APPEAL FROM THE SALINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 63DR-13-1248. HONORABLE ROBERT HERZFELD, JUDGE.
Jones Law Firm, by: F. Parker Jones III, for appellant.
Hilburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski & Calhoun, LTD, by: Traci LaCerra, for appellee.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge. HIXSON and HOOFMAN, JJ., agree.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Diana McKenzie appeals the Saline County Circuit Court order granting visitation rights to her daughter's stepmother, Diana Moore. McKenzie argues that the circuit court erred in finding that Moore stood in loco parentis to her daughter and awarding visitation. We affirm.
In November 2013, Moore filed a motion for visitation in the Saline County Circuit Court, explaining that she was M.M.'s stepmother and had been married to M.M.'s father until he passed away in July 2013. Moore asserted that she stood in loco parentis to the child during the marriage and requested that a visitation schedule be set to ensure continuing contact with the child.
At a hearing held in March 2014, Moore testified that she first became involved in M.M.'s life when she was six years old and that M.M. was now five days away from turning thirteen. Moore said that when her husband passed away M.M. lived with them and that she (Moore) still lived in that home. Moore explained that she and Ron Moore, M.M.'s father, had dated for four and a half years before they married and that she was actively involved in M.M.'s life during that time. Ron was a pilot and traveled frequently out of town, and there were many times that she kept M.M. and saw to her day-to-day needs, including school activities, piano practice, doctor's appointments, clothes-shopping, and soccer practice.
Beginning in August 2008, Ron had sole custody of M.M., and Moore continued to take care of M.M. when Ron was away. Moore also testified that she was the trustee of a trust that was established by her late husband for his daughters' benefit. Moore explained that her home with their father is the place that the girls knew as home, and that their rooms, possessions, and pets were still there. Moore stated that it was in M.M.'s best interest to continue to have a connection with her and the house that she (M.M.) shared with her father.
On cross-examination, she testified that she took her role as trustee very seriously, that she and Ron had many discussions about the girls' college education, and that she bases any expenditures out of the trust " upon the very best judgment that I can use as a person and as a parent." She also testified that she had given the girls pocket money outside of the trust. She agreed that she regularly had phone or text conversations with M.M. but wanted more contact. Moore felt that McKenzie interfered with that contact, and that she and McKenzie do not really get along. But she
agreed that she " absolutely" would not have a problem working with McKenzie if the court awarded ...