Corsages aren't typical attire in the Boulder County Justice Center, save for the occasional wedding ceremony.
But on Monday, a dozen people wore single yellow carnations in support of a former Louisville mother stricken with multiple sclerosis and engaged in a heated divorce case that has disability-rights activists paying close attention.
Julie VanLeuvan and her husband of 15 years, Frank Sandoval, began divorce proceedings last year after she was committed — at the age of 39 — to a Boulder nursing home.
VanLeuvan's mother, Madeline VanLeuvan, said the move was done against her daughter's will, and she "rescued" her daughter and took her to California to care for her. However, Julie VanLeuvan is now back in a nursing home with help from federal funding because her family cannot provide costly in-home care.
Sandoval says the move to California broke apart the family, and now he doesn't want to pay for VanLeuvan's dream of living again on her own with around-the-clock care and equal parenting time with their 7-year-old daughter.
Sandoval won a small victory in the battle two weeks ago, when Boulder County District Judge Gwyneth Whalen sided with him and declared VanLeuvan incompetent because of her illness.
Carrie Ann Lucas, director of the Center for Rights of Parents With Disabilities, said MS has stricken VanLeuvan's body but not her mind.
"Colorado law requires an equitable split of marital assets," Lucas said.
VanLeuvan, who was diagnosed in 1993, a year after she and Sandoval were married, is now confined to a wheelchair. She said in a statement that all she wants is to live on her own again, with help, and resume spending time with her daughter.
"My body is broken, but my mind still works," she said. "I want to live independently, in my own home, with my daughter by my side."
Mary Ann Adams, a vocational and rehabilitation practitioner appointed by the court to evaluate the situation, testified Monday that VanLeuvan should not be living in a nursing home because she doesn't require 24-hour medical care and doesn't fit in with the average 83-year-old ailing resident.
VanLeuvan needs help getting out of bed and into her wheelchair, using the restroom, bathing and eating, Adams testified, something a live-in assistant in a small group home could provide at about $4,000 a month.
"She said she did not want to continue living if she was living in a nursing home," Adams told the court.
A certified public accountant hired to assess Sandoval's financial picture told the court that he brings home $13,500 a month as a director at Louisville's CableLabs.
The divorce proceedings are expected to continue today.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Christine Reid at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com.