View Full Version : Miller-Jenkins Case In Washington Post
02-05-2007, 02:32 PM
A very in-depth article with pictures about the now famous custody dispute in Virginia between Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller was published here (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/30/AR2007013001316.html).
02-06-2007, 12:00 AM
Well sadly we see a trend much like heterosexual couples fighting over custody of a child... Unless one of the parents is proven to be unfit or a danger to the child, there should have been something worked out between both parties where both could agree to some workable plan.. but unfortunately that didn't happen.. Now Lisa completely forbids Janet to see the child and now Janet wants full custody of the child.. Who loses in the end the child...While Lisa suddenly becomes "Christian" and disapproves of Janet's lifestyle, the fact remains that she had no problem with conceiving this child before with Janet as the parent..I personally sense some ill will on her part and hostility as part of the reason to keep the child from Janet. But neither do I agree that Janet should just take the child away from the mother. I know one thing the lawyers are grinning ear to ear counting all the money in the case... as is usually is the case when people don't try to work out their differences in a fair way which benefits all the parties involved ,:confused: the only real winners in this case are the lawyers...
02-06-2007, 08:08 AM
Well sadly we see a trend much like heterosexual couples fighting over custody of a child... Unless one of the parents is proven to be unfit or a danger to the child, there should have been something worked out between both parties where both could agree to some workable plan..
Indeed. This is what the Vermont court ordered the parties to do, in fact.
Now Lisa completely forbids Janet to see the child and now Janet wants full custody of the child.. Who loses in the end the child
Yes, it's rather horrible. Isabella is now a political football. It really didn't have to be that way if Lisa had listened to the Vermont court's ruling on custody and visitation, but she made a more ideologically-driven choice, unfortunately.
While Lisa suddenly becomes "Christian" and disapproves of Janet's lifestyle, the fact remains that she had no problem with conceiving this child before with Janet as the parent..I personally sense some ill will on her part and hostility as part of the reason to keep the child from Janet. But neither do I agree that Janet should just take the child away from the mother.
It's a hard case, I agree. The problem I see from the legal perspective is that Lisa went to Vermont to file for divorce there. You can't really have a legal precedent that someone can enter into a Vermont marriage or union and then choose to dissolve that marriage or union by asking the Vermont courts to do so, but then turn around and disobey what the courts in Vermont decide to do by simply moving to another state. If we permit that, we insert a whole boatload of chaos into families, but that's what Lisa has done here. So while I do sympathize with her acting on the basis of her newfound beliefs, and I do not doubt she sincerely believes she is acting in her daughter's best interests (even if her definition of that seems hopelessly warped by her fundamentalist beliefs), nevertheless I also see someone who is deliberately and defiantly sticking up her middle finger at the Vermont courts, the courts she herself sought out to nullify her relationship with Janet. On the merits, it seems unlikely to me that Lisa will prevail -- there is, among other things, a federal law that requires states to recognize custodial rulings of other states precisely to avoid this kind of behavior by divorced parents.
And so I do think that ultimately the Vermont courts are going to get to decide this one, and when that happens I would not want to be Lisa Miller, I can tell you that. Just on the issue of custody itself, a Vermont court could easily decide that Lisa's behavior over the past several years (i.e., completely blocking all access by Janet and defying Vermont's custodial ruling) demonstrates that she is an unfit parent due to her gross defiance of the law, and her defiance of Vermont's determination of what was in the child's best interests, and could simply strip Lisa of custody. It's certainly happened that way in cases between straight parents where one of the parents has basically chosen to ignore custodial orders -- courts do not take that kind of defiance lightly. Lisa also faces substantial fines for contempt of court, and even the possibility of going to jail (although I do not believe that this would happen in this case). So if she loses in her bid to ignore the Vermont decree, there are going to a lot of adverse consequences for her, and of course those adverse consequences have an impact on Isabella as well. One wishes that Lisa and her friends in the ex-gay movement would have been more focused on that issue, rather than making this an ideological case, but alas they did not.
I know one thing the lawyers are grinning ear to ear counting all the money in the case... as is usually is the case when people don't try to work out their differences in a fair way which benefits all the parties involved ,:confused: the only real winners in this case are the lawyers...
Actually once things got to Virginia (i.e, past the stage where it was a more or less normal Vermont divorce proceeding), both sides began to be represented pro bono (i.e., for free), so no lawyers are grinning or counting money. Believe it or not, some of us lawyers do represent people for free when they can't pay or when the case is important enough that it must be heard, regardless of the ability of the client to pay. ;) Lisa is represented by Liberty Counsel (http://www.lc.org/), a religious right legal foundation which handles these kinds of cases for free, while Janet is represented by Lambda Legal (http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/index.html), working together with the ACLU, Equality Virginia, and a private practice litigation lawyer from a large law firm who is working on the case for free.
