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Vermont child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Vermont child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Vermont child support determined?

In Vermont, either or both parents may be ordered to pay child support, and health insurance coverage for the child, based on the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the child
  • the financial resources of the custodial parent
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marital relationship had not ended
  • the physical and emotional health and the educational needs of the child
  • the financial resources, needs and obligations of the non-custodial parent
  • inflation as it relates to the cost of living
  • the cost of any educational needs for a parent if the costs are incurred for the purpose of increasing the earning capacity of the parent
  • extraordinary travel and other travel related expenses incurred in exercising the right to parent child contact
  • any other relevant factors

There are official Vermont Child Support guidelines, designed to be reasonable and in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. The guidelines will be followed, unless the parents have agreed to a different child support amount, or the courts determine the guidelines are unjust for a
particular case.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is no longer disabled as determined by the court, or the child dies.

Vermont's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents are permitted to agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement between the parents, then the courts will make these decisions.

In Vermont, joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and all relevant factors, including:

  • 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
  • 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
  • the ability and willingness of each parent to meet the child's present and future developmental needs
  • the quality of the child's adjustment to the child's present housing, school and community and the potential effect of any change
  • the ability and willingness of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing contact with the other parent, including physical contact, except when physical contact will result in harm to the child or a parent
  • the quality of the child's relationship with the primary care provider, if appropriate given the child's age and development
  • the relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child
  • the ability and willingness of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other and make joint decisions concerning the children when parental rights and responsibilities are to be shared or divided
  • evidence of abuse and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusive parent

Neither parent has a superior right to custody. There is no preference based on the gender of the parent.

Vermont's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. If it is not, the courts may order a parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child. Usually, if a

reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for Vermont child support and custody ?

Court orders for child support may be modified, and if modified, the new terms will apply to all future payments. If the party applying for the modification can demonstrate a "real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances," the court may modify the existing order.

However, if the court order has not been modified or reviewed for at least three years, the court may not require a showing of "real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances" to order a modification.

In addition, a child support order that was entered prior to the adoption of the child support guidelines and varies at least ten percent from the amount required to be paid according to the guidelines, will be considered a real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances. Therefore, this justifies a court ordered modification.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states, including Vermont, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

Rather than joint custody in Vermont, there is the possibility of a sharing of parental rights and responsibilities. In an action to determine child custody and support, the court will make a determination regarding the parental rights and responsibilities owed to any minor child of the parties. Depending on the best interest of the child, the court may order the parties to divide or share the parental rights and responsibilities. 

If the parties cannot agree to divide or share responsibilities, the court will award parental rights and responsibilities to one parent.

The court must order what is in the best interest of the child after evaluating all relevant evidence, statutory factors and the attributes of each parent. The court must provide a proper, complete and balanced analysis of the child's best interest.

How Vermont determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree to exactly when visitation will occur, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays

Visitation may have a significant effect on the total amount of child support obligation owed to the child. If visitation exceeds the standard schedule and custody is shared, child support will be determined by the shared cost guidelines adopted by the human services agency. 

The parent who exercises physical custody for a greater period of time over the other parent will be considered the custodial parent. Physical custody is defined as keeping the child overnight. 

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