family battles

How Janet Jenkins Scored Custody of Her Non-Biological Daughter


The custody saga of Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins has been going on for years. Fighting over their 7-year-old daughter Isabella, the former couple has tested the strength and definition of parenting roles and laws. Miller, who began claiming to be heterosexual after their five-year relationship ended in 2003, is the biological mother and has been petitioning courts all over (Virginia, Vermont) to keep Miller out of her daughter’s life. But Miller argues she’s as much of a parent as her ex-lover. And a court just agreed with her.

It is Jenkins, the non-biological mother, who was just awarded full custody of Isabella in a Virginia court. (She’ll get custody on Jan. 1.)

But it’s not because she’s a more worthy mother, but because Miller refused to let Jenkins even visit Isabella — who was conceived while the pair were together — while the custody proceedings dragged on. And that was enough for Judge William Cohen, who called the battle “a first-of-its kind parent custody change,” to eliminate any chance of Miller hanging on to her daughter.

More interesting, then, that Jenkins was only pushing for visitation rights, and not full custody. Rutland Herald:

After finding Miller in contempt of court earlier this year for denying Jenkins access to Isabella, Cohen said he decided the only way to ensure the child equal access to both parents was to switch custody.

“The court concludes that it is in the best interest of (Isabella) that Ms. Jenkins exercise parental rights and responsibilities,” the judge said. “This court stated that continued interference by Ms. Miller with the relationship between (Isabella) and Ms. Jenkins could lead to a change of circumstances and outweigh the disruption that would occur if a change of custody were ordered.”

[…] “In the long term, the change in custody will be in (Isabella’s) best interests as she will have the opportunity for maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents,” he said, adding that both parents were equal in terms of stability, financial resources, emotional availability and other considerations required for child rearing.

Where they weren’t equal, he said, was in their willingness to work together. While Miller has repeatedly and consistently blocked Jenkins’ access to Isabella, the judge said Jenkins has agreed to allow Miller access and would allow Isabella to continue to attend church events with her other parent.

Miller, meanwhile, has been represented by the vehemently anti-gay Liberty Counsel, and appears intent on appealing.

But while Jenkins will retain custody, Miller will have visitation rights — leaving the former couple in a situation reverse from the original.