Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Stepfather and Father Debate Support Obligations in Adoption Case

Image of a red tricycle

Was permission of imprisoned father, who owed no child support, needed for stepfather’s adoption of child?

Image of a red tricycle

Was permission of imprisoned father, who owed no child support, needed for stepfather’s adoption of child?

A stepfather in Hamilton County will argue to the Ohio Supreme Court next week that he doesn’t have to obtain consent from the father of his wife’s child to pursue an adoption because the father didn’t support the child. A court determined the father wasn’t required to pay child support, but the stepfather maintains that the father owed additional duties of support to the child.

Court Determines Child Support
Gary Burbage II was required by Clermont County Juvenile Court in March 2009 to pay support for his child, who is identified as B.I. in court documents. After Burbage was sent to prison, though, the court eliminated his child support obligation. B.I.’s mother – Kristen Iredale – later testified that she had asked for the change because, otherwise, she thought the court would return Burbage to prison for nonpayment of child support once he was released.

In February 2016, Greg Iredale, B.I.’s stepfather, submitted paperwork to the Hamilton County Probate Court to adopt B.I. The petition stated that Burbage’s consent wasn’t necessary because the father failed without “justifiable cause” to provide for his child’s maintenance and support for the year preceding the adoption filing. Burbage objected to the adoption.

Parental Consent for Adoptions Includes Exception
A state law mandates parental consent for adoptions, but creates an exception if a parent “has failed without justifiable cause … to provide for the maintenance and support of the child as required by law or judicial decree” in the year before the adoption filing. Burbage was in prison the year before Iredale filed for the adoption. During that time, Burbage earned $234 and was sent $5,152 by his parents and a friend.

The probate court determined that Burbage had justifiable cause not to provide support to his child, based on the juvenile court’s zero child-support order. The First District Court of Appeals agreed.

Along with Iredale’s appeal, the Supreme Court will review a conflict between rulings from the First District and the Fifth District Court of Appeals on this issue.

Effect of Zero Child-Support Order Disputed
Iredale argues that the statute, R.C. 3107.07, envisions parental duties of support to children beyond a child support order. Because Burbage didn’t support B.I. in other ways, his consent to the adoption wasn’t required, the stepfather maintains.

Stressing his essential rights as a parent, Burbage responds that the zero child-support order was the justifiable cause needed to relieve him of his maintenance and support duties to his child. He indicates that at least half of Ohio’s 12 district courts of appeal have arrived at the same conclusion. When a court determines that a biological parent owes no child support, the parent must consent to an adoption, he argues.

Additional Brief Advocates for Grandparent Rights
In an amicus brief supporting Burbage, a grandmother in Cuyahoga County states that grandparents typically have no legal protections related to their grandchildren after an adoption. She argues that allowing adoptions to take place without a biological parent’s consent “irrevocably severs the important bond between children and grandparents.”

Oral Argument Details
The Court will hear three cases, including In re Adoption of B.I., on Tuesday, Jan. 8. On Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Court will consider four appeals. Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. All arguments are streamed live online at and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio Channel.

Case Previews Published
Along with the information provided in this article, the Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information today released in-depth previews of the cases.

Tuesday, Jan. 8
In State v. Ford, a man on death row appeals his convictions and death sentence for assaulting his girlfriend in 2013 and, a few weeks later, killing her parents. Among his 23 legal arguments, Shaun Ford maintains that he didn’t waive his rights before police questioned him, that his intellectual limitations bar the state from executing him, that the Summit County assault and murder trials should have been separate, and that juror misconduct undermined his right to a fair trial and an impartial jury.

A central Ohio woman who was fired from her nurse’s aide positions at various nursing homes and assisted living facilities was caught stealing from elderly residents of the facilities. She faced a maximum 320-year prison sentence if convicted. She agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges, and as part of her plea agreement, she agreed to waive her right to appeal. A trial court sentenced her to 65 years in prison. The appellate court reduced the sentence to 15 years. In State v. Gwynne, the Court will consider whether the appellate court had a right to hear the case, since the woman waived her right to appeal, and if it had the authority to reduce her sentence.

Wednesday, Jan. 9
In 2016, a Hamilton County man was charged with a minor misdemeanor of operating a vehicle without being in control of it. The case went to a bench trial where the judge found the man guilty, but imposed only court costs. The appellate court dismissed his appeal, ruling that the imposition of only a court cost isn’t a “sentence,” and doesn’t meet the requirements of a final order. In State v. White, the Court will determine if a trial court’s imposition of court costs is a sentence that can be appealed.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) adopted a rate plan for the FirstEnergy Corp. affiliated companies to provide electric service in northern Ohio. The PUCO approved a “distribution modernization rider” to bring the FirstEnergy electric grid to modern standards. It allowed the companies to collect $132.5 million a year from customers beginning in January 2017 and lasting through January 2020 with the option of extending it. The Court in In re Application of Ohio Edison Co., will hear an appeal of the plan launched by opponents, including the Sierra Club, and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group, and joined by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel; the Ohio Environmental Council; a collection of northern Ohio cities, counties, and villages; and other groups.

After a teenager spent time in a juvenile detention facility, a Hamilton County court classified him as a juvenile sex offender and released him on parole. The court ended his parole in June 2013. About a year later, the court held a mandatory hearing and decided to keep his sex-offender status in place. State law requires a hearing “upon completion of disposition” for juveniles who were classified as sex offenders. In State v. Amos, the prosecutor argues that the timing of the hearing is flexible and that the juvenile court retains jurisdiction to review the classification.

The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct recommends in Disciplinary Counsel v. Harmon that a Worthington attorney receive a six-month actual suspension because he had a conflict of interest when handling a divorce and he misled a probate court, among other violations. In his objections to the board’s findings and proposed sanction, the attorney states that the divorcing couple was pursuing a non-adversarial dissolution and, once it became clear that wasn’t possible, he asked to withdraw as counsel. He rejects the stipulation he made during the disciplinary hearings, arguing that the investigating agency didn’t produce sufficient evidence.