In re M.L., 17-21-05

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtMILLER, J.
Citation178 N.E.3d 969
Parties IN RE: the ADOPTION OF: M.L. [Sidney S. - Appellant]
Docket NumberNO. 17-21-05,17-21-05
Decision Date16 August 2021

178 N.E.3d 969

IN RE: the ADOPTION OF: M.L.

[Sidney S. - Appellant]

NO. 17-21-05

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Shelby County.

Date of Decision: August 16, 2021


Jared B. Chamberlain, for Appellant.

Aaron D. Lowe, Sidney, for Appellee.

MILLER, J.

{¶1} Respondent-appellant, Sidney S., appeals the February 26, 2021 decision of the Shelby County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, granting the motion for summary judgment of petitioner-appellee, Tiffany L. In its decision, the trial court concluded Tiffany is not required to obtain Sidney's consent in order to adopt Sidney's daughter, M.S. (hereinafter referred to as M.L.). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural History

{¶2} M.L. is the biological daughter of Sidney and Amy Y. Upon her birth in late 2017, M.L. was found to have multiple illegal drugs in her system. M.L. was consequently removed from Sidney and Amy's custody. Following her removal, M.L. was adjudicated neglected and dependent and placed in the temporary custody of Tiffany. Tiffany served as M.L.’s temporary custodian until July 2019, at which time M.L. was placed in Tiffany's legal custody.

{¶3} On September 29, 2020, Tiffany filed a petition for adoption of M.L. In the petition, Tiffany alleged that Sidney's consent to adoption is not required because (1) he failed without justifiable cause to provide more than de minimis contact with M.L. for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the petition and (2) he failed without justifiable cause to provide for the maintenance and support of M.L. as required by law or judicial decree for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the filing of the petition. On October 7, 2020, Amy's written consent to the adoption of M.L. was filed in the trial court.

178 N.E.3d 972

{¶4} On November 9, 2020, the trial court set a date for a hearing on the petition for adoption. That same day, the trial court sent Sidney a notice of the petition and hearing via certified mail. As required by R.C. 3107.11(B), the notice advised Sidney:

IF YOU WISH TO CONTEST THE ADOPTION, YOU MUST FILE AN OBJECTION TO THE PETITION WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS AFTER PROOF OF SERVICE OF NOTICE OF THE FILING OF THE PETITION AND OF THE TIME AND PLACE OF HEARING IS GIVEN TO YOU. * * * A FINAL DECREE OF ADOPTION MAY BE ENTERED IF YOU FAIL TO FILE AN OBJECTION TO THE ADOPTION PETITION * * *.

(Capitalization and boldface sic.). Sidney was served with the notice on November 13, 2020, and proof of service of notice was filed with the trial court on November 16, 2020. On December 14, 2020, Sidney filed his objection to the petition for adoption.

{¶5} On January 15, 2021, Tiffany filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether it is necessary to obtain Sidney's consent to the adoption. Tiffany's motion for summary judgment was based on R.C. 3107.07(K), which provides that "[c]onsent to adoption is not required of * * * a juvenile court, agency, or person given notice of the petition * * * that fails to file an objection to the petition within fourteen days after proof is filed * * * that the notice was given." Tiffany asserted that because proof of service of notice to Sidney was filed with the trial court on November 16, 2020, Sidney was required under R.C. 3107.07(K) to file his objection to the petition on or before November 30, 2020. Tiffany argued that because Sidney missed the November 30, 2020 deadline by two weeks when he filed his objection on December 14, 2020, his consent to adoption is not required.

{¶6} On February 12, 2021, Sidney filed a memorandum in opposition to Tiffany's motion for summary judgment. Among the evidence Sidney submitted in opposition to Tiffany's motion for summary judgment, he filed an affidavit setting forth his account of the efforts he took to object to the petition before the expiration of the 14-day deadline. On February 19, 2021, Tiffany filed a reply brief in support of her motion for summary judgment.

{¶7} On February 26, 2021, the trial court granted Tiffany's motion for summary judgment. In its judgment entry, the trial court explained that "[t]he application and strict construction of [ R.C. 3107.07(K) ] has been consistently upheld * * *." The trial court found that Sidney's "narratives and proposed facts regarding the reason he should be excused from strict compliance with [the 14-day deadline imposed by R.C. 3107.07(K) ]" were insufficient to raise genuine issues of material fact. Accordingly, the trial court concluded Sidney's consent to adoption is not necessary.

