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In re B.S.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Highland

August 9, 2019

IN RE: B.S. G.S.

          Lynn Turner, Hillsboro, Ohio, for appellant.

          Anneka P. Collins, Highland County Prosecutor, and James Roeder, Highland County Assistant Prosecutor, Hillsboro, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          HESS, J.

         {¶1} K.S. ("Father") appeals from a judgment of the Highland County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, that adjudicated his children, B.S. and G.S., dependent children and awarded temporary custody of them to Highland County Children Services.[1] K.S. asserts that the trial court erred at the adjudicatory hearing when it admitted statements B.S. made to a clinical forensic psychiatrist and that the dependency findings are against the manifest weight of the evidence. However, our ability to review the trial court's decision is hindered by a failure to comply with R.C. 2151.28(L), which mandates that if the court determines a child is a dependent child, "the court shall incorporate that determination into written findings of fact and conclusions of law and enter those findings of fact and conclusion of law in the record of the case" and include "specific findings as to the existence of any danger to the child and any underlying family problems that are the basis for the court's determination that the child is a dependent child." Thus, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand for it to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law in conformity with R.C. 2151.28(L).

         I. FACTS

         {¶2} On January 3, 2019, Highland County Children Services filed a complaint alleging that B.S. and G.S. appeared to be abused, neglected, and dependent children. After an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court dismissed the abuse and neglect counts but found the children were "dependent child(ren) as outlined in the Complaint." Pursuant to R.C. 2151.353(A)(2), the court awarded the agency temporary custody of the children for a one-year period, to automatically terminate on January 3, 2020, "unless a timely motion is filed with the Court."

         II. ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         {¶3} Father presents the following assignment of error: "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ITS FINDING OF DEPENDENCY. SUCH A FINDING WAS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE."

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         {¶4} In his assignment of error, Father contends that the trial court erred at the adjudicatory hearing when it admitted statements B.S. made to a clinical forensic psychiatrist and that the dependency findings are against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         {¶5} We cannot engage in a meaningful review of the trial court's decision due to a failure to comply with R.C. 2151.28(L), which states:

If the court, at an adjudicatory hearing held pursuant to division (A) of this section upon a complaint alleging that a child is an abused, neglected, dependent, delinquent, or unruly child * * *, determines that the child is a dependent child, the court shall incorporate that determination into written findings of fact and conclusions of law and enter those findings of fact and conclusions of law in the record of the case. The court shall include in those findings of fact and conclusions of law specific findings as to the existence of any danger to the child and any underlying family problems that are the basis for the court's determination that the child is a dependent child.

         {¶6} The trial court did not issue the statutorily mandated written findings of fact and conclusions of law. The judgment entry adjudicating the children dependent simply states that the court found the children to be "dependent child(ren) as outlined in the Complaint." The language in the complaint does not satisfy R.C. 2151.28(L). The complaint contains "to wit" language that summarizes the events that led to the filing of the complaint and an allegation of dependency that tracks the language of both R.C. 2151.04(A) and (C). Such a general statement is insufficient to constitute conclusions of law. See In re S.W., 12th Dist. Butler Nos. CA2006-09-211 & CA2006-10-263, 2008-Ohio-1194, ¶ 11. In addition, the allegations in the complaint do not satisfy the requirement for specific findings as to the existence of any danger to the children and any underlying family problems that are the basis for the dependency determinations.

         {¶7} Although the trial court made some statements during the adjudicatory hearing about the reasons for its dependency finding, R.C. 2151.28(L) mandates written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Moreover, these statements did not specifically address the R.C. 2151.04(A) dependency allegation in the complaint even though the court later found the children to be dependent "as outlined in the Complaint." The oral ...


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