Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE S.B. A Minor Child [Appeal by L.S., Mother]
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case No. AD-17911375
REVERSED AND REMANDED
Timothy R. Sterkel, for appellant.
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, Cheryl Rice and Colleen Cassidy Ulrich, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee, C.C.D.C.F.S.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, JUDGE
1} L.S. ("Mother") appeals the trial court's
granting legal custody of her daughter S.B. to S.B.'s
father. L.S. raises one assigned error for our review:
I. The trial court committed error when it denied mom's
request for reunification and granted legal custody to dad.
2} Having reviewed the record and pertinent law, we find that
the trial court's granting legal custody of S.B. to
S.B.'s father ("Father") was an abuse of
discretion not supported by the record. The goal in this case
was reunification of S.B. with Mother after Mother completed
her case plan. The undisputed evidence in the record shows
that Mother completed her case plan. Yet the trial court
granted legal custody to Father. Upon review, we find this
decision unreasonable. Therefore, we reverse the trial
court's judgment and grant legal custody of S.B. to
Mother. The apposite facts follow.
3} On July 31, 2017, the Cuyahoga County Department of
Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS") filed a
complaint alleging that S.B., whose date of birth is
September 13, 2007, was neglected and dependent.
Specifically, CCDCFS claimed Mother had an open case against
her regarding "excessive discipline" of another
child who lived with S.B. and Mother in Mother's house.
See In re: S.S., Cuyahoga C.P. Juvenile Division No.
AD17907121. In the instant case, the juvenile court appointed
a guardian ad litem ("the GAL") to represent
S.B.'s interests and, on August 1, 2017, awarded
emergency temporary custody of S.B. to S.B.'s father
("Father"). It does not appear from the record that
Father was present at the emergency custody hearing.
4} On August 25, 2017, CCDCFS filed a case plan with the goal
of reunification of S.B. and Mother. This case plan had two
objectives for Mother: mental health counseling and parenting
classes. The GAL filed a report on October 12, 2017,
recommending temporary custody to Father. The court held an
adjudication hearing on October 17, 2017, Mother admitted to
the allegations in the complaint, and the court found that
S.B. was neglected and dependent. The court committed S.B. to
the temporary custody of Father with protective supervision.
5} On November 1, 2017, CCDCFS filed its semiannual review
("SAR") of Mother's case plan, in which it
determined that Mother had completed her mental health
counseling and was halfway through her parenting classes.
Also on November 1, 2017, the court issued a journal entry
adopting the October 17, 2017 magistrate's decision. The
court's journal entry adjudicated S.B. neglected and
dependent, ordered temporary custody to Father, and had a
permanency plan of reunification with Mother.
6} On April 5, 2018, CCDCFS filed a motion to terminate
temporary custody of S.B. to Father and for an order vesting
legal custody of S.B. to Mother with no restrictions. On
April 9, 2018, CCDCFS filed its second SAR, which concluded
that Mother completed the mental health and parenting
objectives, Mother made "significant progress" and
was continuing her services, and CCDCFS had "no
concerns" about reunifying S.B. and Mother. This SAR
also concluded that the agency had "some concerns"
that Father was not cooperating with Mother's visitation
7} On May 3, 2018, the GAL submitted his second report, which
recommended S.B.'s reunification with Mother. On May 8,
2018, the court conducted an in camera interview with S.B.
However, S.B.'s wishes and concerns as a result of this
interview are not part of the record.
8} On July 23, 2018, the court held a hearing regarding
CCDCFS's motion requesting legal custody to Mother.
CCDCFS and the GAL recommended custody to Mother, finding
that she complied with her case plan. Father represented