In It for the Kids



While divorce proceedings and child custody battles often become contentious, lesbian parents have additional legal hurdles to leap. Some are now finding that they are setting precedence in family case law for same-sex couples, adding intense scrutiny to an already difficult process.

One especially heated case involves Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, Virginia residents who entered into a Vermont civil union in 2000 before Miller gave birth to their daughter, Isabella, in 2002. They raised the child together until deciding to dissolve their union in 2003. The couple decided to share time with Isabella until Miller went to her brother’s church in 2004 and had a revelation: She no longer wanted to be identified as a lesbian.

On July 1, 2004, the day Virginia’s law prohibiting any state recognition of gay relationships was enacted, Miller filed for custody of Isabella, which a judge awarded her. Jenkins sued for visitation, Miller sued for sole custody, and the case went through the court system in Virginia, where the state supreme court granted Jenkins visitation rights. Jenkins, who eventually moved to Vermont, sued in that state for sole custody of Isabella. In 2009, Vermont courts ordered Miller to turn sole custody over of Isabella to Jenkins after Miller failed to adhere to the visitation schedule.

But Jenkins still doesn't have custody of Isabella. In fact, she hasn't seen her since September, 2009 when Miller, who has renounced homosexuality and become an evangelical Christian, went into hiding. Miller's attorneys claim they have not heard from her in months. It has even been alleged that Miller is in South America with Isabella — in June, the Vermont supreme court heard arguments for the second time regarding custody of Isabella.

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