Family Law in Vermont
Same-sex couples can marry in Vermont. Single gay people can adopt in Vermont; same-sex couples can jointly become the legal parents of a child.
Questions & Answers (Accurate as of March 4, 2014)
Can same-sex couples marry in Vermont?
Yes. Vermont was the first state to obtain marriage rights for same-sex couples through a legislative process rather than a court case. The bill, S.115 An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Recognize Equality in Civil Marriage44 (hereafter referred to as the “Marriage Act”), was passed by the legislature on April 3, 2009, vetoed by the Governor on April 6, 2009 and the veto was overridden by the Senate (23-5) and the House (100-49) on April 7, 2009.
After nearly 15 years of relentless work, Vermont Freedom to Marry, under the leadership of Beth Robinson, succeeded in reaching its goal of marriage equality. GLAD congratulates Vermont Freedom to Marry on their ground-breaking victory and was pleased to have been able to provide some assistance and support. The “Marriage Act” was implemented on September 1, 2009.
The process for getting married in Vermont basically requires the following basic steps:
- an eligible couple submits an application for a license in either the town or city in Vermont where one of the parties lives (out-of-state couples can go to any town or city clerk);45
- the couple must pay the applicable fee and receive a marriage license from the clerk;
- the couple must have the marriage solemnized (i.e., have a ceremony) within 60 days of filing the application;46
- once the ceremony has been performed, the person who performed it has 10 days to send the license back to the city or town where it was issued; and
- the clerk will then file the original and the couple can receive an official certificate of their marriage.47
The detailed process for getting married in Vermont, whether you should enter a marriage, and what it all means are questions that are addressed in GLAD’s publication, How To Get Married In Vermont. (NOTE FOR NON-RESIDENT COUPLES WHO WISH TO DISSOLVE A VERMONT CIVIL UNION OR MARRIAGE: Vermont recently passed a law that allows couples who got a civil union or married in Vermont, and who reside where neither of them is able to dissolve the relationship, to dissolve it in Vermont without needing to meet any residency requirement provided the couple meets certain criteria. See the above publication for details.)
Can Vermont same-sex couples get married anywhere else?
Yes. The list of states where same-sex couples can currently marry is found at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/. There is information about getting married in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Canada (same-sex couples can marry in Canada and there is no residency requirement) on GLAD's website at: www.glad.org/rights/publications/c/marriage/.
For information about getting married in states outside New England, contact Lambda Legal at www.lambdalegal.org
Some people may be able to wed outside the United States but some of these locales have residency and other requirements that make it difficult for non-citizens to marry.
How will the marriage of a same-sex couple be respected?
Vermont will generally respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples regardless of where the marriage was consecrated, and a Vermont marriage will be respected as a marriage anywhere that same-sex couples can marry. For the most up to date list go to: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/.
The 1996 federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented same-sex married couples from accessing the 1,138 federal laws that pertain to marriage, was finally ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. This case, Windsor v. United States, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. GLAD filed the first challenge to DOMA in 2009, Gill v. OPM, and the legal framework developed in that case was used in subsequent cases, including the Windsor case. GLAD was also responsible for coordinating the amici briefs in that case.
This means that same-sex married couples living in places that recognize their marriages will have their marriages respected by the federal government for all purposes, e.g. taxes, Social Security (including SSDI and SSI), immigration, bankruptcy, FMLA, federal student financial aid, Medicaid, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, TANF and many more.
For same-sex married couples who live in non-recognition states, even though their state will not recognize their marriage, the federal government will for some purposes (e.g. taxes and immigration) and not for others. GLAD and other legal organizations are advocating that the federal government respect the marriages of same-sex couples for all federal programs wherever they reside, but it will take some time to achieve this goal. For more detailed information about various federal programs and whether the program will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who live in non-recognition states, go to http://www.glad.org/doma.
Also, while DOMA was in effect, if an employer granted a spousal benefit to an employee (e.g. allowing the spouse of the employee to be on the company health plan), the employee was taxed on that benefit. Now that DOMA is gone, that is no longer the case. And since the IRS respects the marriages of same-sex couples wherever they live, this applies to all married same-sex couples regardless of where they reside.
