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Legal Information: Vermont

Custody

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Updated: 
December 13, 2019

If my child was conceived as a result of sexual assault or human trafficking, can the offender get parental rights and responsibilities?

If your child was conceived due to sexual assault or as the result of human trafficking, the other parent (the offender) can be denied all contact with the child. However, the situation is slightly different if the offender was convicted in criminal court of the sexual assault or not.

When there is a criminal conviction:
If the other parent was convicted in a criminal court of one of the following crimes, and your child was conceived as a result, the judge can grant you sole parental rights and responsibilities and deny all parent-child contact to the offender:

  1. sexual assault as explained in subsections (a), (b), (d), (e);
  2. aggravated sexual assault;
  3. aggravated sexual assault of a child;
  4. lewd and lascivious conduct with a child;
  5. human trafficking; or
  6. similar crimes in other states.1

If a judge issues an order granting you sole custody and denying parent-child contact, the order is permanent and cannot be modified. If there was a prior parental rights and responsibilities order in place regarding the child and the offender, the judge is supposed to end (terminate) that order.2

When there is not a criminal conviction:
Even if the other parent was not convicted of a crime related to sexual assault or human trafficking but you can still prove to a judge by clear and convincing evidence that you were sexually assaulted, trafficked, or sexually exploited and the child was conceived as a result, the judge can still grant you sole custody, deny all parent-child contact to the other parent, and terminate any existing parent-child contact order between the child and the offender. However, the judge has to first determine whether or not it would be in the child’s best interests to do so and it may be possible to modify the order in the future if the party can prove there are extraordinary, real, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances.3 For the purpose of this part of the law, you must prove that even though the other parent was not convicted of any of these crimes, s/he committed one of the following against you:

  1. sexual assault as explained in subsections (a), (b), (d), (e);
  2. aggravated sexual assault;
  3. aggravated sexual assault of a child;
  4. lewd and lascivious conduct with a child; or
  5. sexual exploitation of an inmate;
  6. sexual exploitation of a minor;
  7. sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult; or
  8. similar crimes in other states.4

Note: Getting an order under either of these above scenarios that denies the offender all parent-child contact does not affect your right to file for child support against him/her. You can still seek child support if you choose to do so.5

1 VT ST T. 15 § 665(f)(1)
2 VT ST T. 15 § 665(f)(4)
3 VT ST T. 15 § 665(f)(2), (f)(4)
4 VT ST T. 15 § 665(f)(2)(A), (f)(2)(B)
5 VT ST T. 15 § 665(f)(3)