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Child's play?

New Mexico 5th graders Katie Rose Sawyer and Cody Finch wed in child's play. But when puppy love wore off, the girl's family successfully sought a grown-up legal remedy to keep 10-year-old Cody away from 11-year-old Katie Rose.

The dispute ended last week as the two Farmington families reached a settlement just before they were to enter the courtroom. The agreement prohibits the children from having any contact and imposes a $500 fine if either violates the contract.

Last month, Katie Rose's family invoked New Mexico's Family Violence Protection Act to get a restraining order against Cody. The 3-year-old law has typically been used in disputes between adults who have "a continuing personal relationship."

The case began with a pretend marriage on the playground of Northeast Elementary School last August and four months later, a pretend divorce. After the make-believe marriage ended, the children got into a playground fight as each defended a friend. Cody was suspended for three days.

Katie Rose's family says Cody, who has since changed elementary schools, punched the girl and later made harassing phone calls to their home. The family also charges that in March and April Cody's two teenage brothers vandalized the family's cars and threw a rock through their kitchen window.

Cody's family denies the brothers were involved in the vandalism or the rock-throwing incident.

Melinda Moon, Katie Rose's mother, says she sought a temporary restraining order against Cody after consulting a police officer. "I wanted her protected immediately," Ms. Moon said.

The court hearing set for last week was to determine whether domestic abuse had occurred and whether the temporary order should have been extended for up to a year, an action the Finch family opposed.

Both sides say they are relieved the dispute is over.

"We didn't want to have to put the children through testimony," said Ms. Moon, a junior high school teacher in Farmington, a town of 35,000. She said her daughter is in counseling and was "more frightened than she let on to us."

Raymond Archambeau, the lawyer for Cody's parents, said his clients were willing to work out a solution months ago."The parents should have been able to call each other," he said. "The kids were miserable."


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