Unfortunately, one issue that was not resolved by taking down DOMA was whether an employer can be legally required to provide health insurance to a same-sex spouse. If the company has a self-insured health plan, that plan is controlled by a federal agency called ERISA, and because the federal anti-discrimination employment law, Tile VII, does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” some employers are claiming that they are not legally required to provide this benefit to same-sex spouses.
Also, if the health plan is insured and the owner of the plan is situated in a state that doesn’t recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, some employers are choosing to discriminate against same-sex spouses. However, for both self-insured and insured health plans, nothing prevents the employer from offering coverage to same-sex spouses. If your employer is discriminating against same-sex spouses, contact GLAD Answers.
What happens if we need to end our marriage?
Should the couple at some point wish to end the marriage, unless the couple lives in a state or country which does respect the marriage, it may not be possible to dissolve the marriage until one member of the couple moves to a place that does respect the marriage and lives there long enough to meet that state or country’s residency requirement for divorce.
There are a small number of places that will allow a relationship that was granted there to be dissolved without a residency requirement if you can prove that neither spouse can dissolve it where they currently reside (e.g. Vermont, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Minnesota and Canada.48
Can same-sex couples obtain any other legal recognition of their relationships in Vermont?
Until September 1, 2009, same-sex couples were able to enter into a civil union in Vermont. However, effective September 1, 2009, Vermont no longer issues civil union licenses, but it will continue to recognize civil unions from Vermont and other states and provide those couples with all of the protections and responsibilities of marriage under Vermont state law.
When the legislature enacted the civil unions law, it also established “reciprocal beneficiary” relationships. These allow people who are at least 18 years old, are not parties to a marriage, civil union or other reciprocal beneficiary relationship, and are related by blood or adoption, to receive the protections and responsibilities granted to spouses in the areas relating to medical decision-making, end-of-life decisions, and abuse prevention.49 These protections are extremely limited and do not come close to the scope of a civil union.
People enter into a reciprocal beneficiary relationship by presenting a signed, notarized declaration of a reciprocal beneficiaries relationship to the Commissioner of Health, paying a $10 fee, and receiving a certificate reflecting the filing of the declaration.50 This relationship can be terminated either by following the same filing process for entering it, or if one of the parties enters into a civil union or marriage.51
Without joining in marriage or a civil union, what steps can a couple take to safeguard their legal relationship in Vermont?
There are far more modest steps available to people who seek certain limited legal protections and do not desire a marriage or civil union. These include:
- Relationship Agreement or Contract: Cohabitation agreements regarding property and finances provide a way for couples to sort out their affairs in writing before a separation. This kind of document serves a similar function to a pre-nuptial agreement. As long as the contract is not about sexual services and complies with the requisites for a valid contract, it has a good chance of being upheld as valid. Bear in mind that, as in any state, specific provisions concerning children may not be enforced according to their terms because it is always in the court’s power to determine the best interests of children. (See discussion below concerning parenting agreements)
- Power of Attorney: Any competent person may appoint another person as his or her “attorney-in-fact” for financial matters in the event the one becomes incapacitated or disabled. 52 If no such appointment is made, then a “family” member will be empowered to make decisions for the disabled or incapacitated individual. A person may also indicate his or her preference regarding the appointment of a guardian—a longer-term appointment that applies to all areas of a mentally incapacitated person’s personal care and financial affairs (court considers preference of incapacitated person in appointing guardian).53 The document indicating this preference should be executed with all of the formalities of a will and should be updated to keep track of all aspects of a person’s personal and financial situation.
- Advance Directives for Health Care and Disposition of Remains: Under Vermont law, an individual may appoint an agent to make decisions for him or her upon incompetence, incapacity or death54 and provide the agent with an advance directive that, for example, can:55
- direct the type of health care desired or not desired;
- direct which life sustaining treatments are desired or not desired;
- identify persons with whom the agent should not consult or share information;
- authorize release of health information to other persons in addition to the agent;
- nominate persons to serve (or not serve) as the individual’s guardian should that be needed;
- direct the disposition of the person’s remains and the funeral arrangements.
