Huffman v. Eachus, 031819 OHCA3, 13-18-32

Docket Nº:13-18-32
Opinion Judge:PRESTON, J.
Party Name:JOSEPH HUFFMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, v. KAYLA EACHUS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.
Attorney:James W. Fruth for Appellant. John M. Kahler, II for Appellee.
Judge Panel:ZIMMERMAN, P.J and WILLAMOWSKI, J, concur.
Case Date:March 18, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of Ohio
 
FREE EXCERPT

2019-Ohio-910

JOSEPH HUFFMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

KAYLA EACHUS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.

No. 13-18-32

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Seneca

March 18, 2019

Appeal from Seneca County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division Trial Court No. 21470123

James W. Fruth for Appellant.

John M. Kahler, II for Appellee.

OPINION

PRESTON, J.

{¶1} Father-appellant, Joseph Huffman ("Huffman"), appeals the September 5, 2018 judgment of the Seneca County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, overruling his objections to the magistrate's June 11, 2018 decision recommending that his motion to modify custody be denied. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

{¶2} Huffman and mother-appellee, Kayla Eachus ("Eachus"), have a minor son, A.E., who was born on June 5, 2014. Huffman and Eachus have never married.

{¶3} On February 13, 2015, the magistrate issued a decision recommending that Eachus be designated as A.E.'s residential parent and legal custodian and that Huffman be afforded visitation with A.E. as agreed on by Huffman and Eachus or, if they could not reach an agreement, in accordance with Seneca County Juvenile Court Rule 8. (Doc. No. 22). That same day, the trial court approved and adopted the magistrate's recommendation. (Doc. No. 23).

{¶4} On January 19, 2018, Huffman filed a motion for reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities and a motion for emergency custody of A.E. (Doc. No. 28). In support of his motions, Huffman alleged that Eachus had "been indicted on felonies of the first and second degree * * * and * * * incarcerated at the Seneca County Jail." (Id.); (Doc. No. 28, Ex. 1). That same day, the magistrate granted Huffman's motion for emergency custody and awarded temporary custody of A.E. to Huffman. (Doc. No. 32). On January 24, 2018, a hearing was held to review the magistrate's January 19, 2018 emergency custody order. (Doc. No. 36). That same day, the magistrate vacated the January 19, 2018 emergency order and awarded temporary custody of A.E. to Huffman. (Id.). In addition, the magistrate ordered that Eachus be allowed visitation with A.E. as agreed upon by Huffman and Eachus or, if the parties could not agree on a visitation schedule, at least once per week under supervision at Patchworks House in Tiffin, Ohio. (Id.). On January 26, 2018, the magistrate issued a nunc pro tunc order correcting a typographical error in the January 24, 2018 order. (Doc. No. 39).

{¶5} On April 10, 2018, Eachus filed a motion to modify temporary orders requesting that she be awarded parenting time with A.E. in accordance with Seneca County Juvenile Court Rule 8. (Doc. No. 48). In support of her motion, she noted that the criminal charges against her had been dismissed, that she had been released from the Seneca County Jail, and that she and Huffman could not agree on parenting time. (Id.); (Doc. No. 48, Ex. A). That same day, Eachus filed a motion for shared parenting along with a proposed shared-parenting plan. (Doc. No. 49). On April 11, 2018, Huffman filed a memorandum in opposition to Eachus's motion to modify temporary orders. (Doc. No. 51). On April 12, 2018, the magistrate denied Eachus's motion to modify temporary orders. (Doc. No. 52).

{¶6} On April 11, 2018, Huffman filed a motion requesting that the trial court appoint a guardian ad litem ("GAL") for A.E. (Doc. No. 50). On April 13, 2018, the magistrate granted Huffman's motion to appoint a GAL for A.E. (Doc. No. 53). On April 16, 2018, the trial court appointed a GAL for A.E. (Doc. No. 54). The GAL filed her reports on June 1 and 4, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 57, 58).

