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U.S. Olympic skier Miller, ex-girlfriend reach custody deal on son

Bode Miller of the U.S. celebrates his second place finish in the men's World Cup Giant Slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colorado December 8
Bode Miller of the U.S. celebrates his second place finish in the men's World Cup Giant Slalom ski race in Beaver Creek, Colorado December 8

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Olympic ski champion Bode Miller and his ex-girlfriend agreed Monday to share custody of their young son following a year of legal battles that have played out in two states and raised questions about the rights of women to move while pregnant.

Miller, 36, and ex-girlfriend Sara McKenna, 27, told a New York City Family Court referee on Monday they had settled on a temporary order that gives them each specific blocks of time with their 9-month-old son. The agreement will remain in place while they seek a permanent custody arrangement.

Fiordaliza Rodriguez, the court attorney referee, accepted the plan and said it "appears to be in the best interest of the child."

After the hearing, Miller told reporters, "We're psyched about the co-parenting plan."

He said his son will be able to accompany him to the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi in February. It will be Miller's fifth Olympics.

Miller and McKenna, who dated briefly in San Diego in 2012, have been fighting for primary legal custody of the boy since before he was born. McKenna, a former Marine, relocated from California to New York last December while seven months pregnant to attend Columbia University.

Shortly after the child was born, Rodriguez heard the case and lambasted McKenna for moving while pregnant, calling the decision to relocate while custody was at play "reprehensible."

Rodriguez sent the case back to California, and a judge there stripped McKenna of primary custody, handing the baby over to Miller and his new wife, professional volleyball player Morgan Beck-Miller, in September.

McKenna's attorneys appealed, and a five-judge panel ruled in November that her rights had been violated and that jurisdiction belongs in New York because the baby, born February 23, was a resident of the state.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the original family court ruling had set a "dangerous" precedent for pregnant women who need to move.

"It was unprecedented," Ossorio said. "Basically the judge accused Sara McKenna of running off with her fetus. This was a dangerous road because the Constitution grants adults, including pregnant ones, basic liberties and freedoms."

McKenna and Miller have both said they had ultimately hoped to find a co-parenting agreement.

During Monday's hearing, McKenna said she thought the shared plan was "absolutely" in the best interest of the child.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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