Vermont Child Support Guidelines
Vermont offers the Office of Child Support (OCS) to help parents:
Establish parentage if you were not married when your child was born;
Establish an order for child and medical support;
Modify an existing order for child and medical support;
Make support payments to the custodial parent;
Enforce an existing order for child and medical support;
Locate the non-custodial parent; and
Understand your rights
Services are available to custodial and non-custodial parents (and guardians) of children who are under 18 or still in high school and are provided to all eligible applicants, free of charge. Custodial parents who are getting public assistance or Medicaid are automatically referred OCS. Everyone else must complete the Application for Child Support Services, available from OCS or the Family Division of Superior Court. If you are seeking support from more than one non-custodial parent, you must file a separate application for each.
Parentage in Vermont
If you are married when your child is born, Vermont law automatically recognizes both parents as the legal parents. If you are not married, the law:
- Assumes the mother is the biological and legal parent; but
- Does not recognize the father until parentage is legally established.
There are two ways to establish parentage in Vermont:
Voluntarily acknowledging your child’s parentage. If both parents agree about parentage, sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage Form.
By Court Action. If either of party has any doubt about the father’s identity, you should file an action to establish parentage (called a parentage complaint) in the Family Division of Superior Court. The court will schedule a hearing and issue a summons to the mother and alleged father. Either parent may object in writing to the summons. However, if one party (the mother or alleged father) fails to appear for the hearing without advising the court in advance, the court may establish parentage by default and a parent risks not having his or her arguments or concerns addressed by the court.
Genetic Testing: If either party requests genetic testing, a written agreement setting forth the dates and times of the testing is prepared. If the court agrees with the stipulation, it will order genetic testing to proceed.
Genetic testing is based on DNA and is extremely accurate. By comparing the three genetic samples, the test can establish with 99.9% certainty whether the alleged father is the biological parent. Either party may object to the testing. The law also allows either parent to be exempt from genetic testing for good cause, such as a concern about potential family violence.
Failure to Appear for Genetic Testing May Result in Default Parentage Results. If the alleged father fails to appear for the test as scheduled, the court can issue an order of default naming him as the biological father. If the custodial parent and child receive public assistance AND they fail to appear for the test as scheduled, the amount of assistance they receive can be reduced for not cooperating with OCS. If the custodial parent and child receive Medicaid AND they fail to appear for the test as scheduled, the custodial parent can lose Medicaid benefits for not cooperating with OCS; however, the child will still be on Medicaid. If the custodial parent and child do not receive public assistance AND they fail to appear for the test, the court will rule on any requests by other interested parties.
At the hearing, if both parties agree, a written agreement (or stipulation) establishing parentage is prepared for the judge’s signature. Parentage orders are issued by the court either upon agreement of the parties or upon a finding by the court following a hearing.
Parentage Order Required for Support
Before child or medical support can be established, there must be a parentage order OR a legal presumption of parentage based on one of the following criteria:
- The alleged parent fails to submit to genetic testing as ordered without good cause;
- The alleged parent voluntarily acknowledges parentage by completing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form and filing it with the Office of Vital Records;
- A scientifically reliable genetic test establishes a 98% probability that the alleged parent is the biological parent; or
- The child is born while the husband and wife are legally married to each other.
The Vermont Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate the amount of child support to be paid. They take into account both parents’ entire financial situation, including any existing court-ordered support obligations. The guidelines are based on the principle that children should have the same share of their family’s economic resources that they would have if the parents were together. You can get a copy of the guidelines from OCS or the Family Division of Superior Court.
Child Support Payment
Vermont law requires child support orders issued after June 1990 to include wage withholding through the OCS Registry, unless:
- Both parents ask to handle support payments on their own AND the court waives the wage withholding requirement; or
- The non-custodial parent is self-employed.
In these cases, the court typically instructs the non-custodial parent to pay support directly to the OCS Registry. If the non-custodial parent later becomes an employee, wage withholding is required.
Modification of Child Support in Vermont
Once a support order is issued, it remains in effect until the court modifies it—even if there is a change in one parent’s income or a change in custody. Either parent can petition the court to modify the order when there is a:
- Real, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances (e.g., job loss, significant income change, disability, or change in custody);
- Need to suspend wage withholding;
- Change that will result in child support that’s at least 10% higher or lower than ordered; or
- Court review of their support order, which either parent may request once every three years.
Location of Non-Custodial Parent
If you do not know where the non-custodial parent is, OCS will attempt to find him or her using all available resources, including, but not limited to:
- The Federal Case Registry;
- The National Directory of New Hires;
- The Federal Parent Locator Service;
- The Vermont Department of Labor;
- The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles; and
- Other government agencies that issue professional and recreational licenses.
Child Support Order Enforcement
If the non-custodial parent is not complying with a child support order that was issued in Vermont or another state, OCS can take steps to enforce it. This may involve working with other agencies in Vermont as well as agencies in other states. If a non-custodial parent cannot be found or is not complying with a support order, OCS can take steps to find the parent and enforce the order. This includes working with other agencies in Vermont as well as child support agencies in other states to enforce the order and collect past-due support. OCS is authorized to undertake a number of enforcement activities designed to make sure child support payments are made as ordered by the court. These include using administrative remedies (actions we can take without a court order); and requesting a court action.
Vermont Resource Information
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines in Vermont and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.org
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
About The Children (800) 787-4981