Family law matters are not always easy to deal with. Fighting for your rights as a father, going through a divorce, and fighting for custody of your kids can be tough, and can feel like an uphill battle. Learn about basics of various Vermont family law issues here so that you can educate yourself on the laws and statutes that apply to your particular case. Then, let us connect you – at no charge – to a local Vermont family law attorney or professional that can let you know the steps you need to take to get the rights you deserve.
Divorce is a state matter only, not federal, which means that the laws about obtaining a divorce vary from state to state. In Vermont, couples can choose to obtain a divorce by either stating a reason for the divorce, for example: an at-fault divorce, where one spouse’s actions are to blame for the destruction of the marriage, or by not stating a reason, which is called a no fault divorce. There are a limited number of at-fault grounds for getting a divorce in Vermont, including incurable insanity, incarceration for a period of more than three years, adultery, desertion for more than seven years, refusal to provide financial resources even though fully capable of providing those resources, and extreme cruelty. The vast majority of Vermont divorces are based on no fault grounds.
Divorce necessarily requires that many other aspects of your life become divided in addition to your relationship with your spouse. For example; financial obligations for your children, the time you spend with your children, and your shared marital property will all be split between you and your ex-spouse according to Vermont statute and the facts and circumstances of your particular case.
Residency Requirements for Vermont Divorces
The basics of a Vermont no fault divorce require a few main things such as residency, a separation period, and a mandatory waiting period. Vermont family law statute, found at Title 15 Domestic Relations, Chapter 11: Annulment and Divorce, dictate that a couple going through a divorce must be a resident for at least 6-months as well as having at least one spouse continuing to reside in Vermont for at least 1-year in total prior to the final divorce being granted. This can make the divorce process long and force a lot of waiting on individuals that just want a speedy end to their marriage.
No-fault divorces in Vermont require that the couple states that they have lived separate and apart for a continuance period of more than 6-months and that the marriage is not able to be saved. With these easy requirements, no-fault divorces are much more common than fault based divorces where a lengthy (and often extremely expensive) litigation must take place.
Vermont is what is known as an “equitable division of property” state. This means that the court will not necessarily divide the marital property evenly on a 50/50 basis between the spouses. Rather, the judge will divide the property according to how he or she deems fair under the circumstances. This means that the court will take into account factors such as the education of both spouses, disability, earning capacity, and whether one spouse was a stay at home parent. With some exceptions, items that were given to one spouse as an inheritance or purchased prior to the marriage will remain with that spouse as their sole property. The court also uses a similar test to determine whether alimony should be awarded to one spouse or not. Disability or earning capacity are the main factors that go into this equation.
Vermont Child Support
Under Vermont law, both parents have a mandatory obligation to provide financial support for their children. However, under most circumstances, the non-custodial parent (the parent who typically has “visitation” with the children) is the one who pays child support, while the custodial parent is the one who receives the child support. Vermont child support determinations follow a formula set out in state guidelines, which largely is based on the custody and visitation plan between the parents, the number of children requiring support and the combined income of the parents.
Parents can always opt to pay more in child support to the custodial parent but the courts will normally not allow a payment of less than the formula calls for. However, there may be circumstances where a child support determination needs to be adjusted. Be careful when attempting to follow the Vermont child support worksheets on your own as they contain numerous confusing calculation that must be made such as determining an exact percentage of time spent with each parent, combining the party’s income, and determining if both parents are going to split or share custody. The normal disclaimer any Vermont family law attorney will tell you is to get help, whether from a private attorney or some type of legal aid clinic.
Vermont Child Custody
Vermont family courts, like all other states in the U.S., make child custody determinations based on a standard known as “the best interests of the child,” and unlike some other states, does not take into consideration the gender of the parents. The court instead focuses on factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent and each parent’s ability to provide love, care, financial support, safety and a home for the child, whether the custody decision will require the child to adjust in terms of a new school, new living situation, etc., and whether there is a history of abuse in the family and the impact that abuse has had on the relationship between the parent and the child. These factors go into determining custody whether the parties are going through a divorce or were unmarried (known as a paternity case).
Vermont child custody cases primarily focus on whether the court will award joint custody to the parents or sole custody to one parent. Practically, what this means is that if the two parents can co-parent and work together for the best interests of the child, the courts will award joint custody to both parents. This means that each parent has equal legal responsibility and rights toward the overall well-being and raising of the child. Vermont family law courts also attempt to make sure that, even in sole custody situations, both parents have continued access to the child on a regular basis. This may include daily phone calls, weekday visitation periods, or even shared parenting. Child custody is easily the most highly contested of all Vermont family law issues that exist, so be prepared to put your best foot forward far in advance in the eyes of the court.
Vermont Father’s Rights
Being a father to your child is important and fathers who want to exercise their Vermont rights as a father should absolutely be able to do so. After all, you have a fundamental right to raise your child. Sometimes, though, fathers face many legal hurdles before they are able to exercise their rights as a father. Some are faced with having to legally establish paternity, others face a child custody battle with a protective mother. These types of situations can appear in both divorces and cases where the parents were never married (these are called paternity actions).
In the State of Vermont, if parties are not married, a newborn child technically does not have a legal father. The process by which paternity is established can take place in a few different ways. Paternity can be established by having the father sign a document called a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (frequently called a “VAP” by Vermont family law professionals). Parentage can also be established through the court system by one parent filing an action to establish parentage. The court will then either allow both parties to either state they are the legal parents or order a DNA test to prove who the biological father is.
Father’s that want to protect their rights cannot simply wait idly by and expect to get what they deserve. Father’s need to prepare for the worst case scenario and must be vigilant in fighting for as much parenting time as they can get to show the court that they want maximum involvement in their child’s life. And it is essential to avoid the pitfalls that ruin many father’s child custody cases. Specialized Father’s Rights Attorneys have become common in Vermont so that a dad’s rights are not infringed upon.
What Is My Next Move?
Examine and apply the facts of your case to the laws that govern the State of Vermont. Then, speak to a Vermont family law professional immediately. Family law issues are some of the most complex and certainly the most emotional of all court cases in Vermont. We can connect you – for free – to a Vermont family law professional that can help you win your case. Get started right away!