Lawyers acting on behalf of a US pastor who was sentenced for helping a woman flee to Central America to escape a custody battle with her lesbian partner, have filed an appeal against his sentencing in the state of Vermont, saying he should have been sentenced elsewhere.

The Reverend Kenneth Miller was sentenced by a Federal Court in Vermont to 27 months in prison after he was convicted on the charges in August 2012. He was found to have helped Lisa Miller (no relation) and her daughter, Isabella, illegally leave the US, arranging transport that took the pair from Virginia to Canada, and then on to Nicaragua. They are still believed to be hiding in Central America.

Ms Miller had been fleeing a court order which required her to give custody of Isabella to her former partner, Janet Jenkins, as Ms Miller had been defying visitation orders for three years.

The prison sentence is suspended while Reverend Miller appeals.

The basis of the appeal against the ruling is the assertion that he should not have been sentenced in the state of Vermont.

The Hartford Connecticut federal appears court began hearing the case on Monday, during which attorney David Williams said the woman fled from Virginia, and exited the US via New York, and that no part of the crime took place in Vermont.

Assistant US Attorney General Eugenia Cowley however, argues that the crime took place in Canada, when Ms Miller crossed the border to leave the US, and that the impact of the crime was felt in Vermont, where her former partner lives.

The case continues.