When parents aren’t married and decide to split up, a Parentage case asks the Court to decide parental rights and responsibilities (custody), parent-child contact (visitation) and child support.
If you and your child’s other parent don’t agree about issues affecting your child, it may be easier and better to have a Court order that says where the child will live and how long the child will visit the other parent. If you have a child support order in place, you can ask the Court for help if the other parent doesn’t pay.
Differences Between a Parentage Case and Divorce
- In a parentage case the parties are not married, but they have children together.
- The Court will only decide parental rights and responsibilities (custody), parent-child contact (visitation), and child support in a parentage case.
- The Court won’t make decisions about property issues in a parentage case. For example, the Court won’t make decisions about a house or car that you own with your child’s other parent or order spousal support (alimony.)
- If a parentage case is brought against a person who says that he is not the father, the Court will order DNA testing. If the parents agree about who the parents are, the father can sign and file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage or a Court Order stating that he is the parent.
Custody Before a Parentage Case is Filed
In most cases in Vermont, the mother has custody of the children before the Court decides a parental rights and responsibilities (custody) order. Once a parentage action is filed and parentage is established, either parent can be given temporary or final parental rights and responsibilities. Or the parents may agree to share custody. If a parentage order is signed, but there is no parental rights order, the parents have shared rights.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Deciding parental rights and responsibilities can be simple if both parents agree or try to work things out. It can be more difficult if the parents do not agree.
If you can afford the cost, we advise you to get a lawyer. You need a lawyer’s help more if:
- you believe the children have been abused by your partner
- you and your partner live in different states
- you and your partner have arguments over where the children should live
- you and your partner have arguments over how your children should be raised
- you have a disability or difficulty speaking English
- your are a victim of domestic violence or
- there are other problems that make agreements difficult
We provide this guide to help low-income people who cannot afford to hire lawyers. We explain the court process and try to make it easier for you to understand. We hope to help you feel more confident about dealing with the legal system.
You can do this. Start here and take one step at a time.
Steps for Filing a Parentage Action