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In the Interest of M.M.L.

258 Kan. 254, 900 P.2d 813 (1995)

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In the Interest of M.M.L.

Kansas Supreme Court

258 Kan. 254, 900 P.2d 813 (1995)

Facts

M.M.L. was the minor daughter of Michael and J.C. Michael and J.C. divorced, reconciled, and then separated again. J.C. later married M.C. Michael sought to obtain custody of M.M.L. M.M.L. alleged that Michael had sexually abused her. Michael was then absolved of this allegation, though expert testimony established that M.M.L. had been abused by someone—possibly M.C. Michael’s suit for custody was dismissed when he failed to show up for a hearing. Following allegations that M.M.L. had been sexually abused by M.C., she was placed in the custody of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) and then in a foster home. After spending a few years in other states, Michael returned to his hometown of Kansas City, where he learned that J.C. and M.M.L. were living in Great Bend, Kansas. Michael again initiated proceedings to gain custody of M.M.L. During these proceedings, J.C. abandoned her interest in M.M.L. and moved to another state. Meanwhile, Michael obtained visitation rights. Testimony from psychologists, case workers, and family members conflicted as to whether M.M.L. felt comfortable with Michael. M.M.L. told one psychologist that she feared Michael, saying that he was prone to angry and hostile outbursts. However, counselors in the Kansas City area who met with Michael and M.M.L. reached the opposite conclusion and recommended that M.M.L. be placed in Michael’s custody. The trial court determined that Michael was not an unfit parent, but that M.M.L. was more comfortable living with her foster family. On this basis, the court declined to grant Michael custody of M.M.L. Michael appealed. The Kansas Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Holmes, C.J.)

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