Vermont Child Custody Laws

For parents in the midst of a divorce or legal separation, determining child custody will be an important step in finalizing the process. In Vermont, some child custody laws are similar to those in other states, but these laws have a tendency to evolve over time. Because of this, it is so important to stay up-to-date about the laws of your state. Read on to learn more about Vermont child custody laws.

Defining Child Custody in Vermont

According to the Vermont Law Help website, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are instead commonly known as “parental rights and responsibilities.” This overarching term can be broken down to represent three different elements pertaining to a parent’s rights to their child: physical responsibility, legal responsibility and child support. Physical responsibility denotes a parent’s responsibility for their child’s daily care. Legal responsibility designates a parent’s responsibility towards making important decisions about the child’s life in regards to things like education, medical care and education. Child support refers to a parent’s responsibility to support their child financially. These three factors are to be determined as part of a child custody order in Vermont.

How Parental Responsibilities are Determined

In determining the outcome of a child custody order in Vermont, a family court prefers that the parents are able to formulate a plan for parental rights and responsibilities on their own and present this plan to the court. If parents cannot agree on a plan on their own, the court will formulate a custody order for the parents. Courts will determine custody based on what they deem to be in the child’s best interests according to a number of elements. Some of these include a parent's ability to care for the child financially and emotionally, to encourage their child to have a relationship with the other parent, and the current status of their relationship with their child. The court will examine these factors, among others, and will determine both physical and legal responsibility on a joint or sole basis. Joint physical and/or legal responsibility means that both parents will be granted rights. This means that a shared parenting time schedule will need to be determined, and important decisions for the child will be made together. Sole physical and/or legal responsibility means that only one parent will be granted rights. This could mean that only one parent is responsible for the child's daily care or for making decisions for the child. 

Child Support in Vermont

Child support in Vermont is determined at the same time that the parental rights and responsibilities agreement is put in place. Typically, it is the non-custodial parent who will make child support payments to the custodial parent. The amount of child support paid will be determined based on factors including each parent's gross income, which parent is paying for the child's health insurance, and the costs of child care, medical care and education. Child support is often paid by means of wage withholding or, in a case where a non-custodial parent is self-employed, between the parents themselves by the means in which they choose. Once determined, the method for making child support payments will be entered into the final parenting agreement. 
This information is meant to inform you of some of the possibilities that could become a part of your case, but it should not be considered legal advice.  You should always refer to your attorney or another family law professional for guidance in your case in particular. Check out our Vermont resources page for family law resources in your area. 

NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.