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Personal and Professional Legal Services in the Heart of Vermont

What factors are used to decide the “best interests of the child”?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2023 | Parental Rights & Responsibilities |

Going through a divorce or breakup is a major transition for everyone involved – especially the children. If you and your former partner have kids, navigating child custody (called “parental rights and responsibilities” in Vermont) can be stressful and challenging. You want what’s best for your kids. You also want to remain meaningfully involved in their lives. What does that look like for your family?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Establishing your rights as a parent and your child’s rights to stay with or visit you depends on many case-specific factors.

Seven factors the court must consider

Under Vermont law, when a judge is deciding how to allocate parental rights and responsibilities, they must consider the following factors:

  • Each parent’s relationship with the kids
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the kids with a safe and supportive environment
  • Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s developmental needs, including any special needs
  • The child’s ability to adjust to any changes in their home, school or social life
  • How well the parents can co-parent and support the children’s relationship with the other parent
  • Whether one parent has served as the primary caregiver
  • Any evidence of domestic abuse

Judges cannot make a preference based on the parents’ gender or financial means when weighing these factors. They are allowed to consider other factors, however, based on the evidence presented.

There are many nuances to these factors. In contested cases, it’s important to present an abundance of evidence for each one of them.

What if the parents reach an agreement?

In many cases, parents are able to reach an agreement regarding parental rights and responsibilities, which is often better for everyone involved. This approach allows parents to structure an arrangement that works for their unique family rather than having a judge make that decision for them.