Vermont Custody and Visitation Schedules

How do I make my Vermont custody and visitation schedule?

You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (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 schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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How can I use the laws of Vermont to help me make my schedule?

If you use the law as a guide when you are developing your custody and visitation schedule, you improve the chance of a successful outcome in your case.

The Vermont Statutes Annotated, Title 15, Domestic Relations, contains the legislation regarding child custody and visitation in the State of Vermont.

The law defines the different types of custody, called "parental rights and responsibilities", and contains information regarding the criteria the court uses when ruling on family law cases.

Reviewing the statutes prior to creating a child visitation schedule is a good way to ensure your schedule complies with the law, and will give you an advantage when creating your schedule

What are the terms Vermont used to define custody?

Prior to creating your child visitation schedule, it is important to know the terms the State of Vermont uses to define custody (V.S.A. § 664):

  • Custody of a child, which involves the legal and physical obligations of a parent to a child, is called parental rights and responsibilities.
  • Legal custody, which involves the rights, responsibilities, and authority of a parent to make decisions regarding matters of importance in a child's life, (outside of daily care), such as the child's education, medical needs, religion, and other issues affecting the child's welfare and well-being, is called "legal responsibility".
  • Physical custody, which involves the rights and responsibilities of a parent to provide a home for the child, have control of the child, and provide the child with daily routine care, is referred to by the State of Vermont as "physical responsibility".
  • Child visitation, the right of a noncustodial parent to spend time with the child, is called "parent child contact" in Vermont.

These terms may be used interchangeably throughout this article.

In Vermont, do the courts typically favor one parent over the other?

No. Each custody case is evaluated on its own merits.

The State of Vermont gives no preference to a parent based on the parent's gender or financial resources.

Simply being a "mother" or the "main provider" does not give a parent an advantage over the other parent.

What do Vermont courts consider when making custody decisions?

The court considers only those factors that affect the best interest of the child when determining parental rights and responsibilities. These factors include, but are not limited to (V.S.A. § 665):

  • The ability of each parent to love, nurture, and care for the child while providing the child with basic necessities, such as food, clothing, medical care, and a safe environment
  • The history of the child's care and the established relationships the child has with each parent
  • Any developmental needs of the child and which parent is better able to meet those needs
  • The child's adjustment to and the quality of his or her home, school, and community
  • Whether or not disrupting the continuity of the child's "normal routine" would be beneficial or detrimental to the child
  • The child's relationships with any persons of significant importance to the child, such as grandparents or siblings
  • How well the parents are able to effectively communicate with each other and make decisions regarding the child
  • Whether or not the parents are willing and able to foster a loving, nurturing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Any conduct that may be harmful to the child, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, alcoholism, child abuse, and neglect
  • Any other relevant information or evidence

What should I include in my Vermont custody and visitation schedule?

A child custody schedule should provide the child with stability, security, and frequent, continuing contact with both parents and should contain:

  • A residential schedule
  • A holiday and special occasion schedule
  • A vacation schedule or provisions for vacation time

In Vermont, what should I know about making a residential schedule?

The residential schedule is the foundation of the child visitation schedule. It specifies when the child will spend time with each parent and establishes a routine.

Some parents simply alternate weekends, with the noncustodial parent also having mid-week visits with the child.

Other parents opt to be more creative with their schedule, dividing the weeks on a 4/3/3/4 or a 5/2/2/5 schedule, or a different schedule that is as unique as the child is.

As long as your schedule provides your child with ample time with both parents and is in the best interest of your child, it should be approved by the court.

What should I know about holiday schedules in Vermont?

The holiday (and special occasion) schedule takes precedence over the residential schedule and should be included in the child visitation schedule to ensure your child is able to spend equitable time with each of you on holidays.

Most parents elect to take turns having the child on the holidays during the year and then alternate those holidays in even and odd years, but you may make arrangements according to family traditions, religious beliefs, or however you would like, as long as it is in the best interest of your child.

In Vermont, what should I know about the vacation schedule?

A vacation schedule, including arrangements for the child's school vacations, should be made in order to allow the child extended time with each parent for vacation.

As it may be difficult to predict the dates of the vacations in advance, you may include stipulations for vacation time such as the length of the vacation periods and how much advanced notice should be given.

How will I know if I am making my Vermont custody schedule correctly?

The key to having a successful outcome in your Vermont custody case is to meet the requirements of the court while looking out for the best interests of the child, preferably in cooperation with the other parent.

If you are able to do this, you should have a schedule the court will approve of.

Once the child visitation schedule is accepted by the court, you will be legally obligated to comply with it so careful thought and consideration should be given when creating the schedule.

Does a parent who fails to pay child support still have visitation rights?

Yes. Vermont parents who fail to pay child support are still allowed continued access to the child (V.S.A. § 668a).

The reason behind this law is the state feels that parent child contact is as important to the child as it is to the parents. A child should not have to be deprived of a parent because that parent is behind on child support payments.

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.

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