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Former couple continues interstate custody battle in city courts

By Garren Shipley -- gshipley@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Lisa Miller isn't going to jail. For her legal team, that's a win.

But bucking another court order in her ongoing custody fight with former civil union partner Janet Jenkins could prove costly.

A Vermont judge has awarded Jenkins visitation rights to a 7-year-old girl borne by Miller, but Miller has violated that order, Frederick County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge William Sharp ruled Tuesday.

Miller was found to be in contempt of court, but Jenkins' lawyers withdrew their request to have Miller jailed. Sharp instead imposed $100 per day in fines for future violations of visitation orders.

"I have to say I was glad when [Jenkins' lawyer] stood up and said they were not asking for jail time today," Miller said, speaking to supporters outside the courthouse.

The ruling was a welcome win for Jenkins, according to Rebecca Glenberg, her attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

"I'm pleased with this decision," she said, holding her cell phone preparing to call Jenkins.

Miller, formerly of Winchester, has been fighting with Jenkins, of Fairhaven, Vt., over custody of 7-year-old Isabella for more than five years.

Miller and Jenkins, who were at one time known by their shared surname Miller-Jenkins, became romantically involved in 1997. In late 2000, they traveled to Vermont to be joined in a civil union.

Later, the two decided to have a child via artificial insemination, and Isabella was born in April 2002, not long before the couple moved to Vermont.

The relationship went south a little over a year later, and Miller filed papers to dissolve their civil union. On July 1, 2004, Miller filed suit in Frederick County Circuit Court seeking to be declared Isabella's sole parent.

Since then, the case has bounced back and forth among courts in both Virginia and Vermont as the two sides fought for jurisdiction over the matter.

In the end, both the Vermont and Virginia supreme courts either ruled or let stand rulings giving the Green Mountain State's legal system the final say in the matter.

Miller's fight is far from over, and is about to break new legal ground, according to Mathew Staver, one of Miller's attorneys and the dean of Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg.

"The ACLU came to today's hearing asking for Lisa to be put in jail. An organization that does that doesn't have the best interests of Isabella in mind," he said.

"This has nothing to do with Isabella. It is a vindictive reaction against Lisa Miller and it's to push [Jenkins'] homosexual agenda that she wants to push," Staver said.

Miller's legal team has appealed a separate ruling to the Virginia Court of Appeals, citing a recent amendment to the Virginia Constitution forbidding the recognition of same-sex unions of any kind in the commonwealth.

There's a world of difference between recognizing an out-of-state court order and enforcing it, Staver said, speaking to supporters.

Miller said she's not going to drop her legal battle to keep Isabella away from Jenkins.

"I'm going to continue to take a stand for the Lord, no matter what the cost, because that's what a Christian is supposed to do," she said.

"We're supposed to rejoice and hope, persevere in trials and tribulations and be devoted to prayer," Miller said. "That's what I've been trying to do."

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