Vermont Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Vermont and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Vermont courts.
In Vermont, you can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
It is important to become familiar with the laws of the state prior to developing a parenting plan so that you may gain the knowledge required to create a parenting plan that complies with the law and the court will approve of.
The laws pertaining to child custody and visitation for the State of Vermont can be found in the Vermont Statutes Annotated, Title 15, Domestic Relations.
The law contains the definitions for some of the terminology used by the court and defines the criteria the court uses when determining child custody, approving parenting plans, and authorizing child visitation schedules.
The law can be a valuable tool and may give you an advantage when creating a parenting plan for your child and you.
Understanding some of the terminology used by the court will help you create a better parenting plan and make it easier to comprehend the requests of the court.
Here are a few definitions of terms that are used frequently (V.S.A. § 664):
- Parental rights and responsibilities means the rights and responsibilities of a parent pertaining to raising the child, the child's welfare, the child's living arrangements, parent child contact, the child's education, medical and dental care, religion, and travel. In many states, this is referred to as "custody".
- Legal responsibility pertains to the rights, responsibilities, and authority over important matters in the child's life, other than routine daily care, such as the child's education, medical care, travel arrangements, and religious upbringing. Legal responsibility may be shared by the parents, divided between the parents, or delegated to only one parent.
- Physical responsibility pertains to the rights and responsibilities of the parents to provide the child with daily care and have control of the child, subject to the other parent's contact with the child. Physical responsibility may be shared between the parents, divided between the parents, or be held solely by one parent.
- Parent child contact means the right of a parent who does not have or share physical responsibility of the child to have visitation time with the child.
In the State of Vermont, the court uses the best interest of the child as the ultimate determining factor when ruling on child custody cases.
The court reviews all relevant factors contributing to the child's best interest and well-being, including, but not limited to (V.S.A. § 665):
- The existing relationships between the child and each parent
- The ability and willingness of each parent to nurture, love, and provide the child with guidance
- The ability and willingness of each parent to provide the child with basic necessities, such as adequate food, clothing, medical care, shelter, and a safe environment
- The developmental needs of the child and the ability and willingness of each parent to meet those needs
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community, and the effect any changes would have on the child
- The ability and willingness of each parent to encourage and foster a good relationship, with frequent and continuing contact, between the child and the other parent
- The child's relationship with any siblings, relatives, and any other persons of importance in the child's life
- The ability and willingness of each parent to effectively communicate and cooperate with each other and make joint decisions regarding the child
- Any evidence of abuse, neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence, or any other conduct that may harm the child
- Any other relevant factors
Unless a parent is dead, missing, incarcerated, or horribly unfit, both parents are considered to be equally entitled to custody until the best interests of the child are considered and indicate which parent is more suited to raise the child.
In the State of Vermont, the gender of the child, the gender of a parent, and the financial resources of a parent are not considered or given preference to when determining the custody of a child.
The court recognizes that parents are naturally more suited for making their own custody arrangements than the court is, as they know their situations and their child best, so parents are encouraged to create their own parenting plan.
You should work together with the other parent, negotiate an agreement, and create a parenting plan to submit to the court.
Your proposed parenting plan will be reviewed by the court. As long as it complies with the law and preferences of the court, it should be approved.
A comprehensive parenting plan / custody agreement should include:
- A designation as to the legal and physical responsibility of the child
- A designation of the child's primary residence
- A child visitation or parent child contact schedule that specifies when the child will spend time with each parent on a regular basis, on holidays, and for vacations
- Provisions delegating specific rights and responsibilities to each, either, or both of the parents
- A method for modifying the parenting plan
- A method of dispute resolution
- Any other stipulations you wish to include
If you are unable to reach an agreement, the court will decide the fate of your parenting arrangements and all aspects of your child's custody.
In order to prevent the court from making all of your parenting arrangements for you, you should work together with the other parent and create a parenting plan to submit to the court.
Working with the other parent may not always be easy, but it is important to attempt to put your differences aside for the sake of your child in order to create a parenting plan that addresses the unique needs of your child and that the court will approve of.
Mediation is available to help you resolve your differences if you have trouble reaching an agreement.
The top ten cities in Vermont (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Burlington, South Burlington, Rutland, Barre, Bennington, Essex Junction, Brattleboro, Montpelier, St. Albans, Winooski.