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In re C. R. W.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District

June 19, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF: C. R. W., MINOR CHILD, B. A. R., Plaintiff-Appellant,
A. N. W nka A. N. G., Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, of Jefferson County, Ohio Case No. 2007 PA 00083

          Atty. Mary Corabi, Corabi Law Office, 424 Market Street, Steubenville, Atty. Aaron Richardson, Blake, Bednar, Blake & Richardson, for Plaintiff- Appellant and

          Atty. Peter Olivito, for Defendant- Appellee.

          BEFORE: David A. D'Apolito, Cheryl L. Waite, Carol Ann Robb, Judges.


          D'APOLITO, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, B.A.R. appeals the judgment entry of the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, overruling his Motion for Reallocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities. For the following reasons, the judgment entry of the trial court is reversed and this matter is remanded for a detailed analysis of the best interests of the child and, if applicable, an analysis of the potential benefits/harm resulting from a change in custody.


         {¶2} On August 27, 2018, Appellee, A.N.W. nka A.N.G. filed a handwritten notice in the Juvenile Court of Jefferson County, Ohio, of her intent to marry R.G., a member of the United States Air Force stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and to move the parties' then eleven-year old daughter, C.R.W., to Okinawa in late December 2018 or early January 2019. Appellee is the residential parent of C.R.W. The notice included a proposed modification to Appellant's parenting time schedule. The trial court scheduled the matter for a hearing on October 15, 2018.

         {¶3} On October 12, 2018, Appellant filed the Motion for Reallocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities currently before this Court, alleging that Appellee's proposed move from Jefferson County, Ohio, to Okinawa, Japan, was a change in circumstances, and it was in the best interest of C. R.W. to remain in Jefferson County, Ohio in Appellant's custody.

         {¶4} At the hearing on the notice to relocate, which was conducted by the Magistrate on October 15, 2018, Appellant argued that Appellee's relocation to Japan was not in C.R.W's best interest. Appellant argued that C.R.W. did not appreciate the limited contact she would have with him and her extended family following the move, and that she was not mature enough to understand the impact of living with Appellee and J.G. in Japan. In a Decision dated October 17, 2018, the Magistrate determined that it was in C.R.W's best interest to modify the parenting time schedule based upon Appellee's intent to relocate to Japan.

         {¶5} Appellant's visitation with C.R.W. was modified as follows: Easter break, summer break, and either Thanksgiving or Christmas break, to alternate each year. Further, Appellant may visit C.R.W. in Japan at any time provided a two-week notice is given to Appellee. Finally, if Appellant is capable of visiting C.R.W. in Los Angeles or Seattle during C.R.W.'s long weekends, Appellee and C.R.W. will travel to the United States for those visits. (11/1/18 J.E., p. 1).

         {¶6} No objection was filed to the modified parenting time schedule and it was incorporated into a judgment entry filed on November 1, 2018. The transcript of the hearing is not in the record. No appeal from the judgment entry modifying the parenting time schedule was taken.

         {¶7} A hearing on the motion to reallocate parental rights was conducted by the Magistrate on November 7, 2018. Appellant testified and presented testimony from C.R.W.'s maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother. Appellee testified on her own behalf but did not call any additional witnesses. The trial court conducted an in-camera interview with C.R.W. on November 17, 2018.

         {¶8} In a Decision dated November 19, 2018, the Magistrate determined that a change in circumstances had occurred, because C.R.W. was much older than when the original custody determination was made. After a brief recitation of the facts in the record and the arguments of both parties, the Magistrate summarily concluded that a change in custody was not in C.R.W.'s best interest, but, instead, that it was in her best interest to remain in the custody of her mother.

         {¶9} On November 26, 2018, Appellant filed a Request for a Transcript of the hearing held on November 7, 2018, as well as a Request for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. The Magistrate issued his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on November 29, 2018, which contained a more detailed restatement of the facts and arguments advanced at the hearing, but absolutely no analysis of the factors set forth in R.C. 3109.04(F)(1).

         {¶10} Appellant filed Objections to the Magistrate's Decision on December 12, 2018. Supplemental Objections to the Magistrate's Decision, which included citations to the transcript, were filed January 15, 2019. Appellee filed a response to Appellant's Objections on January 11, 2019, and a response to Appellant's Supplemental Objections was filed on January 23, 2019. The trial court overruled Appellant's objections and adopted the Magistrate's Decision in a Judgment Entry on January 29, 2019. The Judgment Entry simply restated the magistrate's conclusion memorialized in his November 19th Decision. This timely appeal followed.


         {¶11} C.W. R. was born on February 7, 2007, and was eleven years old at the time of the hearing. The parties never married. Custody and visitation were originally established in 2007 and no issues regarding custody or parenting time had been raised prior to the current controversy. Appellee has been the custodial parent and Appellant has had parenting time every other weekend and every Wednesday. Appellant exercised his summer parenting time only once, during his short-lived marriage. The parties agree that they have been able to work together parenting C.W.R.

         {¶12} C.R.W. is a life-long resident of Jefferson County, Ohio. On the hearing date, Appellee and C.R.W. were living with C.R.W.'s maternal grandmother in Toronto, Ohio. Appellee conceded that C.R.W. has a strong bond with both her maternal grandmother and her maternal step-grandmother, and that her paternal grandparents are very active in her life. C.R.W. frequently spent weekends at the home of her maternal grandfather and step-grandmother, where she has her own bedroom. C.R.W. has aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of her family that reside in Jefferson County, Ohio.

         {¶13} Appellee conceded that she has relied on her family to help raise C.R.W., and that C.R.W's close relationships with her extended family play a positive role in C.R.W.'s life. Appellant agreed that both sides of C.R.W.'s extended family play a substantial role in her daily life.

         {¶14} In addition to having close family ties in Jefferson County, Ohio, C.R.W. is happily engaged in her school and community. C.R.W. gets high grades in school. She has been active in Destination Imagination, ballet, softball, and orchestra. Appellant is her softball coach. Appellee conceded that ...

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