At this point, both sides know that this is a huge case in terms of precedent because the ultimate issue is whether states are alllowed to ignore custodial rulings from states that issue them with respect to same sex relationships, so it's a pretty important precedent from the legal perspective. The sad thing is that Isabella gets lost in the political shuffle because of the precedential importance of the case. That's truly tragic, but again if anyone is to blame for this it is Lisa, because it was Lisa who chose to defy the Vermont court's ruling about custody and visitation, and it was that decision of hers that started this whole mess.
02-06-2007, 10:47 AM
All of this mess, of course, would be more easily answered by the courts if GLBT people were given marriage equality. Yes, there would still be messy divorces and custody disputes, but if we had equality under the law at least the courts would have guidelines that apply to all couples. Same goes for custody -- if same sex couples had custody rights equal to hetero couples, at least the courts would have an understandable method with which to work out custody disputes.
What an awful situation. And I'm sure the anti-GLBT crowd will use this to claim same-sex relationships are bad for kids, instead of realizing that it is the discrimination we face (both under the law and by religion) that is hurting this child -- not the fact that her parents are lesbians.
02-06-2007, 12:29 PM
Amen, Susan. If we could marry, there would be precedent for dealing with custody, marital assets, etc. in the case that glbt people did divorce.
02-06-2007, 02:05 PM
Here is another thing I don't agree with, apparently Janet has been paying child support and Lisa evidently has been accepting the payments.. That to me should be an indication that Janet should be recognized as a parent as it would in heterosexual marriages or arrangements. Who pays child support, a legitimate parent, right? So if Lisa doen't recognize Janet as a parent, then why is she accepting the payments then?
Legally then, Janet should have no obligation to pay child support if she is not a parent. If she has no legal rights as a parent, she should then not be responsible for helping to support the child . But she does , I know because she does love the child and wants to see it provided for..
Biological parent to me means nada. There are many biological parents who shirk their own responsibilities to their children.. A parent is to be defined as one who is showing responsibility for the child and an interest in the child's welfare. Also this is religious right propaganda against gays to try to paint them into unfit parents..since they joined the fight it is another tactic on their part to undermine the rights of gay parents... Lisa apparently thinks Janet is good enough to make child support payments for her child, but doesn't recognize Janet as a parent? C'mon... she is basically taking advantage of Janet then..if Janet has no legal rights and is not accepted as a legitimate parent, she has no legal requirement to pay child support, again,that is the duty and responsibility of the legitimate parent, period.
02-06-2007, 02:24 PM
I should apologize about the statement I made about lawyers, you are right , all lawyers aren't bad guys and just out for the money... I guess I based my assertions of what I've seen and heard happen to some people I know... Of course in any profession you have the good and bad.. and we hear that of doctors,as well and other professionals. Sorry, I was out of line with that statement and I do apologize for make such a generalization.
And often it is the people involved in cases like this who are largely responsible for what happens to them and the accruing of large legal debt for not trying to come to some settlement that would be agreeable for both parties and be fair to both parties, as with Lisa, she disobeyed the courts ruling as you said,and refuses to let Janet see the child, but what harm would it do the child if she saw Janet , as long as she hasn't proved unfit or an danger to the child? She evidently expresses love and an interest in the child, and no parent who loves a child wants to have the child taken from them it would absolutely be heart breaking.. it is also cruel.
02-06-2007, 02:34 PM
And yes, Novaseeker, I do agree Lisa is largely responsible for the mess she's in.. but I also feel like the religious right is also instrumental in this whole mess as well.. they are helping to fuel the fire in this case.. And it does serve their agenda and argument against gay rights.. Most people naturally sympathize with the natural mother or biological mother of course, though I would through my experience and insight have to disagree.. Janet is basically being stripped of her rights period. When you have helped raise a child, support it , have an emotional investment in that child, how can you just walk away from that..? You can't. While I again don't agree with Janet's position to try to fight Lisa for full custody, Lisa is not willing to give an inch either.. and it even makes her more culpable as you say. because she has disobeyed the court rulings..things could have been more easily resolved if she had been more cooperative..
02-07-2007, 08:49 AM
It seems like there has been a bit of a game relating to the child support payments. As far as I understand the facts, Janet was paying support until the time that Lisa began blocking access to Isabella. Then Janet stopped paying for a while (a bad idea, but I don't know what Vermont law is on that), and started paying again after that, but since she has resumed paying, Lisa has not been cashing the checks (presumably on advice of her lawyers).
