Friday, April 7, 2006
Case Law Development: Finding of Abuse and Neglect for Purposes of Foster Home Placement Necessarily Includes Findings that Non-Custodial Parents are Unfit
The Surpeme Court of Ohio resolved a split in its circuits regarding necessary findings to support granting legal custody of a child to the state. The case involved a biological father and mother whose first two children were in their grandmother's legal custody and care. When mother had a third child, the court deemed that child neglected due to the mother's drug dependence and the child was placed in the temporary custody of the mother's relatives. Father sought custody and the trial court decided that the child should remain with the mother's relatives. The court of appeals reversed that decision because a finding was not made as to the father's unsuitability for custody purposes. The matter was certified due to a conflict with other appellate districts on the necessity of making such a finding prior to awarding legal custody of a neglected child.
The Ohio Supreme Court found that no such finding was required. "A juvenile court adjudication of abuse, neglect, or dependency is a determination about the care and condition of a child and implicitly involves a determination of the unsuitability of the child's custodial and/or noncustodial parents. It does not, however, permanently foreclose the right of either parent to regain custody, because it is not a termination of all residual parental rights, privileges, and responsibilities, and therefore a motion for a change of custody could be filed in a proper case in accordance with law. "
A dissenting judge objected to the decision as neglecting the constitutional rights of non-custodial parents. "I am concerned about the far-reaching impact of this case and the negative effect it will have on noncustodial parents seeking custody of their natural children. I do not believe that a parent should lose a custody battle to a nonparent absent a determination that the parent is unsuitable."
In re C.R., 108 Ohio St. 3d 369; 2006 Ohio 1191; 843 N.E.2d 1188; 2006 Ohio LEXIS 691 (March 29, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited April 6, 2006 bgf)