Mother Seeks Public Help To Locate Missing Child

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
January 4, 2010 12:00 am
Isabella and Lisa

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In Interstate Custody Dispute, The Child’s Other Mother Fails To Transfer Custody Per Court-Order; Disappears With Child

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Janet Jenkins today appealed to the public for help in locating her daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins.

In November, the Rutland Family Court in Vermont ordered that Lisa Miller transfer custody of the child to Janet Jenkins on January 1, 2010. The transfer of custody did not occur, and Isabella’s and Lisa’s whereabouts are unknown. Lisa’s attorneys say that they have not been in touch with her for some months, and Isabella’s guardian ad litem and attorney have been unable to contact her.

Isabella was born in 2002, after Janet and Lisa, then a couple, decided to have a child together. Lisa was artificially inseminated to conceive the child. The current custody and visitation case began in 2003, when Lisa filed papers in Vermont asking the court to dissolve her and Janet’s civil union and decide the custody of their child. The court granted temporary custody to Lisa and visitation to Janet. The court later determined that Janet is Isabella’s legal parent.

Lisa filed a new case in Virginia, seeking to have herself declared the sole parent of Isabella. Jenkins was represented in this case by the ACLU of Virginia and Lambda Legal, which charged that the Vermont court was the proper venue for the case. After years of litigation, the Virginia Court of Appeals held that Vermont had jurisdiction over the case, and that Virginia courts must abide by the Vermont court’s decisions.

The recent order transferring custody to Janet came after the Vermont court had repeatedly held Lisa in contempt for refusing to comply with court-ordered visitation. The court found that Isabella should have a relationship with both of her parents, and that Lisa was unwilling to allow Isabella to have a relationship with Janet.

Today, Janet made the following statement:

I am so worried about Isabella. I do not know where she is or whether she is okay.

Isabella is my daughter. Lisa and I decided together to have a child, and that we would use alternative reproductive technology to do so. We picked out a donor together. I was there with Lisa when she gave birth to Isabella. We gave her both our last names, since we were both her parents. After Isabella was born, Lisa and I cared for her together. We both fed her, played with her, changed her diapers, and loved her.

Eventually, the courts ruled that I was Isabella’s parent, but in my heart I’ve always known that. It was devastating to me, as I’m sure it was to Isabella, when Lisa withheld contact between me and my daughter.

My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa. I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents. I just want to be with her, like any parent.

Please help me find my child.

One of Janet’s attorneys, Sarah Star of Middlebury, Vermont, said, “We are very disappointed that the transfer of custody did not take place as ordered. For Isabella’s sake, we hope that she will be found soon and reunited with Janet.”

“Our main concern remains for the safety and well-being of Isabella. Our client, Janet Jenkins, has done everything she can as a loving parent to work within the system to protect her child. Lisa Miller has repeatedly defied court orders and her behavior has been outrageous and harmful. Today our thoughts are with Janet who does not know where her daughter has been taken. This terrible situation cannot continue. Miller and Isabella must be found and the transfer of custody must take place as the court has ordered,” said Greg Nevins, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, who also represents Janet.

“We are very concerned for Isabella’s safety. We continue to hope that Lisa will do the right thing and comply with the court’s order,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia and another of Janet’s lawyers.

Jennifer Levi, senior attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and Janet’s appellate attorney in Vermont, said, “This case is a tragedy for all families. Janet has played by the legal rules for years while Lisa has ignored court order after court order. The legal system fails everyone if any parent can successfully evade the law. We remain hopeful that by continuing to cooperate with the courts and local law enforcement, Isabella will be found and reunited with her mother.”

Anyone with information regarding Isabella’s and Lisa’s whereabouts should call the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-586-4800. A photograph of Isabella and Lisa Miller is attached. Additional information about the case is available here.

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