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Legal Information: Vermont


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December 13, 2019

How do I file for parental rights and responsibilities?

How much does it cost to file? Do I need a lawyer?

The Vermont Judiciary website posts a list of fees for certain cases.  Click here to access it.  If you do not see the fee for the case you are filing, or have questions, you can call the local courthouse to ask what the fee is and, if you are a low-income person, you can ask if there is a fee waiver available.  Go here to find the courthouse near you: VT Courthouse Locations.

Although you do not need a lawyer to file, it is almost always best to have a lawyer help you if you can get one.  This can help make sure that your rights and your children’s rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to find sources of free or low-cost legal help on our VT Finding a Lawyer page.

If you are unable to get a lawyer, you can get the forms you need at the local courthouse or you can visit our Download Court Forms Page for links to some of these forms online.

You should know that court workers cannot tell you whether you should bring your case to court or what will happen if you do.  Even if you plan on representing yourself, it may be helpful for you to have a lawyer review your forms before you file them.



If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

What happens if I recently moved to Vermont - can I still file here?

What are the exceptions to the “home state rule”?

There are exceptions to the home state rule. In some cases, you can file for custody in a state where the children and at least one parent have “significant connections.”  If you don’t think that Vermont would meet the traditional requirement for a “home state,” you may still be able to file for custody in Vermont if: 

• No other state is the “home state” according to the definition, and the court thinks that it is in the best interest of the child to decide the issue and
• The child and at least one parent have significant ties to the state and
• There is substantial evidence concerning the support of the child available in the state. 

If Vermont is your child’s home state, you may be able to file for temporary emergency custody in a different state if:

1. The child is present in that state; and
2. The child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, a parent, or sibling is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.1

For more information on getting a custody order transferred to another state, see Changing a final custody order.  This can be very complicated, and if you think this applies to your situation, please talk to a lawyer in both states about this - you can find free and paid lawyers in your state here: VT Finding a Lawyer.  Or you can write to our Email Hotline for other resources.

1 UCCJEA § 204(a)

Can I change the state where the case is being heard?

Maybe.  If you move to another state, you may be able to change the state where the custody case is being heard.  However, if the other parent disagrees with moving the case or if the court has already spent a lot of time and resources on the case, it may be hard to get it transferred.  This is often complicated, and as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this.  For more information on getting a custody order transferred to another state, see Changing a final custody order.  For legal advice, go to VT FInding a Lawyer.  You can also write to our Email Hotline for more information.