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Vermont Child Custody
Child Custody in Vermont

Based on Vermont Statutes, Title 15, Chapter 11: Subchapter 3 - Section 665, the court divides or shares parental rights and responsibilities between the parents or primarily or solely with one parent based on terms and conditions that serve the best interests of the child.

Vermont child custody laws protect the child of divorcing parents, and family courts urge parents to resolve child custody, support, and visitation issues. When parents agree about the terms and conditions of child custody, courts see it as an indication of their willingness and ability to support for the child. However, the court steps in to settle issues concerning child custody, support, and visitation when parents cannot do it.

A Vermont Child Custody Arrangement

As mandated by child custody laws in Vermont, the state's family courts determine all custody issues based on the best interests of the child. To aid the courts, child custody laws have listed many determining factors, including:

  • the nature of the parent-child relationship;
  • the child's relationship with his/her parents, siblings, and other members of the family, and how it affects his/her life;
  • the child's ability to adjust to his/her home, school, and community, and how the change of environment would affect the child;
  • the parents' ability to provide for the child financially;
  • the parents' ability to provide the child's need for food, shelter, clothing, dental care, medical care, education, and other necessities;
  • the parents' willingness to encourage and allow a positive and continuous relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • the ability of the parents to give love, affection, and guidance to the child; and
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse.

Vermont child custody laws emphasize the best interests of the child. The family courts determine custody arrangements based on family dynamics and upon evaluating the above-mentioned factors. The court tries to minimize the emotional impact of the custody proceedings on children.

If parents cannot agree on custody, a Vermont family court will order sole or joint custody. In sole legal custody one parent has sole legal authority to make major decisions for the child regarding education, religion, and health care; in joint legal custody both parents have the legal authority to make major decisions for the child. Parents can share joint legal custody without having joint physical custody.

Joint Child Custody in Vermont

A joint custody agreement in Vermont stipulates:

  • the child's physical living arrangements;
  • the details regarding when and where the child will have physical contact with each parent;
  • the details regarding the education of any minor children;
  • the details regarding medical, dental, and health care;
  • the details regarding how travel arrangements will be handled by each parent;
  • the procedures for communicating about the child's welfare and procedures for resolving disputes.

A court may order mediation or binding arbitration if there is a disagreement

A family court in Vermont will reject a joint custody agreement that is not considered to be in the best interests of the child.

Modification

If a parent or another interested party requests a modification of child custody in Vermont, the court will only modify a custody order if it's in the best interests of the child. According to Vermont child custody law, the court will only consider a modification if there is a real and substantial showing of a change of circumstances that threaten to harm the child's best interests.

Under Vermont law, the judge considers the ability of the parent granted custody to manage the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent. This may include the ability of the custodial parent to encourage a relationship between the child and non-custodial parent, or the ability of the custodial parent to keep the child away from an abusive non-custodial parent.

In considering custody, the court looks at the relationship the child has with the parents. The court may consider the ability of each parent to provide support, adequate food and clothing, affection and guidance to the child. The judge considers parent better equipped to meet any special developmental needs. The judge may also consider how the child has adjusted to the separation of his parents.

Other Jurisdictions and Modification

The Vermont court recognizes a custody agreement or order from a court in another state, unless one of the parties contests it. Any modification, or dispute over an agreement made by another court, will be reviewed.

Joint Custody Preference

Vermont law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. In Vermont, joint custody based on parental agreements is considered to be in the best interest of the child. The family courts have jurisdiction over child custody cases, and they alone can decide whether or not joint custody is feasible for the family. The Vermont Code provides that when parents come to an agreement about who should share custody, the agreement is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. The agreement must deal with living arrangements, education, health care, travel arrangements, contact with the child, and a procedure for resolving disputes.

If parents agree to enter into joint custody, they must include information such as the child's living arrangement, educational details, travel arrangement, and communication in their parenting plan.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. In deciding custody, the Vermont court considers history of abuse and the impact of that abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent.

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