Vermont law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child. 

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In Vermont, parents should try to negotiate a voluntary plan. If parents cannot agree on a plan, they may submit separate, proposed parenting plans to the court. The court will consider their proposals when assigning custody.

Additionally, divorcing parents can mediate their custody dispute. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process. A trained mediator will help the parents discuss and negotiate custody. Mediation can be requested or court-ordered. 

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

Vermont courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child.  These factors include:

  • The depth and quality of the parent-child relationship,
  • The parents’ willingness and ability to provide love, affection, and guidance to the child,
  • The parents’ ability and willingness to provide adequate shelter, food, medical care, and a safe environment,
  • The child’s developmental needs,
  • The child’s connection to his or her home, school, and community,
  • The physical and mental health of the child and parents,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse,  and
  • The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate).

A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem or parenting coordinator may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests. 

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the parenting plan and divorce order are approved, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan. 

Should I Contact a Vermont Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.