A Custody Battle Turned Missing Child
The first of its kind custody battle between Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins has taken an even uglier turn for the worse, as unimaginable as that may be.
That it has come to this point, that Lisa Miller has run away and disappeared with her daughter Isabella, is the worst case scenario in an exceedingly tragic story. Isabella’s other mother, Janet Jenkins, recently won sole custody of Isabella because Miller had repeatedly refused to abide by the court-ordered custody arrangements. This is a complicated custody battle made infinitely more complex because of the differences in state laws on same-sex parenting and civil unions between Vermont, where the couple entered into a civil union, and Virginia, where Miller has lived with Isabella since 2003.
This case has been in the news for years because of the precedent setting implications of each court ruling, but in case you’ve missed it, here are the basics:
Jenkins and Miller met and fell in love in 1997 in Northern Virginia. They lived with each other for 3 years, and when Vermont legalized same-sex unions they took a trip to Stowe, VT in 2000 and entered into a civil union. In 2002 after using IVF and an anonymous sperm donor resembling Jenkins, Miller gave birth to their daughter, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins. Soon after the family moved to Vermont and began trying for another child. In 2003, the couple split and Miller moved back to Northern Virginia with Isabella. Jenkins paid child support and made frequent visits.
In Virginia, Miller found community in a conservative church and began an ideological transition towards a religious position that homosexuality is a sin. She filed to dissolve the civil union with Jenkins and in 2004 filed for sole custody of Isabella.
The details of the legal battle are interesting but tedious. Read this Newsweek article for the play by play. The end of the line in this legal drama happened just over a month ago when the Vermont court presiding over the case ordered that Miller transfer custody of Isabella to Jenkins by Jan. 1, 2010. Since that ruling, Miller and Isabella have gone missing.
Jenkins has released a statement via Lambda Legal pleading that her daughter be returned to her safely. In effect, Miller is now guilty of kidnapping Isabella who is now considered a missing child. After anticlimactically winning the legal battle that granted her sole custody of Isabella, Jenkins must now face a very real battle to find her missing daughter.
“I am so worried about Isabella. I do not know where she is or whether she is okay.
Isabella is my daughter. Lisa and I decided together to have a child, and that we would use alternative reproductive technology to do so. We picked out a donor together. I was there with Lisa when she gave birth to Isabella. We gave her both our last names, since we were both her parents. After Isabella was born, Lisa and I cared for her together. We both fed her, played with her, changed her diapers, and loved her.
Eventually, the courts ruled that I was Isabella’s parent, but in my heart I’ve always known that. It was devastating to me, as I’m sure it was to Isabella, when Lisa withheld contact between me and my daughter.
My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa. I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents. I just want to be with her, like any parent.
Please help me find my child.”
Anyone with information regarding Isabella’s and Miller’s whereabouts should call the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-586-4800.
Beyond the tragedy of a missing child and a family broken, this story further highlights the urgent need for marraige equality in ALL states. Let us all hope that Isabella finds her way safely back to her mother and let this remind us all of our responsibilty to work for equality in Virginia.
Mayme Donohue is a Richmond native and Master’s Candidate in Political Management at George Washington University. She’s a rockstar and you can catch more of her thoughts and musings on gay politics and lesbian gossip at Maymes
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