Without an advance directive, medical providers and funeral directors look to a spouse or next-of-kin to make decisions. The advance directive can be revoked at any time by creating a new advance directive or by a clear expression of revocation.56 People often give a copy of their advance directive to their doctors and sometimes to family members. In addition, instructions regarding anatomical gifts may be included within the advance directive for health care or on a driver’s license.57
- Will: If a person is neither married, nor joined in a civil union, without a will, his or her property passes to: (1) his or her children or (2) his or her family.58 If the person wishes to provide for others, such as his or her partner, a will is essential. Even if a person has few possessions, he or she can name in the will who will administer his or her estate. If a person has children, he or she can nominate the future guardian of the child in a will.
Does a person need an attorney to get these documents?
GLAD recommends working with an attorney on these documents. Although some forms are available, the form may not be suited to your individual needs and wishes. Moreover, an attorney may be able to help you achieve your goals, for example, by drafting a will in a way which is more likely to deter a will contest by unhappy family members, or drafting a health care proxy with your specific instructions.
If a couple separates, what is the legal status of a relationship/partnership agreement/contract?
Upon separation, the terms of a Relationship or Partnership Agreement/Contract will come into play if the couple has one. If a couple has a civil union, divorce laws apply, and any such agreements will be treated the same as agreements between married couples.59 Absent a civil union or an agreement, couples can get involved in costly and protracted litigation about property and financial matters, with no divorce system to help them sort through it.
If a person has changed his or her mind about who should be his or her attorney-in-fact, or health care agent, or beneficiary or executor under a will, or funeral planner, then those documents should be revoked—with notice to all persons who were given copies of those documents, and new documents should be prepared which reflect the person’s present wishes.
What is domestic partnership?
Although it is a term used in many contexts, it most often means a status that recognizes an unmarried couple and their children as a family for certain limited purposes. In the workplace context, domestic partnership plans allow an employee to obtain certain fringe benefits for his or her partner that were previously limited to married spouses. Some states, cities and towns have also enacted domestic partner laws. In other contexts, “domestic partner” is also a shorthand term for family, replacing “lover,” “friend,” and “roommate.” Some people call cohabitation agreements “domestic partner agreements.” 60
Does Vermont provide domestic partner benefits to state employees?
Yes. The State’s Personnel Policies and Procedures extend domestic partnership benefits to state employees. The benefits include medical benefits, bereavement and visitation rights. State employees interested in receiving health and dental insurance for their partners should contact the Department of Human Resources at (802) 828-3455 for an application, which can also be found on the state website at http://humanresources.vermont.gov/sites/dhr/files/pdf/benefits_compensation/DHR-Domestic_Partner_App_Policy.pdf.
In addition, Vermont state employees who are spouses in a marriage or civil union are eligible for the same benefits available to different-sex married state employees.
Can cities and towns in Vermont provide domestic partner health insurance benefits to their own employees?
Yes. Some of the cities that offer medical benefits for domestic partners of municipal employees include Burlington and Middlebury.
What kinds of domestic partner benefits may private employers provide?
Private employers can provide to domestic partners any benefits they wish—whether health insurance, family medical or bereavement leave, equal pension benefits, relocation expenses, or access to company facilities.
Are there differences in treatment of benefits extended to domestic partnership, civil union, and married spouses?
Yes. Even when employers provide these benefits, federal laws require different taxation or other treatment of the benefits for domestic partners and civil union spouses as compared to married spouses. For example, an employee must pay federal income tax on the value of his or her partner’s health insurance benefits, but a married spouse does not.61 For pensions and survivor benefits, a domestic or civil union partner has no right to sign off if his or her partner decides to name someone other than him or her as the beneficiary of a pension although a married spouse would have that right.
Can I use the state non-discrimination law to force my employer to provide domestic partnership benefits?
