Sunday, September 04, 2005

Vermont-Virginia Custody Case 

Last year a Virginia judge ruled in a custody case that the commonwealth did not have to acknowledge a custody judgment from Vermont, since that custody decision stemmed from a dissolved civil union, which Virginia law does not recognize.

The couple was originally from Virginia, but traveled to Vermont to obtain a civil union, then returned to Virginia. They had a child through artificial insemination, then later relocated to Vermont. About a year later they filed for a dissolution of their union. Lisa Miller, the birth mother, returned to Virginia with their daughter, while Janet Jenkins remained in Vermont. The Vermont court handling the dissolution has granted Jenkins visitation based on her parental status as the parent of a child of a civil union. Miller both appealed the Vermont judge's ruling, while also filing in Virginia court to have herself declared the child's sole parent, and to terminate Jenkins' visitations. The Virginia court did just that. The battle continued, and the Vermont Supreme Court will be hearing Miller's appeal this week, and the Court of Appeals of Virgina will hear Jenkins' appeal next week.

Of note is that both sides are waving federal laws to support their cases: Miller's attorney is relying on DOMA to support the claim that Virginia is not obligated to recognize the relationship or the judgments related to dissolution, while Jenkins' attorney is relying on the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), which mandates that when a parent tries to override one state's custody decision by filing later in a second state, the first state's judgment must be honored.

The Vermont cases (they have two being heard on September 7 at 11:00 am) are 2004-443 and 2005-030, Lisa Miller-Jenkins v. Janet Miller-Jenkins.

The Virginia case (will be heard on September 14 during the 9:00 am session) is 2654-04-4.


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