Denver Post

Friday, March 19, 1999

Moms get deadline for custody deal

By Peggy Lowe
Denver Post Staff Writer

GOLDEN - Girl M will continue to have two mothers - perhaps in two different states - while lawyers hammer out a change in their joint custody agreement.

After a day-long hearing Thursday, a Jefferson County district judge suggested an agreement that would split the 9-yearold's time between Colorado and New York.

The two mothers - Leanne Bueker and Kelly Cunningham Naylor - were awarded equal time with Girl M in a groundbreaking ruling last year. She was born in 1989 through in-vitro fertilization while Bueker and Naylor were in a committed lesbian relationship.

The Denver Post is using the pseudonym "Girl M'' to protect the identity of the child in the case.

The women split up in 1997 - and Naylor married a man last October. Naylor now wants to take Girl M with her to Albany, N.Y., where her husband, Michael, is an architect. Bueker is fighting the move, saying Girl M should stay with her friends and remain in her Jefferson County school.

District Judge Christopher Munch urged a compromise on Thursday, telling lawyers for both women to try to come up with an interim custody plan for the summer by May 6. If they don't, he will hand down his own temporary order.

On Aug. 23, Munch will re-evaluate the situation, after talking with Girl M.

Reporters were barred from that part of Thursday's hearing. But Bueker's lawyer, Emily Anderson, said Munch wants to see "what transpires over the summer'' before he makes a final decision. While not granting Naylor the option of taking Girl M to New York, Munch appears to be leaning toward allowing her to spend time with both in both states, she said.

"He's unwilling to send a child into an unknown environment,'' Anderson said.

Also Thursday, Munch sealed sections of the case file and barred the media from parts of the hearing dealing with "emotional interactions and strains.'' Lawyers for both women asked for the seal and the ban on reporters.

Ron Litvak, Naylor's attorney, said homophobia is still prevalent enough that Girl M's parents fear she would "take a lot of teasing on the schoolyard'' if her name is widely publicized.

Munch also marveled that the case attracted any media attention. The women's "lifestyles or proclivities are unusual,'' he said, but the law involved is "run-of-themill.'' But gay and lesbian legal experts have said the case is highly unusual because it treats a "gay family'' no differently than a heterosexual one.

Last year's original joint-custody order, by Jefferson County District Judge Frank Plaut, was progressive because he ruled that Bueker was Girl M's "psychological mother'' even though she has no genetic ties to the child, gay activists say.

He awarded her equal parenting time.

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