MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Vermont Supreme Court on Monday upheld a family court’s ruling that awarded sole custody of an 8-year-old girl to her non-biological mother and rejected an appeal by the child’s biological mother.
The parents of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven, Vt., and Lisa Miller of Forest, Va., were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Their custody battle began in Nov. 2003 after the women dissolved their civil union, and courts in both Vermont and Virginia have unwaveringly ruled in Jenkins’ favor. Miller faces contempt-of-court charges for failing to comply with lower courts’ orders, and, according to the Associated Press, the whereabouts of she and her daughter are currently unknown after they “failed to appear for a court-ordered custody swap in January.”
In their ruling Monday, the five Vermont Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected allegations by Miller—who claims she is no longer a lesbian—that Jenkins’ sexual orientation harmed Isabella.
“Vermont has determined that same-sex couples have the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples—thus, the sexual orientation of the parents are irrelevant in a custody determination,” the decision read. “A mother disappearing with a child, apparently to defeat a lawful court order, is destructive to the best interests of that child,” the justices wrote. “Janet has been acting with [Isabella’s] best interests in mind throughout these proceedings […] By contrast, the evidence reveals that Lisa has demonstrated contempt both for the courts of this jurisdiction and for the reasoned laws passed by our Legislature.”
Once authorities locate Miller and her daughter, Vermont’s highest court also ruled that another family court hearing must occur to ensure a smooth custody transfer for Isabella.