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Date: 08-01-2022

Case Style:


Case Number: 210638


Ginger S. Bock; Presiding Judge

Beth A. Myers
Robert C. Winkler



On Appeal From The Hamilton County Juvenile Court

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: James J. Whitfield,


Cincinnati, Ohio - Divorce lawyer represented Plaintiff-appellant with challenging a child-support order.

In February 2020, defendant-appellee Aaliyah Dennis gave birth to her
daughter. The following year, Andrew filed a pro se complaint to establish paternity of
the child under R.C. 3111.03. Next, Andrew filed a petition in a separate case, asking
to join a companionship petition filed minutes earlier by his mother. The following
month, the magistrate found that Andrew was the biological father of the child and
continued the case “for a hearing on the issue of child support.”
{¶3} At the child-support hearing, Andrew requested “the rights to see [his]
kid.” The magistrate informed Andrew that he was “not able to set any schedules
today,” and instructed Andrew to “file something with the court.” In response, Andrew
informed the magistrate that Dennis and he were “going to court right now for
visitation rights.” After the magistrate announced his child-support decision, Andrew
asked the magistrate to consider whether he was entitled to unsupervised visitation.
The magistrate responded, “That will be an issue at your hearing.”
{¶4} The following week, Andrew, now represented by counsel, filed an
objection to the magistrate’s decision and argued that Ohio law requires a court issuing
a child-support order to determine parenting time in the same order. The juvenile
court adopted the magistrate’s decision over Andrew’s objections, finding that “the
matter of Parenting Time will be determined based on evidence presented in
proceedings under case number F/21/0782.”
{¶5} Andrew appeals and challenges the juvenile court’s procedures in a
single assignment of error.
II. Law and Analysis
{¶6} Appellate courts are limited to deciding actual controversies. Hempen
v. Bailey (In re Bailey), 1st Dist. Hamilton Nos. C-040014 and C-040479, 2005-Ohio3039, ¶ 9. That limitation prevents our adjudication of moot cases. Paige v. Ohio High
School Athletic Assn., 2013-Ohio-4713, 999 N.E.2d 1211, ¶ 7 (1st Dist.), citing James
A. Keller, Inc. v. Flaherty, 74 Ohio App.3d 788, 791, 600 N.E.2d 736 (10th Dist.1991).
If we determine an appeal is moot, we may sua sponte dismiss the case. See Hammond
v. Hammond, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-190376, 2020-Ohio-3443, ¶ 9. Dismissal is
proper to avoid “render[ing] an advisory opinion on a moot question or rul[ing] on a
question of law that cannot affect matters at issue in a case.” Bailey at ¶ 9.
{¶7} An appeal is moot if the “ ‘ “issues presented are no longer ‘live’ or the
parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.” ’ ” State ex rel. Gaylor, Inc.
v. Goodenow, 125 Ohio St.3d 407, 2010-Ohio-1844, 928 N.E.2d 728, ¶ 10, quoting Los
Angeles Cty. v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631, 99 S.Ct. 1379, 59 L.Ed.2d 642 (1979), quoting
Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496, 89 S.Ct. 1944, 23 L.Ed.2d 491 (1969). In
other words, an appeal is moot if an event “ ‘renders it impossible for the court to grant
any relief.’ ” Goodenow at ¶ 10, quoting Miner v. Witt, 82 Ohio St. 237, 92 N.E. 21
(1910), syllabus. We may consider evidence outside of the record to determine if a case
is moot. Rice v. Flynn, 9th Dist. Summit No. 22416, 2005-Ohio-4667, ¶ 24, quoting
Pewitt v. Lorain Corr. Inst., 64 Ohio St.3d 470, 472, 597 N.E.2d 92 (1992).
{¶8} For instance, in Bailey this court deemed an appeal challenging the
juvenile court’s decision to terminate visitation rights moot when the juvenile court
reinstated the appellant’s visitation rights. Bailey at ¶ 9. Because the trial court
granted the relief sought, the visitation-rights issue was moot and prevented our
consideration of visitation time. Id. at ¶ 10. We were unable to grant any relief or “give
them the time back to spend with their daughter.” Id.
{¶9} Likewise, an appeal challenging an order permitting a father to take his
children on a ten-day vacation was moot when “the vacation ha[d] already occurred
and there [was] no relief” that could correct any error. Polacheck v. Polacheck, 2013-
Ohio-5788, 5 N.E.3d 1088, ¶ 39 (9th Dist.). And an appeal challenging an order that
increased a father’s parenting time became moot after the military deployed the father,
ending his parenting time. Makruski v. Makruski, 9th Dist. Lorain No. 17CA011088,
2018-Ohio-1102, ¶ 9. In light of the father’s deployment in Makruski, there was “no
effectual relief” that could be granted and the court was “unable to give back the
visitation time Mother claims to have lost.” Id.
{¶10} This appeal is moot. Andrew challenges the juvenile court’s bifurcated
approach to determining child support and parenting time in paternity cases. He
maintains that R.C. 3119.08 required the trial court to determine his parenting rights
in the same order that it determined child support. But in February 2022, just before
Andrew filed his notice of appeal, the juvenile court accepted and journalized a sharedparenting plan, which awarded Andrew parenting time. While Andrew maintains that
he was denied time with his daughter, we cannot grant any meaningful relief because
we are “unable to give back the [parenting] time” he lost. See Makruski at ¶ 9.
{¶11} There are exceptions to the mootness doctrine. We can “entertain an
otherwise moot case where the issues are capable of repetition, yet evading review.” In
re A.B., 1st Dist. Hamilton Nos. C-190327, C-190328 and C-190329, 2020-Ohio-3904,
¶ 10. An issue is capable of repetition, yet evades review, if “ ‘(1) the challenged action
is too short in its duration to be fully litigated before its cessation or expiration, and
(2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject
to the same action again.’ ” State ex rel. Bechtel v. Cornachio, 164 Ohio St.3d 579,
2021-Ohio-1121, 174 N.E.3d 744, ¶ 11, quoting State ex rel. Calvary v. Upper
Arlington, 89 Ohio St.3d 229, 231, 729 N.E.2d 1182 (2000). But nothing suggests that
the challenged action is too short in duration. Indeed, Andrew maintained at oral
argument that the procedure in question can delay parenting time for months,
sometimes years. Even more, this is not an issue that risks evading all future review.
{¶12} At this point in the litigation, any relief issued by this court will have no
practical effect on Andrew’s legal rights. A decision on the merits would be purely
hypothetical and academic. See State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hunter, 141 Ohio
St.3d 419, 2014-Ohio-5457, 24 N.E.3d 1170, ¶ 4, quoting In re L.W., 168 Ohio App.3d
613, 2006-Ohio-644, 861 N.E.2d 546, ¶ 11 (10th Dist.), quoting Grove City v. Clark,
10th Dist. Franklin No. 01AP-1369, 2002-Ohio-4549, ¶ 11, quoting Culver v. Warren,
84 Ohio App. 373, 393, 83 N.E.2d 82 (11th Dist.1948). There is nothing in the record
to depart from the ordinary rule against issuing advisory opinions. See Bailey, 1st Dist.
Hamilton Nos. C-040014 and C-040479, 2005-Ohio-3039, at ¶ 9

Outcome: Andrew’s challenge to the juvenile court’s bifurcation of child support
orders and parenting-time decisions in paternity cases became moot when the juvenile court accepted a shared-parenting plan submitted by the parties. Therefore, the appeal is dismissed.

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