Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
From: Hamilton County Juvenile Court Trial No. F-05-1955X
Dwayne Sims, for Appellant Father,
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jonathan
Halvonik, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee
Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services,
Jeffrey J. Cutcher, for Appellee Mother.
Father has appealed from the trial court's entry granting
legal custody of his daughter F.B.D. to mother. Because the
trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that
a grant of legal custody to mother was in F.B.D.'s best
interest, we affirm its judgment.
In June of 2014, the Hamilton County Department of Job and
Family Services ("HCJFS") filed a complaint for
temporary custody of F.B.D., as well as five of F.B.D.'s
half-siblings, alleging that they were neglected, abused, and
dependent. The children had been living with mother and
mother's boyfriend J.C., who was the father of several of
F.B.D.'s half-siblings. HCJFS alleged that the children
had witnessed domestic violence between mother and J.C. and
that the children's home was infested with snakes, mice,
and bed bugs. The allegation of abuse was dismissed, but the
children were adjudicated dependent and neglected, and in
October of 2014, HCJFS was granted temporary custody of
F.B.D. and her half-siblings. The entry granting temporary
custody noted that the parties had no concerns involving
F.B.D's father, and that they were working on
establishing a better relationship between father and F.B.D.
so that F.B.D. could be placed in his legal custody.
Father and F.B.D. continued to have regular visitation, and
in February of 2016, upon father's petition for custody
and HCJFS's motion to terminate temporary custody of
F.B.D. and award legal custody to father, legal custody of
F.B.D. was granted to father.
Several months later, in July of 2016, the temporary custody
of four of F.B.D.'s half-siblings was terminated, and
their custody was remanded to mother. The magistrate's
entry awarding custody to mother noted that mother and J.C.
had made great strides in the case, and that there were no
identified concerns with the stability and safety of the
children when in the home of mother and J.C.
In December of 2016, F.B.D. was placed in mother's home
on a safety plan after father left her in the care of a
friend while he went to work on a fishing boat in Alaska and
F.B.D. reported that the caregiver whom she had been left
with hit her. HCJFS filed an amended complaint alleging that
F.B.D. was neglected and dependent, and in February of 2017,
interim custody of F.B.D. was granted to mother.
In September of 2017, F.B.D. was adjudicated dependent. A
dispositional hearing to determine custody of F.B.D began in
November of 2017 and was continued in progress until January
of 2018. Both HCJFS and F.B.D.'s guardian ad litem
supported an award of legal custody to mother.
HCJFS caseworker Marian Stark-Davis testified that F.B.D.
desired to live with mother but to continue visits with
father, whom she had stayed with and visited at times since
being returned to mother's care. Stark-Davis had concerns
that father continued to place F.B.D. with the caregiver whom
F.B.D. alleged had hit her, as F.B.D. expressed that she was
not comfortable in that caregiver's home. Stark-Davis
explained that father had difficulty setting limits with
F.B.D., and she described F.B.D. as being manipulative
towards father, whereas she felt that mother tried to limit
that type of behavior from F.B.D. She testified that F.B.D.
was doing well in general since being placed with mother.
F.B.D. had poor hygiene and was failing classes while living
with father. But since returning to mother's home, her
attendance and grades had improved and she was admitted to
Walnut Hills. Stark-Davis felt that mother's parenting
had improved following her participation in services, and
that mother was able to provide for all of F.B.D.'s basic
needs. Stark-Davis conceded that she had thoroughly
investigated father's home before he was initially
awarded custody of F.B.D., but explained that despite her
prior approval of father, she had concerns that he would
leave again for months at a time and place F.B.D. with other
Father testified that he was not aware of any court order
preventing him from going to work in another state, and that
he had made arrangements for F.B.D. before he left to work in
Alaska. He left her in the care of Niame Drame and provided
an ATM card for use on behalf of F.B.D. Father felt that he
was in a better position than mother to give F.B.D. a good
education, and he wanted to be able to teach F.B.D. in
matters of culture, religion, and socialization. Drame
testified that she had cared for F.B.D. while father was in
Alaska, and that father had made ...