Vermont Judge Dissolves Lesbian Civil Union, Awards Custody of Child

A Vermont judge has dissolved the civil union between two former lesbian lovers and awarded custody of their 5-year-old daughter to one, with regular visitation for the other.

For three years, the girl's biological mother, Lisa Miller, who has renounced homosexuality, has been fighting efforts by her former partner, Janet Jenkins, to maintain contact with the girl, Isabella.

The courts have consistently ruled in Jenkins' favor. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision by the Vermont Supreme Court awarding Jenkins visitation rights.

In his decision, Rutland County Family Court Judge William Cohen awarded custody of Isabella to Miller, who lives in Winchester, Va. He also granted regular visitation to Jenkins, who lives in Fair Haven.

Starting in August, Jenkins and Isabella are to spend every other weekend together, alternating between Vermont and Virginia.

"The purpose of this specific initial schedule is to facilitate reunification between (Isabella) and Janet," Cohen ruled Friday. "The court has suggested that the parties utilize an outside facilitator to determine a long-term parenting time schedule."

In his order, Cohen wrote that Miller had said she would abide by the visitation order, which came after a trial to end the civil union, akin to a divorce. Miller's attorney in Virginia, Phil Griffin, did not return a call Monday.

In 2000, Miller and Jenkins traveled from Virginia to Vermont where they were joined in a civil union. In 2001, Miller conceived a child through artificial insemination while the couple was together. Isabella was born in April 2002. The three moved full-time to Vermont in August 2002.

But just over a year later, they separated and Miller moved back to Virginia and denied Jenkins' demands for visitation rights.