Custody dispute could end up in Vermont supreme court
January 13 2005 12:00 AM ET
A Virginia woman involved in a custody dispute stemming from a civil union breakup wants to take her case to the Vermont supreme court.
Attorneys for Lisa Miller-Jenkins are asking Judge William Cohen for permission to appeal a recent ruling he made. In that ruling, Cohen rejected Lisa Miller-Jenkins's bid to grant "full faith and credit" to the judgments reached in the case in Virginia, which found she is the sole parent to 2-year-old Isabella, a child born by artificial insemination to Lisa Miller-Jenkins.
At the time, the Lisa and her partner were joined in a Vermont civil union. The filing is the latest twist in a case that has resulted in conflicting court rulings in both states.
Cohen ruled that Virginia "improperly exercised jurisdiction" in the case because the matter was already pending in Vermont before a filing was made in that state.
Lisa Miller-Jenkins's attorneys have another opinion. "There is no dispute that under Virginia law, the Vermont civil union is void in all respects, and any rights created thereby are void and unenforceable,"
Mathew Staver, an attorney representing Lisa Miller-Jenkins, wrote in the motion filed last week.
Frederick County judge John Prosser ruled in August that Virginia had jurisdiction in the case. Prosser also recognized Lisa Miller-Jenkins as the sole parent because of her standing as the girl's biological mother. Prosser deemed the Vermont woman, Janet Miller-Jenkins, no more than a friend. The judge based his decision on Virginia's Affirmation of Marriage Act, a law that took effect in July barring the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions. "It is plainly against express Virginia public policy to recognize for any purpose a Vermont civil union," Staver wrote in his latest motion filed in Vermont.
Lisa Miller-Jenkins must seek permission from Cohen before she can appeal his family court ruling because no final order has been issued in the case. Cohen has already denied an earlier request by Lisa Miller-Jenkins to appeal a previous ruling to the Vermont supreme court, saying that she needed to wait until a final order had been issued in the case. In that ruling, Cohen found that both members of a same-sex civil union are the legal parents of a child born to one of them.
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