No. Although the non-discrimination law says that an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and even though employee benefits are a form of compensation, the law states expressly that the law cannot be construed to change the definition of family or dependent in an employee benefit plan.62 Thus, an employer may provide domestic partner benefits if it chooses to do so, but it cannot be forced to do so through the state non-discrimination law.
Can a single gay individual adopt a child in Vermont?
Yes. Vermont law provides that any person may adopt or be adopted by another person for the purpose of creating the relationship of parent and child between them.63
Can same-sex partners together adopt a child in Vermont?
Yes. The Vermont Supreme Court allowed a lesbian couple to adopt the biological children of one of the women in 1993.64 Subsequently, the Vermont legislature amended the adoption statute and now it provides, “If a family unit consists of a parent and the parent’s partner, and adoption is in the best interest of the child, the partner of a parent may adopt a child of the parent.”65
What is the advantage of doing a second parent or joint adoption?
A joint or second parent adoption is a court judgment that the child has two legal parents for all purposes. In addition to providing legal and emotional security, an adoption decree mirrors the actual family situation and thereby provides emotional comfort and security as well.
Without an adoption, the non-legal parent needs special permission to seek medical care for the child, or to attend school meetings. With an adoption, the adopting parent is a legal parent entitled to make decisions for the child in day-to-day and emergency matters without special authorization.
With an adoption, if one parent dies, the other parent will automatically assume custody of the child. In addition, the child would have the automatic right to inherit from the deceased parent, even if there is no will. The child could also collect social security survivor benefits based on the deceased parent’s work record.
Finally, if the couple separates, then the adoption means that both parents have the right to seek parental rights and responsibilities, and any disputes will be decided based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Do we need to do a second-parent adoption if we have a marriage or civil union?
Emphatically yes. A child born to a couple with a marriage or civil union is presumed to be the child of both members of the couple.66 While that is good news, it is still extremely important to adopt because another state might not respect the presumption if the couple moves. Adoption is a court judgment creating a parent-child relationship and is very likely to be respected by other states, even if these states are otherwise hostile to same-sex couples or parenting.
- Miller-Jenkins Sidebar: Relying on a partner’s good will, or even on the fact that a child was born into a marriage or civil union, is not the best way to ensure ongoing parental rights of both parents if a couple later separates. A case in point is Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins. This case has been in litigation since 2004, has involved two state Supreme Courts (Vermont and Virginia), and has already made several trips to the U.S. Supreme Court. Proceedings are ongoing. In that case, Janet and Lisa had a child, Isabella, while they were in a civil union. Janet did not adopt. After the couple separated, Lisa moved to Virginia and used both the lack of an adoption, and Virginia’s laws hostile to same-sex relationships to thwart Janet’s contact with their daughter.
In November, 2009, the Vermont Family Court issued an order granting Janet responsibility for the day-to-day care of Isabella while granting Lisa liberal visitation rights. The transfer of custody was to have taken place on January 1, 2010. However, Lisa failed to appear at the appointed time, and an arrest warrant has been issued.On March 8, 2010, Liberty Counsel filed on Lisa’s behalf an appeal of the custody order with the Vermont Supreme Court, and GLAD has filed a response on behalf of Janet. GLAD and local counsel represent Janet in the Vermont proceedings. For more information about the case, go to http://www.glad.org/work/cases/miller-jenkins-v-miller-jenkins.
If same-sex parents raise a child together, but only one is the “legal” parent (because of birth or adoption), then what rights does the other parent have vis-à-vis the child?
In 2006, in the case of Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, the Vermont Supreme Court rejected an attack on the parentage of the non-birth parent by that parent’s civil union spouse in the context of a dissolution action. The couple had not adopted, and that gave an opening to the birth parent to argue the issue. The Vermont court ruled that the civil union, as well as the fact that they had undertaken to form a family together with the assistance of artificial insemination, meant that the child was the legal child of both civil union spouses.
While the result in Miller-Jenkins is a good one, it came only after years of litigation, uncertainty and one parent’s separation from the child that could have been avoided if the couple had adopted in the first place. Moreover, the circumstances of the Miller-Jenkins case will not apply to everyone: when one party in a couple relocates, things can change for the worse. Please call GLAD’s Legal InfoLine for information on these issues.
