Virginia High Court Says Petitioners Failed to File Notice of Appeal.

Richmond , VA-- The Virginia Supreme Court today turned down the appeal of Lisa Miller-Jenkins, who has been attempting to use the Virginia court system to void a child custody and visitation order issued by a Vermont court.
The original Vermont custody and visitation order, issued during dissolution proceedings of a Vermont civil union between Lisa and Janet Miller-Jenkins, gave primary custody of the couple’s child to Lisa, the biological parent, but also gave visitation rights to Janet. Lisa then moved to Virginia, where she sought to have the Virginia court system take over the case revoke Janet’s visitation rights.
Today’s ruling leaves intact a November 2006 decision from the Virginia Court of Appeals holding that under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), Vermont has jurisdiction over the dispute.  In that decision, the appellate court overturned a Frederick County Circuit Court ruling that Virginia, not Vermont, had jurisdiction over the custody dispute. The appellate court held that the Frederick County Court erred when it said that Virginia’s “Marriage Affirmation Act” -- which bans marriage-like contracts between people of the same sex -- allowed it to ignore the Vermont proceedings in the case.
In its order issued today, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected Lisa’s attempt to appeal the Court of Appeals decision, writing that “the appeal was not perfected in the manner provided by law because the appellant failed to file the notice of appeal.”
“This is a two-state child custody and visitation case involving the dissolution of a same-sex civil union,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “It may seem unusual, but so far, with only a one deviation, the courts are treating it like any other custody fight—and that is exactly how it should be.”
In a related development, on April 30, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Lisa’s appeal from a ruling of the Vermont Supreme Court, which held that Vermont has jurisdiction over the dispute, and that Janet is a parent with equal rights over the child as Lisa.
The ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and Washington, D.C. attorney Joseph Price represent Janet Miller-Jenkins.

Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia (804) 644-8022