Once again, the law struggles to keep up with alternative family arrangments and to rule in the best interest of the child, as in this story posted on AP this week:
|FILE – In this April 17, 2008 file photo, Lisa Miller answers questions about her custody battle during a news conference immediately following arguments for her case before the court at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va. The birth mother of a 7-year-old Virginia girl must transfer custody of the child to the woman’s former lesbian partner, a Vermont judge has ruled. Vermont Family Court Judge William Cohen ordered Lisa Miller of Winchester, Va., to turn over daughter Isabella to Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven at 1 p.m. EST Friday Jan. 1, 2010 at the Virginia home of Jenkins’ parents. (AP Photo/Lisa Billings, File) (LISA BILLINGS, AP / April 17, 2008)|
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The birth mother of a 7-year-old Virginia girl must transfer custody of the child to the woman’s former lesbian partner, a Vermont judge ruled, adding that it seems the woman has “disappeared” with her daughter.
Vermont Family Court Judge William Cohen ordered Lisa Miller of Winchester, Va., to turn over daughter Isabella to Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven at 1 p.m. Friday at the Virginia home of Jenkins’ parents.
But in the Dec. 22 order denying Miller’s request to delay the transfer of Isabella, Cohen wrote: “It appears that Ms. Miller has ceased contact with her attorneys and disappeared with the minor child.”
Miller and Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Isabella was born to Miller through artificial insemination in 2002. The couple broke up in 2003, and Miller moved to Virginia, renounced homosexuality and became an evangelical Christian.
Cohen awarded custody of the girl to Jenkins on Nov. 20 after finding Miller in contempt of court for denying Jenkins access to the girl.
The judge said the only way to ensure equal access to the child was to switch custody. He also said the benefits to the child of having access to both parents would be worth the difficulties of the change.
Mathew Staver, Miller’s attorney, declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the case.
A listing for Lisa Miller in Winchester, Va., says the phone line has been temporarily disconnected at the customer’s request.
Jenkins’ attorney, Sarah Star, said she hopes Miller is simply not communicating with her attorneys but plans to comply with the order.
“It is Ms. Jenkins’ intent when she has custody of Isabella to allow as liberal contact as is possible with her other mother,” Star said Tuesday.
When Cohen dissolved the civil union, he awarded custody to Miller but granted liberal visitation rights to Jenkins.
The supreme courts of Virginia and Vermont ruled in favor of Jenkins, saying the case was the same as a custody dispute between a heterosexual couple. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear arguments on it.
If Miller does not turn over Isabella, the most likely scenerio is that she would be held in contempt of court and a warrant would be issued for her arrest, said Cheryl Hanna, a professor of constitutional law at Vermont Law School.
“I think the underlying thing is the fact that they are a lesbian couple doesn’t mean that the court’s going to treat this any differently than if they were a heterosexual couple,” she said.
Associated Press writers Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Va., and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.
This article, “Building a Baby, With a Few Ground Rules,” which appeared in the New York Times on December 12 has been roundly criticised in the surrogacy community. It tells of several surrogacy arrangments gone wrong. It serves as a cautionary tale for those chosing this path to family creation, and as critics have asserted, when it is done right, none of these types of horror stories would have happened. Read for yourself: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/us/13surrogacy.html?_r=3
California Law Helps Families
A California law has established the Paid Family Leave Program. This program allows workers to take up to 6 weeks of partially paid leave from their jobs (during a 12 month period) to bond with a newly born or adopted child, or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner. Spouses, for same sex couples, includes spouses who married between June 17, 2008 and November 3, 2008 in California and same sex couples who married legally outside California prior to November 4, 2008.
Since the beginning of the program, over 1 million claims have been paid and over 1 billion dollars in claims have been paid out.
Often, when a new child is born or a family member is seriously ill or injured, circumstances require that a worker take time off from work to bond with the new child, or to care for the ill or injured family member. Prior to the enactment of the Paid Family Leave Program, this often meant that the worker and his or her family suffered serious economic harm in these situations. The Paid Family Leave Program eases those burdens, and makes taking the time to care for a loved one more affordable.
People can take the 6 weeks of leave all at once if needed, or it can be taken in shorter periods that add up to 6 weeks in a 12 month period.
Under the law, people taking such leave can receive weekly payments from the state of amounts equal to 55% of their pay during their base period. However, the lowest weekly payment would be $50 per week and the highest is $959 per week. The base period, on which the weekly benefit is based, is generally the period from 5-17 months before the period for which the claim is being made. For example, for a claim starting in January, February, or March, 2010, the base period would be the 12 months ending on September 30, 2009.
These benefits are funded by deductions made from the pay checks of most California workers.
Most California Employers are required to allow employees to take paid family leave to bond with a new child, or to care for the family members listed above. A significant drawback to the program is that the law that established the California Paid Family Leave Program, does not require employers to re-employ the worker after the period of paid family leave. However, for many workers, the right to return to work is guaranteed by another California law called the California Family Rights Act.
The California Family Rights Act protects a workers right to return to their old job in the following circumstances:
– The leave is to bond with a new baby or adopted child or to care for a
seriously ill or injured parent or spouse or registered domestic partner.
– The employee works in California and has worked full or part time for more
than 12 months for his or her employer and has worked for at least 1,250
hours for the employer in the 12 months prior to the beginning of the leave.
– The person works for an employer who has 50 or more employees working
within 75 miles of the work site of the person requesting the leave. Note:
Employees of any state or local government in California meet this
requirement regardless of how many workers the employer has.
Anyone seeking up to 6 weeks of paid family leave who meet the above requirements has a right to return to his or her old job or to a comparable job with his or her employer.
To obtain a claim form, or to get additional information, call 1-877-238-4373 or visit the web site of the California Employment Development Department at:
California Communities United Institute (CalComUI) is a California based entity dedicated to making this a better world for all the communities of California. Fundamental to our philosophy is the concept that, if various communities work together, supporting each other’s needs, then all of them will benefit, and each will benefit to a greater degree than if they worked alone.
http://www.edd.ca.gov and then click on the “Disability” tab, and finally click on “Paid Family Leave Insurance”.
Went on a guided tour of Vancouver’s shopping districts and previewed a new iPhone app called ChicWalks. Felt entirely fashion-inadequate as we browsed shoes at Fluevog where the average priced shoe was about $300 Canadian, and Holt Renfrew department store where the haute couture was more over-priced than Needless Marcup on Rodeo, and then on to a private fitting in the no-doors dressing room at the warehouse-turned-style-house JC Studio where the ultra kind and generous designer of the Jacqueline Conior line (famous for dressing the L Word girls when shooting in Vancouver) took pity on me and gave me 30 percent off on a pair of jeans, and even personally dropped them off at my hotel after alterations.
As I tried to hide my mommy body in the open-air dressing room, and the florescent lights highlighted my dimpled belly which never recovered from those 41 weeks and six days of pregnancy, I felt like a schlubby mommy. I can’t wait to get back to my little wonder boy who couldn’t care less what brand I’m wearing and who runs to hug my bare legs whenever he gets the chance, oblivious to my physical and fashion imperfections. I am glad I came on this fashionista bootcamp trip, as it makes me appreciate what is most important to me, though I still will make a better effort to be more daring fashion-wise, as soon as I have some money.
Away from the little one for my first extended trip, a press junket – Glam Girls Getaway in Vancouver. Looked forward to actually sleeping through the night without the pitter patter of little feet running to my bedside at 3 am, but when I woke in the hotel alone I missed him so much I couldn’t get back to sleep. Thank goodness for my computer and access to YouTube so I could see him, though in video. Night night Sweetie!