Undoubtedly the main problem was that Lisa became a fundamentalist Christian and fell in with the ex-gay movement, because that's when she began to cut off access to Janet, presumably with the full support and encouragement of her fundamentalist community and the ex-gay organizations she was working with. And it's sometime around then that the case became a political issue, and that's the point at which Isabella became a football more than a little girl. It's very problematic because no doubt Lisa firmly believes that Janet is living in sin, that she should have no access to Isabella so that Isabella can not ne exposed to sinful behavior, and so forth -- she seems sincere enough in her beliefs. The problem is that even if you change your own personal beliefs, you're not entitled to disobey a court order. The Virginia legislature also gets a lot of the blame in this case, because its law (which contradicts federal law) clearly encourages this kind of behavior, and it's shameful, to be honest.
No worries about the lawyer comments -- I'm easy-going about that stuff. I just wanted everyone to be clear that at this stage this is being litigated for free.
02-07-2007, 03:50 PM
But Novaseeker. when Lisa has accepted child support payments from Janet in the past, that shows legal recognition of Janet as a legal parent.. Apparently she is good enough to pay child support but has no legal standing as a parent? What kind of double standard is that? And Lisa took those checks and cashed them before, but now on her lawyers advice should not cash the checks now? Then return them, full refund,and repay Janet in full in terms of what she payed in child support payments in the past. if Janet has no legal standing or rights as a parent, then ethically Lisa's lawyers should have told Lisa she is not entitled to those payments under law since Janet is not recognized as a legal parent,and should have done so long before this time. Don't you agree? It seems that Lisa is taking advantage of Janet as well with her double standards..
I know Janet has payed child support but she also supported Lisa and the baby when they were together. Like I said she was good enough to depend on for support back then,and now all of a sudden she doesn't have any legal rights or recognition as a parent..Who is also paying for Lisa's past medical bills? I doubt if it is Lisa. I know you've heard of the word predatory
but I prefer exploitation as the word to describe Lisa's actions. She cannot have it both ways.. Not recognize Janet as a legal parent and then have ethically or legally expected and accepted child support payments from Janet.. On that premise alone Lisa should be questioned about her motives by the court, to me that just seems common sense.
How many states have laws where people who are not considered the parent of the child required to pay child support? None that I know of.. To me , I feel that Lisa's lawyers have also acted unethically, good at twisting things in their favor... but I don't see how they could have gotten by with what they did legally.. Correct me on this if I am wrong.
02-07-2007, 04:17 PM
But I really did owe you an apology, like I said anyone can make sweeping generalizations about people and often base our opinions on people without knowing the facts of the situation... or the person themselves based on our past assumptions and of course what I had heard from some other people dealing with lawyers..
02-07-2007, 07:18 PM
Also I'd like to say Novaseeker, I am a biological parent.. I've also had two partners in my life, one, his father and my ex female partner. My ex husband was not keen on my lifestyle at all.. and when we first parted ways there were hard feelings but things have changed since then and for the most part we've worked things out.. he did not keep me from my son and because of his own religious beliefs(which are just as strong as Lisa's ) we do not discuss my lifestyle for obvious reasons..
My ex female partner also when with me, helped me with my son both financially and otherwise.. she had no legal obligation to do so but she did anyway.. but we didn't part over disagreements over who had rights to my son or anything, we parted because my mother became ill and needed help and both her her parents were ill and needed her help, her mother is basically bedridden and her father nearly died as a result of a knee surgery, we are still friends though, but my ex also helped me with my mother many times too. When my mother had cancer , she had had past experiences with her mother and helped me through alot of things like how to take care of my mother which I had no idea many times about how to do that..When my mother was hospitalized and dying from cancer, Terry was supportive of me and a tremendous help, she went at three o'clock one morning to see my mother there even when she had to get up at 8 am to go to work.
Terry has given alot to me over the years and was alot of support and instrumental in getting my disability when I could no longer work and had been diagnosed..as well as getting me the help I needed. This is what I mean about biological parents should see the other side of the coin in terms of the partners who may not be the biological parents themselves but have loved and supported their families anyway. That is unconditional love on their part, don't you think?
And to me that love has to count for something... But in Lisa's case it is null and void.. yes ,she may have strong beliefs about homosexuality but is she objective enough to see what Janet has done for her in terms of support and other things. And I agree with the posters here that say it is the religious right working behind the scenes to undermine the rights of gay parents period.. You can't put a price or a measurement on love or devotion .And to say gay parents biological or not, are second class citizens who don't contribute to the welfare of their children and their families, well look at my ex female partner.. would you say she was a second class citizen or that she didn't think about the welfare of my son? Or didn't care about or love her family or contribute to us as a family?That is total BS. "Sinful" indeed. What a bunch of crock..
