Miller v. Jenkins (formerly known as Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins)
Case seeking regular visitation rights for a lesbian mother and the daughter she and her former partner had while in a Vermont civil union
Janet Jenkins (formerly Janet Miller-Jenkins) filed an appeal with the Virginia Court of Appeals seeking to ensure respect for a Vermont court order saying she must have regular visitation with the daughter she and her former partner, Lisa Miller (formerly Miller-Jenkins), had when the two women were joined in a Vermont civil union. After the women ended their relationship, Miller moved to Virginia with the women’s daughter, and asked a Vermont court to dissolve the couple’s civil union and sort out custody of the child. When the Vermont court ordered visitation for Jenkins, Miller filed a new lawsuit in Virginia court, and initially succeeded in securing a conflicting court order by the Circuit Court, which cited Virginia’s antigay marriage law in declaring Miller to be the child’s sole legal parent, and Jenkins was to have no visitations rights. The conflict was resolved by the Virginia Court of Appeals, which ruled under federal law that Virginia must respect the Vermont court order granting Jenkins visitation rights. That decision has been followed consistently in subsequent stages of the litigation.
The federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act makes it clear that court orders regarding custody and visitation enacted in one state must be enforced in other states as well.
Lambda Legal’s Impact
In this case, the Virginia Court of Appeals rightly recognized that federal law protects parents against the very thing Lisa Miller did — shopping around for a court to give them sole custody. Lambda Legal has fought hard to ensure that the same standards apply in all custody cases, for both LGBT and non-LGBT parents. Congress passed a law to protect children and discourage child-snatching and forum-shopping by requiring sister states to respect the custody rulings of a child’s home state. Lambda Legal established that this law has no “LGBT exception,” and that children of LGBT parents deserve the same protections Congress provided all children.
- July 2004 Lisa Miller files an action in circuit court in Virginia seeking to have herself declared the child’s sole legal parent. Miller succeeds in the trial court.
- November 2004 Lambda Legal files appeal on behalf of Janet Jenkins seeking to ensure respect for a Vermont court order granting her regular visitation with her daughter.
- November 2006 Victory! Virginia Court of Appeals upholds Vermont court order.
- April 2007 Virginia Court of Appeals orders lower court to register the order.
- April 2008 Lambda Legal argues in Virginia Supreme Court that court orders regarding custody and visitation issued in one state must be enforced in other states as well.
- June 2008 Victory! Virginia Supreme Court upholds Vermont court order.
- November 2009 Vermont court orders that custody of Isabella be transferred to Janet on January 1, 2010.
- January 2010 Janet Jenkins appeals to the public for help in locating her missing daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, after court-ordered custody transfer does not occur.