Vt. court hears arguments in civil union custody case - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. court hears arguments in civil union custody case

Montpelier, Vermont - June 23, 2010

Lisa Miller was missing from the courtroom Wednesday. She's accused of fleeing the country with her 8-year-old daughter who she raised with former civil union partner, Janet Jenkins. Miller's lawyers told the Vermont Supreme Court a lower court judge was wrong to have given Jenkins custody of Miller's biological daughter.

"Hoping that they'll reverse that of the trial court withholding that before you take custody away from a biological parent you're required to perform some constitutional analysis," said Rena Lindevaldsen, Miller's lawyer.

The lower court gave Jenkins custody after Miller refused to give Jenkins visitation rights. Miller's lawyers from the Liberty Counsel-- a public interest law firm-- say Jenkins should not have standing as a parent.

"If it were to go to the United States Supreme Court, I would like them to revisit the whole thing, and ultimately protect Lisa's fundamental rights, and indicate that even visitation is an err," Lindevaldsen said.

"In Vermont, as in every other state, a parent is a parent is a parent, regardless of how that legal relationship is created," said Jennifer Levi, Jenkins' lawyer.

Levi told the justices that there's no reason to revisit the custody issue because there is plenty of established case law granting custodial rights to nonbiological parents.

"Liberty Counsel has made the argument that Janet Jenkins is not a full equal legal parent, of the child in this case, and the court addressed that question a number of years ago, and shouldn't revisit it today," Levi argued.

Jenkins' attorney still feels the case revolves around finding the girl.

"There's a child at issue in this case who has literally been placed in hiding. I think that's just tragic," Levi said.

Miller's legal team continues to represent her even though they haven't heard from her in months. They are arguing for a new legal precedent requiring quote "compelling justification" before custody is taken away from a fit biological parent.

Melinda Davenport - WCAX News

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