Lawsuit not child’s play, says special commissioner

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A playground “marriage” that led to a playground “divorce” has landed two fifth-graders in domestic violence court.
In an unusual use of New Mexico’s Family Violence Protection Act — usually invoked in cases of domestic violence — the family of 11-year-old Katie Rose Sawyer of Farmington, N.M., filed a complaint against Cody Finch, 10, and his two teenage brothers.
The April 21 complaint alleges that Cody punched Katie Rose, made a threatening call to her and that her home was vandalized during the past two months.
Cody’s attorney argued the case belonged in children’s court, but a special commissioner said that the Family Violence Protection Act ruled the youngsters had a continuing personal relationship as defined by the law.
A hearing is set for next Monday to determine whether domestic violence occurred and whether the court should issue a restraining order.
“I’m a little appalled by the idea of fifth-graders having a playground marriage and a playground divorce and ending up in domestic violence court,” Cody’s attorney, Raymond Archambeau, said on Monday. “What kind of world are we living in?”
He added: “Domestic violence court is for adults acting like children, not to make children act like adults.”
Adults who violate a domestic violence restraining order can be jailed and lose their right to carry a gun; these are punishments that Archambeau said sum up why the case is in the wrong court.
The children got “married” on the school playground with a classmate acting as the minister, said Cody’s mother, Jinx Finch.
Cody played at Katie Rose’s house and she made him hot dogs and Kool-Aid. “He was very much in love, for a while anyway,” Finch said.
But later, “the little girl who performed the marriage decided she liked Cody and wrote up ‘divores’ — that’s d-i-v-o-r-e-s — papers,” she said. The papers say Cody and Katie Rose are sick and tired of each other and want a divorce, Finch said.
The court complaint by the girl’s parents, Marty and Melinda Moon, alleges Cody punched Katie Rose on Jan. 24.
“He says Katie was slapping him,” Archambeau said.
Melinda Moon, a junior high English teacher, did not immediately return a call to comment.
However, she has told The Denver Post she went to court because she wanted her daughter protected after the boy made harassing phone calls.
She said that after the family installed a device to block calls, windows in their home were broken and hubcaps were stolen off the family car. She said she suspected the boy’s 15- and 16-year-old brothers.
The boys’ mother denied they were involved in any vandalism and said the case “would be hilarious if it weren’t so expensive.”
Archambeau said the most likely outcome is that the court will order the two to stop seeing each other. Cody’s parents already have moved him to another school.