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Accepting a 13-year-old boy’s proposal, a South Dakota judge is allowing the teen-ager to decide whether he will live with his biological father or the former boyfriend of his deceased mother. Judge Max A. Gors made the rare decision after a three-year custody battle involving the teen, Timmie Meldrum. Meldrum v. Novotny, No. 98-59 (6th Judicial Cir. Ct.). “Timmie was taking the most mature look at this,” Gors commented. “Everyone else wanted to fight, but Timmie could see he didn’t want to be in litigation the rest of his juvenile life.” Timmie Meldrum will live with his father, Timothy D. Meldrum, in Colona, Ill., for a school year and will decide on July 1, 2003, where he wants to spend the rest of his childhood. According to a previous court opinion, Timmie’s parents began living apart in 1991, after Nancy Meldrum met Charles Novotny. Timmie has been living with Novotny since 1995, when a judge granted Novotny temporary custody of Timmie and his half-brother Zac. The Meldrums were divorced in 1997, according to Gors. Although Nancy eventually broke up with Novotny and had another fianc� at the time of her 1998 death in a car accident, Timmie remained with Novotny, Gors said. Meldrum stayed in contact with Timmie after 1992, and sought custody of Timmie two months after Nancy’s death. ‘UNUSUAL CASE’ Jeff Atkinson of Wilmette, Ill., former chairman of the American Bar Association’s Child Custody Committee, said Georgia is the only state that statutorily gives children the right to choose which parent they wanted to live with, once they turn 14. “I don’t think this case is any kind of precedent,” Gors opined. “Not every child is able to make this decision.” Timmie’s attorney, Chamberlain, S.D.’s Steven R. Smith, said, “This is an unusual case, perhaps just … a blip, but may lend itself as an example that could be followed later.” Meldrum’s lawyer, Winner, S.D.’s J.M. Grossenberg, and Novotny’s lawyer, Sandy J. Steffen of Gregory, S.D.’s Johnson, Eklund, Nicholson, Peterson & Fox, declined to comment, citing a gag order.

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