In Miller-Jenkins, the Vermont Supreme Court did not discuss its former opinion in Titchenal v. Dexter.67 In that case, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the Superior Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the visitation claim of a lesbian parent who had not adopted the child in a conflict between former lesbian partners. That case did not address the jurisdictional power of the Family Court to decide such cases.
With Miller-Jenkins in place, it now seems likely that the Vermont Family Court, (rather than the Superior Court whose jurisdiction was at issue in Titchenal) determines custody, visitation and support issues upon the dissolution of a civil union or marriage, as confirmed in Miller-Jenkins. The reasoning in the Miller-Jenkins opinion might also support the possibility of the Family Court having jurisdiction to hear a de facto parenting case in circumstances where a couple has jointly decided to and in fact has parented a child together even though they did not adopt68. This is a developing area of law and you should contact GLAD and Vermont-based practitioners.
Short of joint adoption or second parent adoption, how can a family protect the interests of the child vis-à-vis his or her second parent?
There are a number of steps that can be taken, although none offers the security of an adoption decree.
- Co-parenting Agreement: Couples may enter into an agreement setting out the parents’ expectations about each other’s roles and their plans in the event of separation, disability or death. While these agreements may not be given effect by courts, they are important indicators of what the couple believed was in the best interests of the child, and thus may be influential (although not binding) on a court.
- Wills: The legal parent may nominate a guardian of the child upon the parent’s death.69 These wishes are given strong preferences by courts. Of course, if the child has another legal parent living, then that person would have priority over the nominated guardian.
- Power of Attorney: This document is signed by the parent and authorizes another person (the attorney-in-fact) to make a wide variety of decisions and arrangements for the child, including matters related to health care, school and finances. Although these authorizations have been generally respected by schools and pediatricians, among others, their validity has not been tested in court.
What standards should same-sex couples with children who are breaking up maintain?
Same-sex couples with children who are breaking up should:
1. Support the rights of LGBT parents;
2. Honor existing relationships regardless of legal labels;
3. Honor the children's existing parental relationships after the break-up;
4. Maintain continuity for the children;
5. Seek a voluntary resolution;
6. Remember that breaking up is hard to do;
7. Investigate allegations of abuse;
8. The absence of agreements or legal relationships should not determine outcome;
9. Treat litigation as a last resort; and
10. Refuse to resort to homophobic/transphobic laws and sentiments.
For more detailed information about these standard see the publication Protecting Families: Standards for LGBT Families at: http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/publications/protecting-families-standards-for-lgbt-families.pdf.
If I have a child from a former heterosexual relationship, and I am now involved with a same-sex partner, can my “ex” use this against me to deny me custody or visitation of my kids?
The Vermont Supreme Court has not yet addressed a case like this directly, but as a practical matter, one’s sexual orientation in itself is not used as grounds for denying a person custody or visitation. Evidence of a parent’s conduct can only be introduced if the conduct affects the parent’s relationship with the child.70
The few lower courts that have addressed the issue have required the parent raising another parent’s sexual orientation as an issue to demonstrate that the parent’s sexual orientation has an adverse effect on the child’s best interests.71
What are the factors for making custody determinations generally?
Upon divorce or civil union dissolution, a court makes an order concerning parental rights and responsibilities of any minor child of the parties based on the best interests of the child.70 If the parties make an agreement about custody and visitation, the court will presume that agreement to be in the best interests of the child.73 If parents cannot agree, the court determines the way that parental rights and responsibilities will be divided or shared between them. In considering the best interests of the child, the court examines the following factors74:
- the relationship of the child with each parent and each parent’s ability to provide the child with love, affection and guidance;
- each parent’s ability to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, medical care, other material needs and a safe environment;
- each parent’s ability to meet the child’s present and future developmental needs;
- the quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s present housing, school and community and the potential effect of any change;
- each parent’s ability to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing contact with the other parent;
- the quality of the child’s relationship with the primary care provider, if appropriate given the child’s age and development;
- the relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child;
- the parents’ ability to communicate, cooperate with each other and make joint decisions concerning the children where parental rights and responsibilities are to be shared or divided; and
- evidence of abuse, and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent.
