Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Pastor oversteps in civil union child custody dispute, jury rules

As the first state to approve of same-sex marriages, one would think Massachusetts might be immune to contentious same-sex issues; however that may not be the case. Some other states do not recognize our same-sex marriages and thus struggle with what to do when a couple wants to divorce. For example, who is awarded child custody? Will other states recognize custody?

Vermont is struggling with that issue right now. Recently it was reported that a pastor overstepped a legal boundary three years ago when he allegedly helped a woman flee the country as she was preparing to terminate her civil union, which is like a same-sex marriage, that was granted in Vermont. The whereabouts of the mother and her child are still unknown, although she is believed to be in Nicaragua.

The couple had a civil union in Vermont. The child, now a 10-year-old, was not being permitted the court-ordered visitations from the non-biological parent, and so the court had threatened to award custody to the non-biological parent. A pastor from Virginia helped the biological parent flee as she was about to be required to hand over a child to her civil union ex-spouse. A Vermont jury issued a verdict against a Virginia pastor for his role in the child abduction. The pastor stated that he was at peace with God and his actions.

Apparently the pastor helped the mother and child escape through Canada to Nicaragua. The woman left behind in Vermont is hopeful that the child will be returned to the United States, so she can be reunited with the girl for visitations.

It was not stated what the sentencing might be for the pastor, or whether he will appeal his conviction.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Jury gets case in Vt. same-sex custody dispute," Aug. 15, 2012

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