State Laws and Legislation

Vermont Custody and Visitation Law

Vermont courts have not granted custody or visitation rights to the non-biological parent of a child. Co-parents in a civil union, however, are entitled to equal parental rights for children born during the civil union.

Custody and Visitation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents
Vermont law states: “The court may order parental rights and responsibilities to be divided or shared between the parents on such terms and conditions as serve the best interests of the child. When the parents cannot agree to divide or share parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall award parental rights and responsibilities primarily or solely to one parent. … The court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider at least the following factors: (1) the relationship of the child with each parent and the ability and disposition of each parent to provide the child with love, affection and guidance; (2) the ability and disposition of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, medical care, other material needs and a safe environment; (3) the ability and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s present and future developmental needs; (4) the quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s present housing, school and community and the potential effect of any change; (5) the ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing contact with the other parent, including physical contact, except where contact will result in harm to the child or to a parent; (6) the quality of the child’s relationship with the primary care provider, if appropriate given the child’s age and development; (7) the relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child; (8) the ability and disposition of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other and make joint decisions concerning the children where parental rights and responsibilities are to be shared or divided; and (9) evidence of abuse … and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent. …

“Evidence of conduct of a parent not related to the factors [above] shall only be admissible for the purposes of determining parental rights and responsibilities if it is shown that the conduct affects the parent’s relationship with the child. Reports prepared by a person qualified as an expert under the Vermont Rules of Evidence evaluating the best interests of the child shall be admissible for the purposes of determining parental rights and responsibilities provided that the expert is available for cross-examination. …
“Evidence of conduct of a parent not related to the factors [above] … shall only be admissible for the purposes of determining parental rights and responsibilities if it is shown that the conduct affects the parent’s relationship with the child. …

“On motion of either parent or any other person to whom custody or parental rights and responsibilities have previously been granted, and upon a showing of real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances, the court may annul, vary or modify an order made … if it is in the best interests of the child, whether or not the order is based upon a stipulation or agreement.”

Custody and Visitation for Same-Sex Co-Parents
Vermont courts have not granted custody or visitation rights to the non-biological parent of a child. Co-parents in a civil union, however, are entitled to equal parental rights for children born during the civil union.

In one 1997 case, Titchenal v. Dexter, the plaintiff and her former same-sex partner decided to raise a family together. The former partner legally adopted a child and they raised the child together. After the relationship ended, there was a dispute over visitation. A superior court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear such a claim as the plaintiff had no legal relationship with the child. The Supreme Court of Vermont upheld this ruling.

Citations: VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 15 § 665; VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 15 §667; VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 15 § 668; Titchenal v. Dexter, 693 A.2d 682 (Vt. 1997).


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Updated: Thu, December 22, 2005 - 12:00:25