Now-adult in same-sex custody battle seeks removal from suit
The now-18-year-old woman at the center of a yearslong, same-sex custody dispute that spanned Vermont to Nicaragua said in court documents filed Wednesday that she wants her name removed from a 2012 civil lawsuit filed in her name.
Lisa Miller is facing federal criminal charges in Buffalo for taking Isabella Miller to Nicaragua in 2009 rather than sharing custody with her former civil union partner, Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vermont.
In affidavits written and signed last month by Isabella Miller in Managua, Nicaragua, and filed in federal court in Burlington, Vermont, on Wednesday, the now-adult says she has been “happy, safe, healthy and I have been well cared for” since arriving in Nicaragua.
Isabella Miller said she remains outside the United States of her own free will.
“If (and when) I desire to return to the United States I will do so,” she said in the affidavit filed by Vermont attorney Deborah Bucknam.
In 2012, a civil lawsuit was filed in federal court in Vermont against a number of the people and organizations alleged to have helped Lisa and Isabella Miller flee the United States. The suit was filed by Jenkins as the “next friend” of Isabella Miller.
Some of the attorneys helping Jenkins in the civil case are from the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
“All the attorneys who purport to represent me and my wishes are acting contrary to my wishes and desires and in (a) way to further a cause that is the exact opposite of what my desires and wishes as their client in fact are,” she said in the affidavit.
Jenkins’ Vermont lawyer Sarah Star said they would not oppose dropping Isabella Miller from the lawsuit.
“It is Janet’s most sincere hope that Isabella returns to the United States to reunite with her family,” Star said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “Janet will proceed with her own claims against the individuals and organizations responsible for Isabella’s kidnapping.”
Lisa Miller and Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000, shortly after the state became the first to recognize same-sex relationships.
The two women had Isabella through artificial insemination and later broke up. Miller, the biological mother, moved to Virginia and was given custody, with the Vermont family court granting Jenkins regular visitation.
Miller regularly denied Jenkins contact with the child while she appealed the custody case for years, but ultimately the courts in Virginia and Vermont determined the case would be bound by the Vermont family court order.
The Millers fled the United States in September 2009 with help from a number of people when it became clear that custody would be transferred to Jenkins.
Lisa Miller returned to the United States from Nicaragua last month and was taken into custody on a 2014 federal indictment out of Buffalo — where the Millers left the United States on their way to Nicaragua — on international parental kidnapping charges.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate locator said Lisa Miller was being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. At some point she will be taken to Buffalo to face the charges.