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Lesbian mom denied visitation

This just in: Breaking up is still hard to do.

In fact, it may be getting more difficult for same-sex couples, as Virginia courts continue to face the fallout when same-sex relationships fall apart.

Last Friday the VLW Blog reported a new Roanoke County case in which Judge Cliff Weckstein told a female couple who entered into a civil union in Vermont that a Virginia court could do nothing to uncouple them, as their union could not be recognized under Virginia’s Marriage Affirmation Act.

Earlier today, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of a Spotsylvania County woman who sought visitation with the daughter she helped rear when her partner conceived and bore the child through artificial insemination. The two women lived together from spring 1999 to summer 2004, and the child was born in January 2003. After appellant Christine Stadter filed a petition for visitation in 2004, biological mom Jennifer Siperko severed all contact. The trial court denied the petition for visitation, holding that Stadter had not proved by clear and convincing evidence the child would suffer “actual harm” without the visitation.

The Court of Appeals upheld the denial of visitation in Stadter v. Siperko, rejecting Stadter’s claim for treatment as a “de facto or psychological parent” and her argument that the biological mother had voluntarily and partially relinquished her custody to Stadter when Siperko permitted Stadter to take on significant child-rearing responsibility.

Stay tuned, because this Friday the Supreme Court of Virginia is expected to hand down its decision in Lisa Miller-Jenkins v. Janet Miller-Jenkins, No. 070933, an appeal of the effect of the Vermont courts’ assertion of jurisdiction over custody and visitation rights that stemmed from a Vermont civil union between two women.

By Deborah Elkins

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