Virginia Appellate Court Sides With Vermont Court in Dispute Over Lesbian's Parental Rights:

The Virginia Court of Appeals issued an opinion yesterday in Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, the case on which the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in August. Here's a brief summary of the facts from the Vermont Supreme Court opinion:

Lisa and Janet lived together in Virginia for several years in the late 1990's. In December 2000, the parties traveled to Vermont and entered into a civil union. In 2001, while Lisa and Janet were still a couple, Lisa began to receive artificial insemination from sperm provided by an anonymous donor. Janet participated in the decision that Lisa become impregnated and helped select the anonymous donor. In April 2002, Lisa gave birth to IMJ, with Janet present in the delivery room. Lisa, Janet, and IMJ lived in Virginia until IMJ was approximately four months old and then moved together to Vermont around August of 2002. The parties lived together with IMJ in Vermont until the fall of 2003, when they decided to separate. After the separation, in September 2003, Lisa moved to Virginia with IMJ.


(1) "On November 24, 2003, Lisa filed a petition to dissolve the civil union in the Vermont family court in Rutland. In her complaint, Lisa listed IMJ as the 'biological or adoptive child[]of the civil union.' Lisa requested that the court award her custodial rights and award Janet parent-child contact. The family court ... on June 17, 2004 ... awarded Lisa temporary legal and physical responsibility for IMJ, and awarded Janet [visitation and a right to daily telephone contact] ...."

(2) After Lisa eventually started denying Janet her visitation and contact rights, a Virginia court in which Lisa filed an action to establish IMJ's parentage backed her up, holding that "any claims of Janet to parental status were 'based on rights under Vermont's civil union laws that are null and void under Va. Code ยง 20-45.3,'" that Lisa was the "sole biological and natural parent," and that Janet had no "claims of parentage or visitation rights over" IMJ.

(3) The Vermont court, on the other hand, found Lisa guilty of contempt of court for violating the Vermont order, and refused to adhere to the Virginia order (which was issued after the initial Vermont order).

(4) The Vermont Supreme Court upheld the Vermont court's ruling.


(5) The Virginia Court of Appeals sided with the Vermont courts, and concluded that "the PKPA [Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act] prevented [the Virginia court's] exercise of jurisdiction and required it to give full faith and credit to the custody and visitation orders of the Vermont court." It also agreed with the Vermont Supreme Court that the Defense of Marriage Act doesn't preclude the Vermont order:

DOMA allows a state to deny recognition to same-sex marriage entered into in another state. This case does not place before us the question whether Virginia recognizes the civil union entered into by the parties in Vermont. Rather, the only question before us is whether, considering the PKPA, Virginia can deny full faith and credit to the orders of the Vermont court regarding IMJ's custody and visitation. It cannot. The law of Vermont granted the Vermont court jurisdiction to render those decisions. By filing her complaint in Vermont, Lisa invoked the jurisdiction of the Vermont court. She placed herself and the child before that court and laid before it the assertions and prayers that formed the bases of its orders. By operation of the PKPA, her choice of forum precluded the courts of this Commonwealth from entertaining countervailing assertions and prayers.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Virginia Appellate Court Sides With Vermont Court in Dispute Over Lesbian's Parental Rights:
  2. Conflict Between Vermont Courts and Virginia Courts in Dispute Over Lesbian's Parental Rights: