As of July 1, 2018, courts in Vermont recognize several different ways for a person to be “a parent” under Vermont law. Because this is a new, complicated law, it is not yet clear how the courts will interpret the law in any given circumstance. If after reading this you have questions about what actions to take to be declared a parent or to contest the parentage of someone else, we suggest you seek legal advice from a lawyer who practices in the family courts.
The new law recognizes a number of people as parents who were intended by the parties to be parents and provides a way for them to be recognized as parents under Vermont law. Whether the court will declare someone a parent will depend on the facts of the case.
The new law has a different chapter for each type of parent. Below are brief descriptions of the ways parentage can be established.
A Note About Language
- On this page we use the terms “birth mother” and “biological father.” However, Vermont law makes no assumption about the gender or sexual orientation of either parent of the child.
- We also use the term “intended parent” to indicate the person everyone involved expected to be the parent even if that person was not the birth mother or biological father. For example, if a woman gives birth to a child after receiving donated sperm and after complying with the requirements of the law, the woman is the birth parent and her partner is the intended, second parent. The person who donated the sperm is not an intended parent.
Citations to the Vermont law can be found in Title 15C of Vermont Statutes Annotated, Chapters 1 through 8.
Court Forms: The court uses different standards when deciding whether a particular person will be recognized as the parent. Review the chapter of the law that applies to your situation.
If you seek to be declared a parent or want to resist someone being declared to be a parent, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer.
Filing a Parentage Action: There are several ways a parentage action might be filed. Usually the person filing a parentage action will be a person who wants to be declared to be the parent of a child. An action can also be brought by the child. In addition, a birth mother can bring a parentage action to have herself declared a parent or to have someone else declared a parent as long as she did not carry a child for someone else (was not a “gestational carrier”). 15C V.S.A. Chapter 1, Section 105. In addition, the State of Vermont’s Office of Child Support can file a parentage action in order to establish parentage for someone seeking child support.
Use this Summons and Complaint form if you want to start a parentage action. You will file this form at the family court in the county where you live. You will pay a filing fee.
If you receive a Summons and Complaint about parentage, you need to answer within 21 days. Use this Answer form to do so. If you don’t agree with what it written on the Complaint, you can say so and fill out the Counter Claim section of the form as well.
If you and the other parent agree on parentage, you can use this form called a Stipulation of Parentage. A stipulation is an agreement.
The Vermont Judiciary has more information about parentage on its website. The Vermont parentage law is new as of July 2018. It may take time for the Vermont Judiciary to complete the update of all the information there.
Filing in Opposition of Parentage: A person who opposes declaration of parentage of someone else can either enter an opposition in the parentage action brought by that person or, depending on the circumstances, can file an action to have the person declared not to be a parent.
“Best Interests of the Child”: In many circumstances when a court is required to make a decision about whether a person shall be declared to be a parent of a child, the court will decide based on the best interests of the child. The court will look at a variety of factors including [§ 206]:
- the age of the child
- the length of time the person assumed the role of parent
- the nature of the relationship of the child and each person who has assumed the role of parent
- the harm to the child if the person is not declared a parent
- the basis for the claim of parentage