Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake
from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division,
Case No. 2010 GU 0085.
L Lamb, pro se, (Appellant).
Dalessio Fonner, pro se, (Appellee).
CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, J.
Appellant, Terri L. Lamb, the paternal grandmother of minor
child B.E.V. (D.O.B. August 4, 2005), appeals the Lake County
Probate Court's decision denying her request to replace
her daughter, Cari Dalessio (n.k.a Fonner), as guardian of
B.E.V. against guardian's wishes, and the
subsequently-denied motion for relief from judgment. For the
reasons set forth herein, the judgments of the Lake County
Probate Court are affirmed.
When B.E.V. was about one year old, his father was sentenced
to, and began serving, a prison term of fifteen years to
life. With his mother's whereabouts unknown, he began
residing with his paternal grandmother, Ms. Lamb, who had
rights according to a Caretaker Authorization Affidavit filed
with the Lake County Juvenile Court. Following her graduation
from college, B.E.V.'s paternal aunt, Ms. Fonner, was
appointed guardian on July 21, 2010 for an indefinite period
of time. B.E.V. moved in with Ms. Fonner, where he currently
resides with her and her husband, Jasen Fonner. B.E.V.'s
father is not expected to be released from prison before
B.E.V., now 13, reaches the age of majority.
Until recently, Ms. Lamb lived in an in-law suite at Ms.
Fonner's residence and saw B.E.V. routinely. She has
since purchased a home nearby with B.E.V.'s father's
girlfriend. On September 20, 2018, Ms. Lamb filed an
Application for Appointment of (Successor) Guardian of Minor.
Ms. Fonner opposed the change in guardianship and the probate
court held a hearing on November 8, 2018, to determine if
there was good cause to remove Ms. Fonner as guardian.
B.E.V.'s father attended the hearing via phone.
At the close of the hearing, the court held an in-camera
hearing with B.E.V., in which he apparently expressed no
issues with either the Guardian or the Applicant. However, on
November 29, 2018, apparently with the help of his school
guidance counselor, B.E.V. sent a letter to the court
expressing that he was nervous during the in-camera interview
and that he wanted to live with his grandmother instead of
Nevertheless, on December 18, 2018, the court denied Ms.
Lamb's Application for Appointment of (Successor)
Guardian of Minor, finding no "good cause" to
remove Ms. Fonner as guardian. Ms. Lamb filed a motion for
relief from judgment, which the court denied on February 5,
2019. Numerous guardian complaints have been filed since,
which have been resolved by the court.
Ms. Lamb now appeals the December 18, 2018 and February 5,
2019 judgments. We review both under an abuse of discretion
standard. Matter of Guardianship of Rosenberger,
11th Dist. Lake No. 2017-L-120, 2018-Ohio-3533, ¶13
("The probate court's decisions in guardianship
proceedings are generally reviewed under an abuse of
discretion standard."); In re Guardianship of
Brunstetter, 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2002-T-0008,
2002-Ohio-6940, ¶12, citing Griffey v. Rajan,
33 Ohio St.3d 75 (1987) ("A ruling on a motion for
relief from judgment is left to the sound discretion of the
trial court. The trial court's decision will not be
overturned on appeal absent an abuse of that
discretion."). "The phrase 'abuse of
discretion' is one of art, connoting judgment exercised
by a court which neither comports with reason nor the
record." In re K.Q., 11th Dist. Ashtabula No.
2017-A-0060, 2018-Ohio-906, ¶14.
Ms. Lamb sets forth three assignments of error for our
review. We address her second assignment of error first:
The trial court erred and abused its discretion by failing to
determine that habitual drunkenness, drug abuse and child
endangerment are sufficient to constitution "good
cause" for the requested substitution of guardianship in
Under this assigned error, Ms. Lamb focuses primarily on the
actions and record of Mr. Fonner, pointing out he has five
DUI convictions in the past 20 years, and asserting that he
is a drug addict. As Ms. Lamb correctly notes in her brief,
however, in evaluating whether "good cause" exists
for removal, the primary focus is upon the actions of the
Guardian. "[W]hile the effect on the ward is certainly a
consideration under the 'good cause' standard, its
primary focus is the actions of the guardian." In re
Guardianship of Spangler, 11th Dist. Geauga Nos.
2007-G-2800, and 2007-G-2802, 2011-Ohio-6686, ¶62.
"Thus, a guardian may be removed when proven to be
exercising authority in a manner adverse, antagonistic, or
hostile to the best interests of the ward." (Citations
omitted.) I ...