In addition, the court may not prefer one parent over the other because of the sex of the child, the sex of a parent or the financial resources of a parent.75
How is “sexual orientation” used in custody proceedings?
In a divorce or parentage proceeding, a parent might argue that the other parent’s sexual orientation is causing detriment to the child. Any number of reasons could be cited, such as that the gay or lesbian parent’s sexual orientation is causing other people to tease or ostracize the child, or that the parent is a bad role model. Or a parent might argue that the ex’s new partner is not good for the child. In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, these matters can be answered to the satisfaction of a judge in a way that does not penalize the gay parent or the child. Contact GLAD for further resources for dealing with such a situation.
Does it matter if my “ex” knew I was gay or lesbian or might be before we separated?
It can make a difference with respect to future modification of court orders for custody. People can seek to modify court orders for custody when there has been a real, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances. If a spouse did not know of your sexual orientation at the time of the court proceedings but learns it later, he or she may argue that this is a substantial change of circumstances and that the custody issues should be litigated anew. Of course, if your spouse or former heterosexual partner knew of your sexual orientation at the time of the court proceedings establishing custody, a modification petition on those grounds would be pointless.76
Can a court keep my kids from visiting when my partner is present?
The standard for restrictions on visitation, and in all matters, is what is in the best interests of the child with no concern for the adults. Courts have enormous discretion in visitation matters and certainly have the power to restrict visitation, but unless the partner is causing harm to the child—a very high standard—visitation should not be restricted.
What is domestic violence?
Under the laws of domestic relations, “abuse” includes causing or trying to cause physical harm; causing fear of imminent serious physical harm; or abuse to children, which includes physical injury, neglect, emotional maltreatment or sexual abuse.77
Do the domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?
In most situations, yes. These laws apply to abuse between family members, which includes civil union spouses, as well as between “household members,” which includes people who are living or have lived together, but also those who have or had a sexual relationship, or who are dating or have dated. To determine whether a dating relationship exists or existed, the court looks to whether the relationship is/was of a romantic nature, how long it has been/was going on, how often the parties interact/ed, and, if the parties have broken up, how long ago the relationship ended.78
How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?
You can file a complaint seeking relief from abuse with the district, superior or family court in the county in which you live, or, if you have just fled your home, in either your new or old county. There is no fee. 79
If you are in immediate danger from harm, you can file an application for a temporary order.80 All of the courts are required to have procedures for people to file these applications after regular court hours, or on weekends and holidays.81 Temporary orders are generally issued upon request, based on the existence of a relationship between victim and offender that is covered by the law and a credible allegation of abuse or threats of abuse. The order can include:
- an order restraining the defendant from abusing you and from contacting you in person, by phone or by mail,
- prohibiting the defendant from coming within a fixed distance of you, your residence, or other designated locations where you are likely to spend time, and
- assigning child custody and requiring child support.
The order, a copy of which must be given to the abuser, will state a time within ten days of its being issued for the defendant to contest it. At the hearing, if the victim proves the abuse, the court will keep the order in effect and make other orders it deems necessary to keep the victim safe.82 Once an order is issued, it is filed with the Department of Public Safety’s abuse database. Police and sheriff’s departments, as well as state police district offices are also required to maintain procedures to make personnel aware of the existence and contents of abuse prevention orders.83
The order will stay in effect for a fixed period of time, at the end of which the court may extend it for as long as it deems necessary to protect the victim. The court does not have to find that abuse took place during the time covered by the order to extend it. 84
You don’t need a lawyer to get the temporary order, but it may be helpful to have one for later hearings if you think the abuser will contest the order. The court administrators may be able to connect you with agencies that help victims seek relief and gain access to the courts. 85
If for some reason you decide not to go through with the legal process, you should show up in court anyway and ask that the order be dismissed. Failure to show up might make the court think you are unreliable if you need legal help in the future.