My ex husband still regards me as the mother of my child and has not called me unfit, and has often said he needs his mother just as much as he needs me... He could have easily used ,"gay is a sin " thing against me.. Why didn't he... because he knew and finally understood as a mother how I would feel about losing my son.. and how it would have affected me both emotionally and mentally.
02-08-2007, 09:27 AM
when Lisa has accepted child support payments from Janet in the past, that shows legal recognition of Janet as a legal parent
You’re quite right. The issue is that the same could be said of Janet when she stopped paying – i.e., that she somehow acknowledged Lisa’s claim that Janet had no parental role to play at all. To me it seems like both Janet and Lisa have been inconsistent on this, and while I expect both sets of lawyers to make some hay with this, because both of them have not acted consistently, it seems something of a wash.
I do agree that it isn’t “fair” for Lisa to keep the earlier payments Janet made, but what happens with that will go with what happens in the case overall. If Janet “wins”, Lisa may be able to make Janet pay support payments for the time that she didn’t do so. If Lisa “wins”, that means that Janet has no standing as a parent (which would be the case if Virginia’s law wins out in this one). She would have to sue Lisa to get the previously paid support payments on a completely different legal theory than family law, and that would be an uphill battle I think. So as I see it, what happens about the support payments really depends on who “wins” the case.
She cannot have it both ways
Indeed, this is one of the main problems with the case, and it goes well beyond child support payments. More fundamentally, Lisa was the one who petitioned the Vermont courts for a divorce, and then sought to avoid its rulings by moving to Virginia. In other words, she tried to have it both ways legally – get the Vermont divorce (because she couldn’t sue in Virginia for a divorce, after all), and then ignore the Vermont court’s rulings relating to Isabella by moving to another state. She isn’t the first person to try to do that, and that’s the reason why a federal law basically prohibits this by requiring states to respect custodial rulings issued by other states. Lisa’s lawyers are arguing that the fact that the coupling was a gay one makes it a different case, but to be honest the law in question exists to protect children from this kind of chaos, and does not, on its face, only apply to straight couplings, so I don’t think Lisa ends up winning … but it’s very accurate to say that she is trying to have it both ways.
To me , I feel that Lisa's lawyers have also acted unethically, good at twisting things in their favor... but I don't see how they could have gotten by with what they did legally
Right now, they’re just trying to win the case. Their argument goes something like this: “as soon as Lisa became aware that she did not want to have her child exposed to Janet’s lifestyle, Lisa acted in a manner consistent with that. Her prior behavior is irrelevant for the resolution of this case, because whatever she may have done, Virginia does not recognize that any relationship existed between Janet and Lisa that is legally relevant under Virginia family law, so Janet’s earlier payments are, as far as Virginia is concerned, gifts which Lisa accepted as such. They can’t possibly be considered child support payments under Virginia law, because Virginia does not recognize any relationship between Lisa and Janet that could possibly be the basis for anything constituting a ‘child support payment’ to begin with.” In other words, they wrap themselves in Virginia’s statute, and cite a good amount of legal precedent that says that states do not have to recognize marriages contracted in other states, with the basic argument being that if Virginia is forced to enforce the decrees of a Vermont court relating to a same-sex Vermont divorce, in some sense Virginia is recognizing the underlying relationship (or former one) between two people of the same sex, which Virginia should not be required to do. In my view, the federal statute resolves the issue, and the Virginia appellate courts ruled that way. But Lisa’s lawyers are simply making arguments they think they need to make to win the case.
yes ,she may have strong beliefs about homosexuality but is she objective enough to see what Janet has done for her in terms of support and other things.
I think in Lisa’s specific case, it has a lot to do with the ex-gay movement that she is involved with. There’s really no group of people that is filled with the same degree of hatred towards gay people as the ex-gay people are. They’ve dedicated their lives to undermining gay people in society and actively seeking to convert gay people to becoming straight, fundamentalist Christians. They see it as a calling from God. In a sense, they see this specific case as being about the rights of ex-gay people to completely sever any and all ties to their former “lifestyle”, including former partners who may have provided support at some stage for children involved in the relationships. The ex-gays see this as important because of their deep revulsion for and hatred of gay people who are living gay lives and the need to stand separate and apart from anything having to do with gay people who accept themselves. Lisa’s falling in with this crowd was, in my view, ultimately what started this whole thing going in the wrong direction, and what started making Isabella into a political statement.
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