- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A woman in a child-custody battle with her estranged civil-union partner from Northern Virginia plans to ask a judge to grant her “full physical custody” of a child born to the other woman.

Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven, Vt., expects the dissolution of her civil union with Lisa Miller of Winchester, Va., will be made final in April and plans to ask for full custody of 4-year-old Isabella.

Miss Jenkins said she would tell the court Miss Miller “kidnapped and blocked me for two years from my child” but that she still would allow supervised visits between Miss Miller and Isabella.

Miss Miller did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The long-running legal battle, which at times has pitted courts in Vermont and Virginia against one another, has gained national attention as an early test of some of the legal ramifications of Vermont’s civil-unions law.

Vermont in 2000 became the first state in the country to offer legal recognition to same-sex relationships when it passed a law allowing civil unions. At the same time, it set up a process called dissolution — similar to divorce — when such unions are ended.

Miss Jenkins and Miss Miller, then living in Virginia, which does not recognize civil unions, traveled to Vermont and entered into a civil union in 2001. In April 2002, Miss Miller gave birth to Isabella by artificial insemination.

The women moved to Vermont, but their relationship foundered. Miss Miller filed for a dissolution of the civil union in the Rutland Family Court and returned to Virginia with Isabella. She blocked Miss Jenkins’ efforts to see Isabella.

Since then, the legal battle has played out on parallel tracks in the two states. Miss Miller won a Virginia court order declaring her Isabella’s sole parent and adding that because Virginia doesn’t recognize civil unions, Miss Jenkins had no legal relationship with the child.

But Miss Jenkins won a favorable ruling in Virginia on Nov. 28, when an appeals court ruled that Vermont courts hold sway under the principle that states honor one another’s custody orders.

Vermont has treated the case much like a standard divorce and custody battle. Rutland Family Court Judge William Cohen in November found Miss Miller in contempt of court for failing to allow Miss Jenkins to visit the girl, ordering Miss Miller to pay more than $9,000 in fines and costs. The order has been stayed while further appeals are pending in Virginia.

Miss Jenkins said she had obeyed a child-support order issued last month and had just arranged her second $240 monthly payment to Miss Miller for the care of Isabella.

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