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Oyedare v. Oyedare

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

July 8, 2019

OLUMUYIWA OYEDARE, Appellee,
v.
OLUWATOYIN OYEDARE, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS DIVISION Case No. DS16050035

          Olumuyiwa Oyedare, c/o Holy Family Catholic Church, pro se

          Tibbs Law Office, Jordan A. D'Addario, for appellant

          OPINION

          S. POWELL, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Oluwatoyin Oyedare ("Mother"), appeals the decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, denying her motion to designate her residential parent and sole legal custodian of her two children fathered by appellee, Olumuyiwa Oyedare ("Father"). Mother also appeals the domestic relations court's decision overruling her motion requesting the domestic relations court find Father in contempt for failing to allow her to have media contact with the children. For the reasons outlined below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

         {¶ 2} Mother and Father, who are both Nigerian citizens, were married in Nigeria in the spring of 2012. Two children were born issue of the marriage, one born in Nigeria on December 25, 2013, and the other born in the United States on July 10, 2015. Although still married, Mother and Father are now separated. Mother currently resides in the United States pending her claim for political asylum. At the time relevant to this appeal, Father was also residing in the United States on a student visa to pursue an advanced degree from a local university.[1] Neither of their two children reside in the United States after having been relocated to Nigeria by Father with approval from the domestic relations court.

         {¶ 3} On May 27, 2016, Father filed a complaint with the domestic relations court seeking custody of the children. Father filed his complaint after Mother left the family home with the children without providing any advanced notice to Father. Upon perfecting service on Mother via publication, a domestic relations court magistrate issued an order designating Father as the residential parent and sole legal custodian of the children. The magistrate issued its decision after holding a hearing. Mother did not appear at this hearing, whereas Father appeared at the hearing pro se. The domestic relations court subsequently affirmed and adopted the magistrate's decision in full. Despite being ordered to do so, there is no dispute that Mother kept the children from Father for several months without informing Father of her or the children's whereabouts.

         {¶ 4} On December 1, 2016, Mother moved the domestic relations court to vacate its decision designating Father as the children's residential parent and sole legal custodian. While Mother's motion was pending, the domestic relations court instructed the magistrate to hold a review hearing. Following this review hearing, the magistrate issued a detailed decision that kept in place its order granting Father custody of the children. In so holding, the magistrate noted that Mother had recently been hospitalized due to concerns regarding her mental health and other "erratic behavior."[2] The magistrate also noted that Mother had "willfully concealed" her and the children's whereabouts for several months despite its prior court order mandating Mother to relinquish the children to Father. These issues caused the magistrate to have "serious concerns about Mother, her current circumstances, and willingness to respect court orders." The domestic relations court later affirmed and adopted the magistrate's decision in its entirety.

         {¶ 5} On April 19, 2017, Father filed several motions with the domestic relations court. These included a motion requesting permission to relocate to Nigeria with the children. After holding a hearing, the domestic relations court found it was in the children's best interest to grant Father's motion to relocate. In reaching this decision, the domestic relations court found that "[a]s a direct result of his completed studies, Father [was] not permitted to remain in the United States under the terms of his student visa." Mother, however, was permitted to remain in the United States until her application for political asylum was decided. Therefore, because Mother was permitted to remain in the United States for the foreseeable future, the domestic relations court ordered Father to permit Mother "reasonable media contact (Telephone/Text/Facetime/Skype) with the minor children."

         {¶ 6} On October 13, 2017, Mother moved the domestic relations court for an emergency hearing regarding the children. Mother also moved the domestic relations court to find Father in contempt for failing to allow her to have media contact with the children. In support of her motion, Mother alleged Father had taken the children to Nigeria only to return to Ohio without the children. This, according to Mother, has resulted in her being unaware of where the children were residing or who the children were with due to Father's refusal to communicate with her or allow her media contact with the children. Therefore, because Father had since returned to Ohio without the children, Mother requested the domestic relations court find Father in contempt and order Father to immediately return the children to Ohio and place the children in her care.

         {¶ 7} On December 5, 2017, a hearing was held before a magistrate. Following this hearing, the magistrate issued a decision ordering Father to arrange for two of Mother's family members living in Nigeria to have access to the children at their paternal grandparent's residence in Nigeria. The magistrate also ordered Father to "ensure the children are made available for Mother to have telephone, text, and Facetime with them[.]" The magistrate further ordered that Father ensure that the children's paternal grandparents "cooperate and assist the children in receiving Mother's calls." The magistrate then scheduled the matter for a status conference to address "whether Mother's relatives were able to visit the children in Nigeria and whether Mother [was] able to communicate with the children via phone, text, or Facetime."

         {¶ 8} On December 28, 2017, Mother moved the domestic relations court to designate her, rather than Father, as the children's residential parent and sole legal custodian. Mother alternatively requested the domestic relations court order Father to return the children to Ohio and award her with reasonable parenting time with the children. Upon receiving Mother's motion, the magistrate issued an order requiring Father to bring the children to Ohio and have the children appear before domestic relations court. The magistrate notified Father that he could be found in direct contempt and immediately jailed if he did not produce the children as instructed. The magistrate also notified Father that his failure to appear at this hearing would result in the issuance of a bench warrant for his arrest.

         {¶ 9} On February 2, 2018, Father moved the domestic relations court to set aside the magistrate's order requiring him to produce the children as directed. Father alternatively moved the domestic relations court to stay the magistrate's order. The domestic relations court denied Father's motions. In so holding, the domestic relations court stated:

This Court has expressed irritation with the conduct of the parties. Both parties are intent on following only select orders and failure to fully comply with orders has frustrated the Court. Perhaps most egregious is the absurd notion that the minor children's absence from this jurisdiction is of no consequence. [T]he married parties requested relief of this court only months ago concerning parenting rights and responsibilities.

         {¶ 10} The domestic relations court also stated:

Since May 2017, [Father] has returned to the United States on a new student visa. [Mother] continues to pursue her application for asylum with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Although the parties are living in the United States, the minor children remain in Nigeria but whereabouts unknown to this Court. The parties' minor children and the ...

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