In re K.M., 22CA006

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtWISE, EARLE, P.J.
Citation2022 Ohio 4169
PartiesIN THE MATTER OF K.M.
Docket Number22CA006,22CA007
Decision Date22 November 2022

2022-Ohio-4169

IN THE MATTER OF K.M.

Nos. 22CA006, 22CA007

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Holmes

November 22, 2022


CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING: Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 22N003

For Appellant-Mother JACQUELYN M. DOSSI

For Appellee-Agency ROBERT K. HENDRIX

JUDGES: Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., P.J. Hon. W. Scott Gwin, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

OPINION

1

WISE, EARLE, P.J.

{¶ 1} Appellant-Mother, A.H., appeals the May 2, and 23, 2022 judgment entries of the Court of Common Pleas of Holmes County, Ohio, Juvenile Division, dismissing the complaint filed by Appellee-Agency, Holmes County Department of Job and Family Services, and deeming several motions moot.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

{¶ 2} On January 10, 2022, appellee filed a complaint for temporary or permanent custody of K.M. born in December 2021, claiming the child to be dependent. Mother of the child is appellant herein; presumed legal father is appellant's husband, L.C., and putative father is R.M. Appellee had been granted emergency temporary custody of the child on January 7, 2022. Pursuant to the complaint, the child was born during a home delivery. Issues arose with the umbilical cord so the baby was transferred to the hospital by EMS. Appellant purportedly did not want the child and gave the child to B.M. to adopt. B.M. worked at the hospital.

{¶ 3} Approximately twenty days following the birth, B.M. contacted R.M. and informed him he was the father of the child.[1] Upon receiving this information, R.M. filed a private custody action on the issues of parentage, custody, and visitation on or about December 22, 2021 (Case No. 21C131).

{¶ 4} On January 10, 2022, B.M. filed a motion to intervene in the agency's case.

{¶ 5} A hearing was held on January 10, 2022. By judgment entry filed January 14, 2022, the trial court continued appellee's temporary custody, and added appellant's

2

husband, L.C., and R.M.'s parents as parties to the case. The trial court also closed R.M.'s private custody action "to avoid confusion of two cases involving the same issues."

{¶ 6} By notice to the court filed January 18, 2022, the trial court was informed the probability of R.M. being the child's father was 99.99%.

{¶ 7} On January 24, 2022, R.M. filed a motion to establish a father-child relationship and motion for name change. He also filed a motion for temporary custody or placement. In a memorandum filed January 27, 2022, appellee stated it had placed the child in R.M.'s home on January 25, 2022, and did not object to R.M.'s motion for custody.

{¶ 8} By judgment entry filed February 2, 2022, the trial court denied B.M.'s motion to intervene, finding no evidence of adoption proceedings plus her failure to comply with Civ.R. 24(C) and Civ.R. 5.

{¶ 9} On February 16, 2022, appellant filed a motion to dismiss the action and to seal and destroy all records relating to her and the child as she wished to remain anonymous pursuant to Ohio's Safe Haven laws. By judgment entry filed February 16, 2022, the trial court denied the motion, finding appellant failed to explain the actions she took pursuant to the Safe Haven laws.

{¶ 10} On March 1, 2022, appellant filed an amended motion to dismiss the action and to seal and destroy all records relating to her and the child, explaining the actions she took. A hearing on the motion was set for June 28, 2022.

{¶ 11} On March 8, 2022, appellant filed a motion to recuse the trial judge. Appellant asserted the trial judge has shown prejudice against her because the judge permitted R.M.'s parents to become parties in the case before parentage was established,

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prevented her from cross-examining a witness during a hearing, and violated her rights under the Safe Haven laws.

{¶ 12} On March 16, 2022, the trial court filed a judgment entry noting the complication in holding the dispositional hearing before the applicable time deadline. The trial court stated it was open to suggestions from counsel to address this concern.

{¶ 13} On March 21, 2022, appellee filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice, seeking the establishment of a father-child relationship between R.M. and the child and granting custody of the child to R.M., which could be done in the private custody case filed by R.M. However, as noted above, the private custody case was closed in January 2022.

{¶ 14} By judgment entry filed March 21, 2022, the trial court denied appellant's motion for recusal.

{¶ 15} On May 2, 2022, the trial court filed a judgment entry noting several facts: 1) the child has yet to be adjudicated a dependent child; 2) the whereabouts of the presumed legal father, L.C., is unknown; 3) a father-child relationship between R.M. and the child has yet to be established; 4) appellant's violation of her rights under the Safe Haven laws and her motion to dismiss the action have yet to be heard; and 5) the child does not have a birth certificate. The trial court noted "the opportunity to resolve the issues within proceeding is trumped by the impending time deadline." The trial court then granted appellee's motion to dismiss the action without prejudice, and ordered that appellee's complaint would be dismissed on May 23, 2022, unless otherwise ordered by the court, and the pending motions would be deemed moot. The trial court extended the dispositional hearing deadline by forty-five days to May 24, 2022.

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{¶ 16} By judgment entry filed May 23, 2022, the trial court dismissed appellee's complaint, as well as all the pending motions, as moot. The trial court declared the case closed.

{¶ 17} Appellant filed separate appeals on the trial court's May 2, and 23, 2022 judgment entries, and this matter is now before this court for consideration. The assignments of error are as follows:

I

{¶ 18} "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT FILED BY HCCS WITHOUT COMPLYING WITH THE REQUIREMENTS AND PROCEDURES SET FORTH IN R.C. 2151.3[5]16, ET AL., OHIO'S SAFE HAVEN LAWS."

II

{¶ 19} "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT FILED BY HCCS WITHOUT CONDUCTING A HEARING AS TO [A.H.]'S FEBRUARY 16, 2022 MOTION TO DISMISS, SEAL AND DESTROY AS WELL AS THE MARCH 1, 2022 AMENDED MOTION TO DISMISS, SEAL AND DESTROY."

III

{¶ 20} "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT FILED BY HCCS, EFFECTIVELY RETURNING THE CHILD TO THE CUSTODY OF [A.H.] WHO INDICATED HER DESIRE TO ABANDON AND RELINQUISH THE CHILD PURSUANT TO R.C. 2151.3[5]16, ET SEQ., CONTRARY TO THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD AND OHIO PUBLIC POLICY."

IV

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{¶ 21} "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE AGENCY'S MARCH 21, 2022 [MOTION] TO DISMISS WITHOUT HEARING AND CONTRARY TO THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD."

V

{¶ 22} "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO DISPOSE OF THE PROCEEDINGS WITHIN STATUTORY DEADLINES FOR DISPOSITION WITHOUT JUST CAUSE."

VI

{¶ 23} "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RETURNING THE CHILD TO THE LEGAL CUSTODY OF APPELLANT MOTHER CONTRARY TO THE CHILD'S BEST INTEREST AND PUBLIC POLICY."

VII

{¶ 24} "THE COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO CONDUCT A HEARING AND IN FAILING TO GRANT THE MOTION FOR RECUSAL OF THE TRIAL COURT JUDGE DUE TO BIAS AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST WITHOUT CONDUCTING A HEARING ON THE MOTION."

I, II, III

{¶ 25} In her appellate brief, appellant argues these three assignments or error collectively.

{¶ 26} In her first assignment of error, appellant claims the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint without complying with the requirements set forth in the Safe Haven laws, R.C. 2151.3516 et seq.

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{¶ 27} In her second assignment of error, appellant claims the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint without conducting a hearing on her amended motion to dismiss the action and to seal and destroy...

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