In the following case, the order against the mother, from the domestic violence findings, had expired before the Court of Appeals could make a decision. The final decision of the Court of Appeals, however, was to reverse the lower court’s judgment against the mother.
If the civil protection order against her had already expired, one might ask, “What difference did the win on the appeal make?” The answer is that it could make a big difference, even though the order had expired. Reading the decision of the Court of Appeals, that court properly noted that even though the order had expired, the mother could be subject to “. . . adverse collateral consequences as a result of having had a protection order issued against her.” The Court of Appeals also noted that, “. . . collateral consequences can include, but are not limited to, the effect on one’s credit rating, the ability to drive certain vehicles, the ability to obtain a weapons permit, and the ability to obtain employment.”
In the case of R.T. v. J.T., 2015-Ohio-4418, C.A. No. 14CA0061-M, dated October 26 of 2015, in the 9th district Court of Appeals, for Medina County, Ohio, a mother appealed a judgment of the Medina County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, which had issued a domestic violence civil protection order against her, naming her three children as the protected parties. The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and sent the case back.
The mother and father had been divorced and had custody of their children under a shared parenting plan where the mother was the residential parent for school purposes.
Because of a call from one of the children’s school where one of the children had reported to a school counselor that the mother threw a glass mug at that child during a heated argument, and that the mug bounced off the wall and hit that child in the head, the father had filed a petition for a domestic violence civil protection order on behalf of that child, seeking relief on behalf of all three children. The father made no allegations with regard to the other two children.
The domestic relations court issued an ex parte protection order ordering that, for a period of one year, among other things, the mother stay 500 feet away from father and the three children, that she not have any contact with the children, the father be designated as the temporary legal custodian and residential parent of the three children, and that mother’s visitation with the children be suspended.
After a full hearing, the domestic relations court issued a domestic violence civil protection order against mother, naming all three children as protected persons. The court ordered, among other things, that the mother would not have any contact with the children, except that the mother was permitted to “exercise parenting time in public places as agreed by [the] parties. Such contact shall be no less than three days per week and no less than two hours in duration.” The protection order temporarily allocated physical custody of the children to the father pending post-decree disposition of parental rights in the parties’ divorce action.
The mother obtained counsel for the first time after the domestic violence civil protection order was issued, and she filed objections to the order. The trial court overruled the mother’s objections and found that she had committed acts of domestic violence by recklessly causing bodily harm and placing the minor children in fear of imminent bodily harm through a continuing pattern of excessively aggressive and violent conduct.
As stated before, the order against the mother, from the domestic violence findings, had expired before the Court of Appeals could make a decision. However, the court noted that even though the order had expired, the mother could be subject to “adverse collateral consequences as a result of having had a protection order issued against her. . .” The Court of Appeals also noted that, “. . . collateral consequences can include, but are not limited to, the effect on one’s credit rating, the ability to drive certain vehicles, the ability to obtain a weapons permit, and the ability to obtain employment.”
The Court of Appeals found that the father had alleged that the mother threw a glass at L.T., and that the glass bounced off the wall and hit L.T. in the head and that he further alleged that the mother told the two other children that “children services” was coming to take them away.
The Court of Appeals found that, in regard to the two other children, T.T. and E.T., the petition was deficient on its face and that, even if the mother told the children that a child protective agency was “coming to take them away,” such an act by the mother could not rise to the level of attempting to cause or recklessly cause bodily injury, or of placing the children by threat of force in fear of imminent serious physical harm.
The Court of Appeals also found that the father had failed to meet his burden of showing that L.T. expressed fear of imminent serious physical harm on the date of the incident, stating that, “Although L.T. disclosed the incident to a school counselor, L.T.’s alleged fears were not significant enough for the school personnel to shield L.T. from the mother. It was not contested that both the school counselor and the principal asked L.T. if she felt safe going home with mother, and the child confirmed that she did.
The decision of the lower court was reversed.
Note that a notice of an appeal must be given in a timely manner (within 30 days of judgment) pursuant to the Ohio Rule of Appellate Procedure, and the rules for perfecting an appeal must be strictly followed.
William Geary is a family lawyer who has been practicing since 1979. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, and also is a practicing member of the Ohio bar.