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.


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"An equitable split does not mean leaving a spouse penniless due to her disability and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for her housing and medical care. ... It will be devastating if other courts follow."

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 reidc@dailycamera.com.

Archived comments

Nice husband there.

That's called SARCASM folks.

pantherlady2@msn.com

7/17/2007 3:24:11 AM

nice JUDGE there!

just_ice

7/17/2007 5:25:30 AM

Who exactly had her "committed" in the first place? As far as divorce in Colorado, I was under the impression that with "no fault" marriage contracts either party could seek a divorce for any reason whatsoever. If this is strictly a money matter, as the article seems to imply, why can't the judge award this woman more than half of the couple's assets as (from what I understand)usually happens in an ordinary divorce? Are the "activists" in the article arguing that Sandoval shouldn't be allowed to divorce because he can currently afford to pay for his wife's medical care? BTW I'm asking from a legal standpoint, not a moral or ethical one. Because legally, this would really change "no fault" divorce, at least insofar as I understand it...not being married myself.

beavis

7/17/2007 6:26:38 AM

nice hit piece.

boulderhippie

7/17/2007 6:39:13 AM

The father/husband is setting a wonderful example of commitment for his daughter. I wonder how many years of therapy she'll need.

coffeeBean

7/17/2007 6:47:03 AM

The judge can grant the divorce on any terms she wants to. It sounds like the husband simply wants out without having to take care of his wife. If she was not sick he would still have to pay child support (if the child resides with mom) and likely some sort of "spousal support" for a period of time. BTW, this judge has very little experience in family law and hopefully this woman has a good attorney who will enlighten the judge. She is sick and needs support to live as normal a life as possible. Shame on the husband and the judge!

just_ice

7/17/2007 7:16:30 AM

"It sounds like the husband simply wants out without having to take care of his wife."

It sounds that way because the Camera reported it that way. It makes a good story, but isn't the whole story. Shame on the Daily Camera!

icon

7/17/2007 8:59:32 AM

It sure sounds like there is more story here, like the husbands. This story makes him sound like he's a real jerk, but I'm holding out my opinion of the jerk until I hear his story. It all sounds very tragic regardless.

HandsomeTodd

7/17/2007 9:49:02 AM

You should be ashamed and you absolutely should have mentioned that:

* The husband didn't initiate the divorce proceedings.

* There is a young daughter who is really the victim here and who the husband continues to take care of.

* And lastly just who took care of the wife and daughter for the many years before the wife's health required her to be put in a nursing home.

This is a tragic situation and nothing will make the wife better and there is no one at fault but your paper took the sensational and easy route to make this a good story. Shame on you.

pineguy

7/17/2007 10:02:45 AM

It sounds like Christine Reid (and the Daily Camera) have opened up a potential source of revenue for the husband here - namely, a lawsuit for such a blatant, one-sided and prejudicial picture of the goings-on. Didn't your legal guys review this story before you published it?

VoiceOfReason

7/17/2007 12:33:21 PM

As someone who knows the people involved, the story is very slanted. For one thing the statement that the move was against her daughter's will, is quite misleading. Julie has an advanced case of MS. Her speech is quite unintelligible and she is quite unable to care for herself let alone the child. If the husband were hit with a $4000 per month bill for assisted care living outside of a nursing facility, how in the world would he be able to provide support for the daughter? The article is quite unbalanced and the reporter ought to be severely reprimanded for such a piece that is much like the drum beat for war that preceeded our invasion of Iraq. Lets the facts straight before publishing stories like these.

drjudoal

7/17/2007 12:51:07 PM

HandsomeTodd - are you sure you're holding out on your opinion?

boulderhippie

7/17/2007 2:25:23 PM

Hmm - having a child years after being diagnosed with a genetically transmitted disease! How - umm - responsible of the couple. Thanks for thinking of mankind as a whole! And we should care about your plight because...?

JustSayin

7/17/2007 2:29:17 PM

The activists want to see the court treat this case like any other case. Let the parties divorce, and split the assets, and divide parenting time just like you would in any other case, and leave disability out of it.

Julie was forced into a nursing home against her wishes by Sandoval who did all the paperwork, and spoke for her for the medicaid eligibility screening, not giving her the opportunity to make decisions for herself.

clucas

7/18/2007 8:25:10 PM

As a good friend of Julie's, this article is outrageous and inaccurate. Frank has cared for Julie for 15 years as the disease has progressed so severely. He has been a champion advocate for her. Generous, loving, and sympathetic in his daily care-feeding, bathing, transporting, dressing,and grooming his wife while working full-time, raising their child, and finding around the clock care in their home. Her mom initiated the divorce because she can't deal with her daughter's condition-not Julie. Julie was not forced to go to the nursing home,she did it because she needs 24 hour MEDICAL supervision to stay alive safely. She had bedsores from not being turned enough and choked at home. he wants to keep her alive and safe and close to home near their daughter. He brought her home every weekend and visited 3 times a week-more than her mom does now! If her mom wanted her out of a nursing home, why did she place her in a worse one thousands of miles away from her daughter and husband? This is not your typical divorce case nor is anti-disability. It's devasting but a mentally incompetent, non-ambulatory, choke-risk person deserves proper, skilled nursing care. PS- Julie's quote is bogus, she isn't able to even speak more than one or two words at a time.

behonest

7/19/2007 12:14:30 AM

Clearly you aren't a friend of Julie's. She can speak, and while she may be difficult to understand, she is a witty, intelligent woman who knows exactly what she wants, and exactly what she is entitled to.

People with far more severe disabilities than Julie's live in the community every day. We rely on technology, ventilators, g-tubes, and wheelchairs, as well as attendant care to do so. Thousands of us do so across the country.

What does Frank really want? Frank admitted writing this email during his testimony:

"As I've made clear to you any times in the past I believe as Julie's husband and sole provider for the last 13 years that I have the legal and moral right to be the final decision maker regarding her care. Naturally, I take her feelings into account, but as I have been forced by circumstances to shoulder all of the responsibility for my family's destiny, I feel I also must bear the burden of making the tough decisions.

You seem to always have had difficulty understanding that the day Julie and I were wed you were relegated to membership of our extended family, and were no longer part of Julie's immediate family. You are now simply a meddlesome mother-in-law.

You and Julie are now on a knifes-edge. Either Julie agrees to go to a nursing home, as she has several times over the couple of weeks only to reverse herself after talking with you, or I will seek custodianship over her and force the move. If the latter transpires, whatever the outcome, neither Julie nor you will remain in my good graces. What this means for Julie is that she will lose the friendship and support of a loving husband, and regular access to her child.

Madeline, consider the stakes. Drop out of the picture, do not communicate with Drew, Complete Home Care, any of Julie's caregivers, or discuss any thing with Julie regarding her care, except in support of our plan. Anything other than silence or complete support for her moving to ManorCare will jeopardize you seeing Eva again until she is 18.

I don't think you can act as if this a sudden move on my part. I discussed this eventuality with you this time last year. This summer, I held off making this decision at your request, with the understanding on my part that you understood it was only a temporary reprieve. Two weeks ago I told you my intentions, and over the phone you said 'OK', which I interpreted to mean that you did not intend to actively work against my wishes.

The trip to CA is off. You've squandered any opportunity for discussion by not being above board with me. For everyone's sake, do not provoke a fight with me. There will be no winners, least of all Julie."

The words of a loving husband who supports his wife's wishes? Absolutely not. Instead the words of a manupulative husband who demands complete control.

clucas

7/19/2007 9:19:10 PM