International kidnapping at issue in heated child custody dispute

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Child Custody on Wednesday, August 15, 2012.

In a child custody dispute between a now separated lesbian couple, a Virginia minister stepped in to help one of the women kidnap her daughter before the other was granted custody rights. The minister is now on trial for his role in the kidnapping. Although the minister's case is sensational, it has the underpinnings of an otherwise common child custody dispute. It is driven by emotions and parents' love for a child. A story like this reminds Virginians that no matter how complex a child custody dispute becomes, the best interests of the child must dictate the resolution of the matter.

The minister's trial stems from a long and heated child custody dispute. The lesbian couple wed in a civil union in Vermont. Soon after, one of the women gave birth to the couple's daughter. About a year later, the mother who gave birth to the little girl denounced her homosexuality, and the couple's relationship soon dissolved. The years that followed were filled with court hearings in attempt to resolve custody rights and visitation issues. Eventually, the court determined that the non-birthing mother would retain sole legal and physical custody of the girl. The court order could not be enforced, however, since with the help of the Virginia minister, the birthing mother fled the country with her daughter. Now, the minister stands trial for his role in the kidnapping.

The minister's case is extreme, but it illustrates how complex child custody dispute can evolve into legal extremes. In Virginia, child custody issues can arise in a number of situations, including separation, relocation and divorce. These cases can involve a variety of parties including same-sex couples, married couples and grandparents. Typically, emotions run high in these cases. No matter the circumstances, Virginia courts remain objective throughout custody battles and seek to establish custody orders that uphold the laws in which the original custody agreement was established.

No matter how intense a child custody dispute becomes - even if it involves such sensational facts as in the minister's case - parents should remember that Virginia courts always focus on the child's best interest. Similarly, parents should try to look past the complexities of their separation to work towards the best resolution for their child, while at the same time protecting their parental rights.

Source: NBC News, "Minister on trial in international ex-lesbian child kidnap case," Miranda Leitsinger, Aug. 7, 2012

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