Being a non-lawyer, I’m sure I’m missing something fundamental in law with this story. But I don’t know what it is.
A Virginia appellate court sidestepped the issue of civil unions Tuesday in ruling that, because two former lesbian partners filed for their union in Vermont, that state’s courts have jurisdiction in a custody battle.
The women were Virginia residents in 2000 when they traveled to Vermont to join in a civil union. Lisa Miller-Jenkins conceived a child through artificial insemination in 2001 while the couple were together, and a child, Isabella, was born the following April. They eventually moved to Vermont in August 2002.
In the fall of 2003, the women separated. After moving back to Virginia, Lisa Miller-Jenkins filed for a dissolution of their civil union, an action akin to a divorce, and sought custody of Isabella.
In June 2004, a Vermont family court granted Janet Miller-Jenkins visitation rights; that October, a Frederick County court issued a contradicting decision.
I’m stumped. In my only experience dealing with child custody and family law, my brother’s hearings concerning his son took place in the state’s courts where my nephew lives with his mother, not where he was born. Is Vermont law really that different, considering that Virginia is involved in both this case and my brother’s situation? Is there something different about sole versus joint custody that may be in play in this case, even if the child lives in Virginia? Did Virginia courts rule in order to punt the civil union question?
Again, I’m sure I’m missing something. I don’t need to assign animosity to gays, or at least avoidance, as a cause since Vermont also ruled that it should have jurisdiction. But it seems as likely as any other explanation. I can’t figure out what the answer might be given the facts I know. That’s probably the largest factor, but I’m baffled.