Miller v. Jenkins (formerly known as Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins)

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Status: Open
Court:
Virginia Court of Appeals
Issues: Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Case seeking regular visitation rights for a lesbian mother and the daughter she and her former partner had while in a Vermont civil union

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Summary

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.

Context

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.

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