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In re Adoption of K.M.T.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Licking

December 2, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF K.M.T.

          Civil appeal from the Licking County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, Case No. 2019-5030

         JUDGMENT Affirmed

          For Appellant C. JOSEPH MCCOY

          JUDGES Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.

          OPINION

          Gwin, P.J.

         {¶1} Appellant appeals the June 28, 2019 judgment entry of the Licking County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, denying his petition for adoption and finding the adoption is not in the best interest of the minor child.

         Facts & Procedural History

         {¶2} On March 29, 2019, appellant ST. filed a petition for the adoption of K.M.T. K.M.T. was born on June 14, 2013 and is the step-son of appellant. The petition alleges that the consent of A.L., the child's father ("Father) is not required because he has failed without justifiable cause to provide more than de minimis contact with the minor for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition. The minor's mother ("Mother), T.T., consents to the adoption.

         {¶3} The trial court held a bifurcated hearing on appellant's petition on June 25, 2019. In the first portion of the hearing, the trial court heard evidence on the issue of whether Father's consent was necessary. In the second portion of the hearing, the trial court heard evidence on whether the adoption is in the best interest of the minor child.

         {¶4} Mother testified in the first portion of the hearing. She stated she has not prevented Father from visiting with the child and Father last had personal contact with the child in December of 2015 when Father saw K.M.T. for Christmas when she and her family were in town visiting from North Carolina. Mother testified Father never provided the child with gifts or money, Father never wrote the child, and the last conversation Father had with the child was in 2015. Mother married appellant on March 27, 2018. She and appellant live with K.M.T., appellant and Mother's biological child, and Mother's oldest child, who she co-parents with the child's father.

         {¶5} Mother testified Father has not done anything to have a relationship with K.M.T. and if Father had made an effort to have a relationship with K.M.T., she would not have done anything to prevent it. In June of 2016, on K.M.T.'s birthday, Father called Mother repeatedly and she was unable to answer because she was at work. Mother has not changed her phone number since 2014, Father knew the number, and both Father and paternal grandmother previously contacted her via that number. Mother did block Father on social media in 2015 because he tagged her in inappropriate things she did not want her friends and employer to see. Mother supports the adoption petition.

         {¶6} Upon examination by the trial court, Mother testified K.M.T. was conceived in Ohio, and then was born in North Carolina after Mother left Ohio. Mother alleges Father was physically abusive, but she did not file criminal charges against him. Mother returned to Ohio in April of 2018. There is a child support order for Father from Mecklenburg County in North Carolina.

         {¶7} J.L., paternal grandmother, testified Mother either blocked her number or did not answer multiple messages J.L. sent to her about visiting with K.M.T. J.L. and Father attempted to get Mother to send K.M.T. to them to visit, but Mother would not do it after previously bringing K.M.T. to visit them. J.L. and Father sent money to Mother for K.M.T. J.L. made sure she sent the money to K.M.T. that Father gave her. J.L. testified Mother used to come and visit them in Dayton several times per year and bring K.M.T. to the house so J.L. and Father could keep him for a few days. Mother did not notify J.L. she moved back from North Carolina. J.L. testified Mother blocked her and Father from K.M.T. approximately a year ago and J.L. sent K.M.T. something every year until he was five years old. J.L. believes Mother no longer permitted contact between K.M.T. and herself or Father because she wanted appellant to be K.M.T.'s Father. J.L. stated Father is a great Father to his daughter, who lives with her and Father. J.L. thinks Father loves K.M.T. and he will be a good father to him.

         {¶8} On cross-examination, J.L. testified Father lives with her. Father did not establish visitation rights because Mother used to bring K.M.T. to visit when she visited from North Carolina so he did not need to go to court. J.L. could not remember when Father last had contact with K.M.T., but stated she and Father could not reach or contact him after that date. J.L. sent money to Mother's parents' address in North Carolina. J.L. stated she and Father sent K.M.T. a big box and a bike every year. J.L. did not know Mother moved back to Ohio until the hearing. J.L. stated Father also thought Mother was still in North Carolina because they discussed on the drive to the hearing that they were not sure why the hearing was in Ohio rather than North Carolina. J.L. had contact with Mother after K.M.T. turned four until Mother did not answer J.L.'s calls. J.L. could not remember the dates she called Mother, but testified she called her several times. Mother provided J.L. with an address in North Carolina at which to send clothes and shoes in November of 2017. J.L. does not remember if she texted Mother to obtain her new address.

         {¶9} Father testified he has tried to get in contact with K.M.T. Father stated he has not tried since 2017 to contact K.M.T. because he did not have a phone number for Mother and he usually contacted her via Facebook messenger. Father testified to one incident when he was supposed to go to North Carolina and stay in a hotel to see K.M.T., but when the time came around for him to go, Mother stopped messaging him and would not reply to his calls or texts or messages through Facebook. Father described Facebook messenger messages he sent to ...


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