{¶7} A hearing on Huffman's motion for reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities and Eachus's motion for shared parenting was held on June 7, 2018. (See Doc. No. 59); (See June 7, 2018 Tr. at 1). On June 11, 2018, the magistrate issued a decision recommending that Huffman's motion for reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities and Eachus's motion for shared parenting be denied, that the January 24, 2018 temporary orders be vacated, and that the trial court's February 13, 2015 order designating Eachus as A.E.'s residential parent and legal custodian and awarding visitation to Huffman be reinstated. (Doc. No. 59).

{¶8} On June 12, 2018, Huffman filed objections to the magistrate's June 11, 2018 decision. (Doc. No. 61). On August 9, 2018, Huffman filed a supplemental brief in support of his objections to the magistrate's June 11, 2018 decision. (Doc. No. 66). On August 21, 2018, Eachus filed a brief in opposition to Huffman's objections to the magistrate's June 11, 2018 decision. (Doc. No. 67).

{¶9} On September 5, 2018, the trial court overruled Huffman's objections to the magistrate's June 11, 2018 decision. (Doc. No. 68). Thus, the trial court denied Huffman's motion for reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities and Eachus's motion for shared parenting, vacated the January 24, 2018 temporary orders, and reinstated the February 13, 2015 order designating Eachus as A.E.'s residential parent and legal custodian and awarding visitation to Huffman. (Id.).

{¶10} Huffman filed a notice of appeal on September 14, 2018. (Doc. No. 69). He raises one assignment of error.

Assignment of Error

The Seneca County Juvenile Court erred in overruling Appellant/Father's objection to the magistrate's decision when the magistrate's decision was unsupported by facts in the record, the decision was unsupported by law, and constituted an abuse of discretion.

{¶11} In his assignment of error, Huffman argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities. Specifically, Huffman argues that the record does not support the trial court's findings that he failed to facilitate visitation with A.E.'s maternal grandparents and that Eachus did not act in a manner that resulted in a child being an abused or neglected child. (Appellant's Brief at 13-17). In addition, he argues that the trial court improperly considered his second-shift work schedule as a factor that weighs against designating him as A.E.'s residential parent. (Id. at 18).

{¶12} "'Decisions concerning child custody matters rest within the sound discretion of the trial court.'" Krill v. Krill, 3d Dist. Defiance No. 4-13-15, 2014-Ohio-2577, ¶ 26, quoting Walker v. Walker, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-12-15, 2013-Ohio-1496, ¶ 46, citing Wallace v. Willoughby, 3d Dist. Shelby No. 17-10-15, 2011-Ohio-3008, ¶ 22 and Miller v. Miller, 37 Ohio St.3d 71, 74 (1988). "'"Where an award of custody is supported by a substantial amount of credible and competent evidence, such an award will not be reversed as being against the weight of the evidence by a reviewing court."'" Id., quoting Walker at ¶ 46, quoting Barto v. Barto, 3d Dist. Hancock No. 5-08-14, 2008-Ohio-5538, ¶ 25 and Bechtol v. Bechtol, 49 Ohio St.3d 21 (1990), syllabus. "'Accordingly, an abuse of discretion must be found in order to reverse the trial court's award of child custody.'" Id., quoting Walker at ¶ 46, citing Barto at ¶ 25 and Masters v. Masters, 69 Ohio St.3d 83, 85 (1994). "'An abuse of discretion suggests the trial court's decision is unreasonable or unconscionable.'" Id., quoting Brammer v. Meachem, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-10-43, 2011-Ohio-519, ¶ 14, citing Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219 (1983).

{¶13} Because this case concerns the trial court's decision whether to modify an existing custody decree, the trial court's decision-making process was controlled by R.C. 3109.04(E). R.C. 3109.04(E) provides: The court shall not modify a prior decree allocating parental rights and responsibilities for the care of children unless it finds, based on facts that have arisen since the prior decree or that were unknown to the court at the time of the prior decree, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child, the child's residential parent, or either of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree, and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interest of the child. In applying these standards, the court shall retain the residential parent designated by the prior decree or the prior shared parenting decree, unless a modification is in the best interest of the child and one of the following applies:

(i) The residential parent agrees to a change in the residential parent or both parents under a shared parenting decree agree to a change in the designation of residential parent.

(ii) The child, with the consent of the residential parent or of both parents under a shared parenting decree, has been integrated into the family of the person seeking to become the residential parent.

(iii) The harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantages of the...

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