{¶8} On March 8, 2021, Sidney timely filed a notice of appeal. He raises one assignment of error for our review.

II. Assignment of Error

1. The trial court erred in granting summary judgment to petitioner where strict construction of R.C. § 3107.07(K) in this case reaches an unjust and unreasonable result.

III. Discussion

{¶9} In his assignment of error, Sidney argues the trial court erred by granting Tiffany's motion for summary judgment. Sidney contends that, given the unique facts and circumstances of this case, the trial court's strict application of R.C. 3107.07(K) ’s 14-day filing deadline to

178 N.E.3d 973

"deny[ ] his objection [was] unjust and unreasonable considering he has done all he can to protect his rights to have a relationship" with M.L.

A. Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

{¶10} We review a decision to grant summary judgment de novo. Doe v. Shaffer , 90 Ohio St.3d 388, 390, 738 N.E.2d 1243 (2000). "De novo review is independent and without deference to the trial court's determination." ISHA, Inc. v. Risser , 3d Dist. Allen No. 1-12-47, 2013-Ohio-2149, 2013 WL 2316248, ¶ 25.

{¶11} Summary judgment is proper where there is no genuine issue of material fact, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and reasonable minds can reach but one conclusion when viewing the evidence in favor of the non-moving party, and the conclusion is adverse to the non-moving party. Civ.R. 56(C) ; State ex rel. Cassels v. Dayton City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. , 69 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 631 N.E.2d 150 (1994). Material facts are those facts " ‘that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.’ " Turner v. Turner , 67 Ohio St.3d 337, 340, 617 N.E.2d 1123 (1993), quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "Whether a genuine issue exists is answered by the following inquiry: [d]oes the evidence present ‘a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury’ or is it ‘so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law[?]’ " Id. , quoting Anderson at 251-252, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

{¶12} "The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of producing some evidence which demonstrates the lack of a genuine issue of material fact." Carnes v. Siferd , 3d Dist. Allen No. 1-10-88, 2011-Ohio-4467, 2011 WL 3890520, ¶ 13, citing Dresher v. Burt , 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 292, 662 N.E.2d 264 (1996). "In doing so, the moving party is not required to produce any affirmative evidence, but must identify those portions of the record which affirmatively support his argument." Id. , citing Dresher at 292, 662 N.E.2d 264. "The nonmoving party must then rebut with specific facts showing the existence of a genuine triable issue; he may not rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Id. , citing Dresher at 292, 662 N.E.2d 264 and Civ.R. 56(E).

B. Parental Rights and Consent to Adoption

{¶13} "The right of natural parents to the care and custody of their child is one of the most precious and fundamental in law." In re M.A.S. , 12th Dist. Clinton No. CA2020-03-005, 2020-Ohio-3603, 2020 WL 3635598, ¶ 13. "That right, however, must be balanced against the state's interest in protecting the welfare of children." Id.

{¶14} "In Ohio, certain persons and entities must consent to an adoption." Id. at ¶ 14, citing R.C. 3107.06. "These persons include the mother, father, and any putative father of the child." Id. , citing R.C. 3107.06. "However, exceptions to the consent requirement exist." Id. , citing R.C. 3107.07. "As applicable to this case, these exceptions include a person whose consent is required who fails to file an objection to the adoption petition within 14 days of...

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1 practice notes
  • Doe v. Adkins, 20CA08
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • August 26, 2021
    ...or her official capacity is treated the same as a suit against the political subdivision itself, and a three-tiered analysis applies").178 N.E.3d 969 {¶99} In the case at bar, appellee sued Dillon in his official capacity and appellee did not argue that R.C. 2744.03(A)(6)(c) applies.4 We, t......
1 cases
  • Doe v. Adkins, 20CA08
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • August 26, 2021
    ...or her official capacity is treated the same as a suit against the political subdivision itself, and a three-tiered analysis applies").178 N.E.3d 969 {¶99} In the case at bar, appellee sued Dillon in his official capacity and appellee did not argue that R.C. 2744.03(A)(6)(c) applies.4 We, t......

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