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Woman wins sole custody after civil union breakup

Va. ruling reverses Vermont decision

WINCHESTER, Va. -- A woman who moved to Virginia with her 2-year-old daughter after the breakup of her civil union in Vermont was awarded sole custody of the child yesterday.

The decision by Frederick County Circuit Judge John Prosser is the latest twist in a case that has resulted in conflicting decisions by courts in the two states.

Prosser gave Lisa Miller-Jenkins, 35, full custody of 2-year-old Isabella and ruled that she can decide whether to allow visitation by her former partner, Janet Miller-Jenkins.

The women were a couple in Virginia when they decided four years ago to enter into a civil union in Vermont. They then went back to Virginia and decided Lisa Miller-Jenkins would conceive through artificial insemination.

Isabella was born in Virginia in April 2002. The two women later moved to Vermont before they ended their civil union. Lisa Miller-Jenkins took the child and moved back to Virginia, where civil unions are not recognized, and sued for full custody.

Janet Miller-Jenkins, 39, contested the action, saying a Family Court judge in Vermont already had given her temporary visitation rights with the child. Earlier this month, Judge William Cohen found Lisa Miller-Jenkins in contempt for failing to abide by the order.

Janet Miller-Jenkins has appealed an August ruling in which Prosser claimed jurisdiction in the case, but neither she nor her attorneys attended yesterday's hearing.

''We told the judge a couple of weeks ago that we would not be participating in his retrial, if you will," said Joe Price, an attorney for Janet Miller-Jenkins. ''We're very disappointed Janet is being deprived of contact with Isabella. But we're happy to make our case to the Virginia Court of Appeals."

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