Violation of an abuse order is a criminal offense and can result in the immediate arrest of the abuser, as well as imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to $1000.86 It is worth noting that restraining orders do not restrict the abuse victim’s activities or contacts.
A victim may participate in an address confidentiality program, through which the Secretary of State gives the victim another address to use in order to keep the actual address confidential from the public.87
There are other laws that prohibit stalking, harassing and trespassing that may also apply to your situation, but are beyond the scope of this document. For more information, you may wish to consult the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services at 1-800-750-1213 or http://www.ccvs.state.vt.us/.
If I go to court, will I “out” myself for all purposes?
Not necessarily. The courts try to be sensitive to the fact that some people seeking orders may be closeted, or may be in a same-sex relationship that they do not want revealed. A relief-from-abuse order is a public record, however.
Where can I go to get help?
Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?
Yes. Evidence that a parent has in the past, or is presently, abusing the other parent or the child is a factor showing that that parent is not acting in the best interests of the child. 88
44 See An Act Relating to Civil Marriage at: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2010/bills/Passed/S-115.pdf.
45 18 V.S.A. § 5131 (a) (1).
46 18 V.S.A. § 5131 (b).
47 18 V.S.A. § 5131 (c).
48 See the following publication from the National Center for Lesbian Right: http://www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Divorce_in_DOMA_States_Attorney_Guide.pdf.
49 15 V.S.A. §§ 1301, 1303.
50 15 V.S.A. § 1304.
51 15 V.S.A. § 1305.
52 14 V.S.A. §§ 3501-3516.
53 14 V.S.A. § 3072 (consideration of ward’s preference in appointing guardian).
54 14 V.S.A. §§ 9700-9720.
55 18 V.S.A. § 9702.
56 18 V.S.A. § 9704.
57 18 V.S.A. § 5239.
58 14 V.S.A. § 314.
59 15 V.S.A. § 1205.
60 For additional information regarding Domestic Partnership Benefits, please see the Human Rights Campaign website’s Workplace Project at http://www.hrc.org/issues/workplace/benefits/4814.htm; see also HRC website at http://www.hrc.org/issues/marriage/domestic_partners.asp for general information about domestic partners.
61 See Internal Revenue Code, Private Letter Ruling 9603011 (Jan. 19, 1996).
62 21 V.S.A. § 495 (f).
63 15A V.S.A. § 1-102
64In re B.L.V.B., 160 Vt. 368 (1993).
65 15A V.S.A. § 1-102.
66 Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, 912 A.2d 951, para. 45-46 (the non-birth parent has standing as a step-parent); para. 47 (as a step-parent by virtue of the civil union); para. 48-56 (based on the circumstances of undertaking to be a family together).
67 693 A.2d 682 (Vt. 1997).
68 15 V.S.A. § 1206; Miller-Jenkins, 912 A.2d at para. 55-56
69 14 V.S.A. § 2656.
70 15 V.S.A. § 667.
71 Medeiros v. Medeiros, 8 Fam. L. Rep. 2372 (Apr. 8, 1992) (mother’s lesbian relationship did not present substantial risk of harm to children); Barker v. Rawson, No. F108-5-91 AnDmp (Addison Fam. Ct. Nov. 27, 1991) (grandmother’s lesbianism in no way affects her visitation rights).
72 15 V.S.A. § 665.
73 15 V.S.A. § 666.
74 15 V.S.A. § 665.
75 15 V.S.A. § 665.
76 15 V.S.A. § 668.
77 See 15 V.S.A. § 1101.
78 15 V.S.A. § 1101.
79 15 V.S.A. § 1103.
80 15 V.S.A. § 1104.
81 15 V.S.A. § 1106.
82 15 V.S.A. § 1104.
83 15 V.S.A. § 1107.
84 15 V.S.A. § 1103.
85 15 V.S.A. § 1106.
86 15 V.S.A. § 1108.
87 15 V.S.A. § 1152.
88 15 V.S.A. § 665.