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Virginia court says lesbian child custody dispute governed by Vermont law

[JURIST] The Virginia Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Tuesday that Virginia state courts had a constitutional obligation to defer to the rulings of Vermont courts in a child custody dispute involving two lesbian partners who had entered into a Vermont civil union. Lisa and Janet Miller-Jenkins lived in Virginia but traveled to Vermont to be joined in a civil union in 2000, and Lisa conceived a child through artificial insemination while the two were still together. The couple subsequently moved to Vermont, but in 2003, they separated with Lisa returning to Virginia and suing for full custody of the child.

A court in Virginia granted full custody [JURIST report] to Lisa in 2004, with the judge declaring that since Virginia law does not legally recognize unions between members of the same sex, Lisa was the child's "sole parent." In August 2005 the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed, saying Vermont had exclusive jurisdiction [JURIST report] over the case since the couple's civil union had taken place under Vermont's laws. Without ruling on whether Virginia recognizes the civil union entered into by the parties in Vermont, the Virginia appeals court said that Virginia could not deny "full faith and credit" to the orders of the Vermont court and remanded the case back to the Virginia trial court in Frederick County, saying it failed to "recognize that the PKPA [Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act text] barred its exercise of jurisdiction" and it had to respect the custody and visitation orders of the Vermont court favoring Janet Miller-Jenkins. AP has more.

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