he and his wife
asked an attorney to send the Hollars a letter to attempt to
establish parenting time outside the court system. Appellee,
however, did not receive a response to his letter, but
instead received service of the petition to adopt P.K.H.
6} Appellee's wife, Joannie Book, testified that
she and appellee met through the military and married in
2013. Mrs. Book, a National Guard recruiter, last saw P.K.H.
in May 2014 when appellee prepared for his third deployment.
Mrs. Book testified that appellee's visits with P.K.H.
were "on their terms, at their convenience, at their
home." Mrs. Book explained that at one point, she was
friends with P.K.H.'s mother and would take her step-son,
M.B., to visit P.K.H. so they "can maintain a
relationship as brothers." Mrs. Book also testified
about going to the Columbus Zoo with her husband (appellee),
the Hollars and P.K.H. Mrs. Book's friendship with Mrs.
Hollar "decreased when visitation [with P.K.H.]
dissolved" in 2014. Mrs. Book testified that when her
husband deployed in May 2014, Mrs. Hollar blocked her and
appellee from contacting her or from viewing her Facebook
social media profile. Mrs. Book also stated that she and
appellee decided to wait until he returned from his
deployment to retain legal counsel to seek visitation with
7} Appellee's mother, Teresa Book, testified
that she attended several events including one of
P.K.H.'s birthday parties, a soccer game, and
appellant's wedding to Mrs. Hollar. Teresa explained that
she sees appellee's other son, M.B., several times per
week and would like to see P.K.H. more often. She also stated
that appellee had been a "Godsend" for her
granddaughter, who had been placed with appellee, and added
that appellee's wife's interactions with P.K.H. were
"a joy to watch."
8} Ten-year-old M.B., appellee's son and
P.K.H.'s half-brother, testified that he and P.K.H. liked
to climb trees and play kick ball, tag, and hide-and-seek.
M.B. also stated that had not seen P.K.H. in about a year and
a half and that he missed him.
9} Assistant County Prosecutor Shane Tieman
testified that he had been appointed as the guardian ad litem
for appellee's other son, M.B., during a custody case
that involved appellee and M.B.'s biological mother,
Christy Sparks. In that case, Tieman conducted an
investigation and filed a report. Tieman testified that,
subsequent to that interaction, he became more familiar with
appellee through community and school activities, such as Cub
Scouts and sporting events, because M.B. and Tieman's son
are the same age. Tieman stated that appellee and his wife
provide good structure, are dependable, made M.B. follow
rules and respect them, as well as his mother, and are active
in M.B.'s school and extracurricular activities.
10} Scioto County Children's Services Caseworker
Naomi Kinsel testified that she is the ongoing caseworker for
appellee's niece, who had been placed with appellee.
Kinsel stated that appellee and his wife are appropriate with
the niece, as well as with appellee's son, M.B., and that
appellee and his wife have been drug screened and have had a
home safety audit.
11} Appellee's friend, Shane Hatfield testified
and stated that he has known appellee "since he was born
probably," and that he and appellee served in the
military together and had been deployed together to Iraq in
2009-2010 where appellee had served as team commander.
Hatfield stated that appellee is a great father to M.B., but
that he had not observed interaction with P.K.H.
12} The best interest hearing continued on January
27, 2016. Evan Washburn testified that he had known appellee
for four and a half years and had served as appellee's
commanding officer in the Army National Guard during
appellee's last deployment to Afghanistan. Washburn
explained that during their deployment, he requested appellee
to take a position as platoon sergeant "because of what
I'd seen and the potential in him to do that job."
13} Tara Boyer testified that she has known appellee
for thirteen years and became friends with him and his wife
through her husband. Boyer testified that she observed
appellee with his son, M.B. over the past four or five years
during several week-long family vacations and other visits.
14} Tyler Ann Hollar, mother of P.K.H. (and
appellant's wife), testified that appellee had not been
ordered to pay child support through the court, but instead
he had agreed to make a $275 per month direct deposit into
her account. Mrs. Hollar testified that the payments stopped
in December 2013 and appellee told her that he discontinued
the payments because he could no longer see P.K.H.
consistently. Mrs. Hollar also testified that she did not
block Mrs. Book from her Facebook, but rather had deactivated
her Facebook account on multiple occasions. However, Mrs.
Hollar did testify that she "unfriended" appellee
when she saw a photo on his Facebook page of him building a
tree house for his son, M.B. Mrs. Hollar testified that she
did not unfriend appellee to stop him from seeing her posts,
but because she did not want to see his. Mrs. Hollar also
testified that she and P.K.H. participated in appellee's
wedding to Mrs. Book.
15} Mrs. Hollar testified that in 2010 she and
appellant became engaged, and their son, G.H., was born in
2012. Mrs. Hollar explained that appellant is a great father
and treats P.K.H. the same as G.H. Mrs. Hollar stated that
appellant picks P.K.H. up from school, has coached his teams,
and is very involved in his life. Mrs. Hollar said when
P.K.H. began calling appellant "daddy" or
"dada," she did not correct him because appellee
had never been involved in P.K.H.'s life and she was
unsure if he would ever be a part in P.K.H.'s life. Mrs.
Hollar also testified that P.K.H. has some indications of
sensory processing disorder and/or obsessive compulsive
disorder and that if appellee were to be granted parenting
time, it "would open up a whole new can of worms for him
that, you know, he [P.K.H.] doesn't deserve. Um, I feel
like he would be confused once again, um, and as far as
consistency, I'm not sure in a year or two down the road
that Mr. Book would not be deployed again or leave work or
leave the town for pipefitting job or something like
that." Mrs. Hollar also stated she would like
appellee's name to be removed from P.K.H.'s birth
certificate and, instead, substitute appellant's name.
16} Mrs. Hollar's niece, Christian Livingston,
and other friends of Mrs. Hollar and appellant including
Amanda Eldridge, Vanessa Tuttle, Megan Flannery, Maddison
Enz, Ashley Schwamberger, along with appellant's brother,
Dirk Hollar, all testified that appellant has a great
relationship with P.K.B., has been a positive influence in
his life and that they favor the adoption. Furthermore,
clinical counselor Leasa Mowery ...