Vermont VSA 665 (www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=15&Chapter=011&Section=00665) is a disaster. Many people lay claim to its creation, including in part Attorney Kimberley Cheney (former VT Attorney General), VT Attorney Tine Bech, the state funded "Vermont Commission for Women" etc.. The law (below) is much based upon their report entitled "1986 Divorce Act A Health Value System", and essentially stipulates that unless both parents agree, one person, the so-called primary caregiver (the non-working parent) wins all custody for life, and the other loses. And the greater the conflict the greater the award for the winner.
Title 15 V.S.A. § 665. Rights and Responsibilities; Best Interests of the Child
(a) In an action under this chapter the court shall make an order concerning parental rights and responsibilities of any minor child of the parties. The court may order parental rights and responsibilities to be divided or shared between the parents on such terms and conditions as serve the best interests of the child. When the parents cannot agree to divide or share parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall award parental rights and responsibilities primarily or solely to one parent.
(b) In making an order under this section, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider at least the following factors:
(1) the relationship of the child with each parent and the ability and disposition of each parent to provide the child with love, affection and guidance;
(2) the ability and disposition of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, medical care, other material needs and a safe environment;
(3) the ability and disposition of each parent to meet the child's present and future developmental needs;
(4) the quality of the child's adjustment to the child's present housing, school and community and the potential effect of any change;
(5) the ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing contact with the other parent, including physical contact, except where contact will result in harm to the child or to a parent;
(6) the quality of the child's relationship with the primary care provider, if appropriate given the child's age and development;
(7) the relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child;
(8) the ability and disposition of the parents 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
(9) evidence of abuse, as defined in section 1101 of this title, and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent.
(c) The court shall not apply a preference for one parent over the other because of the sex of the child, the sex of a parent or the financial resources of a parent.
(d) The court may order a parent who is awarded responsibility for a certain matter involving a child's welfare to inform the other parent when a major change in that matter occurs.
(e) The jurisdiction granted by this section shall be limited by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, if another state has jurisdiction as provided in that act. For the purposes of interpreting that act and any other provision of law which refers to a custodial parent, including but not limited to section 2451 of Title 13, the parent with physical responsibility shall be considered the custodial parent.
ISSUES WITH VERMONT TITLE 15 V.S.A. 665
- The winner take all law effectively eliminates one parent. It also provides incentive for conflict, and a tremendous opportunity for lawyers, psychologists, etc. to profiteer by perpetuating conflict, all at expense of children. This has VT courts clogged with consant wars over alleged abuse, parent vs. custodial rights, and now comprises 37% of all VT court activity (costing Vermonters $20 million per year)!
- Vermont has this law backwards: Instead of legislating that there is one primary parent who will benefit financially by conflict, Vermont should legislate that are two equal parents who will lose if they CAUSE conflict!
- The law contradicts: On the one hand it states, "The court may order parental rights and responsibilities to be divided or shared between the parents on such terms and conditions as serve the best interests of the child." And on the other, "When the parents cannot agree to divide or share parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall award parental rights and responsibilities primarily or solely to one parent."
So really the court cannot award (what a terrible word in this context) to serve the best interests of children, unless both agree. Given the large financial incentives for the winner, there is incentive NOT TO AGREE, and many perpetuate conflict and game the legal system for profit or to exact hate on the other parent.
- The law misleads: "(b) In making an order under this section, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider at least the following factors..." However, examination of the factors reveal the only factor that picks a winner and a loser is (6) the quality of the child's relationship with the primary care provider."
So really the only guidance is for the court to pick a primary care provider and declare this person the winner independent of best interests for the child.
- The law strips the visitor of his/her right to know even basic information about his/her children: "(d) The court may order a parent who is awarded responsibility for a certain matter involving a child's welfare to inform the other parent when a major change in that matter occurs." In other words, the winner can do whatever they want unless the court orders them to tell the visitor without solliciting consent from the other parent, including leaving the state, changing their religion, changing their school, ordering a medical procedure on the child, etc.!
So in fact VSA takes no consideration of a child's right to two parents, the child's life is solely guided by one parent.
- The law is costing each family of four $800 per year in taxes: This is wrong, armies of lawyers and psychologists and paralegals should not be allowed to profiteer off innocent Vermont citizens who happen to be in a bad relationship. Currently lawyers are typically charging $200 to $400 per hour to do this work, and it is not uncommon for them to extract upwards of $100,000 off VT citizens, lining their pockets with massive dollars that could otherwise have gone toward childrens medical care, sschooling, etc. It is not right that 80% of Vermont lawyers are family court lawyers gaming the system for personal gain. It adds no value to our great Vermont society; to the contrary this profiteering exploits the financial future of children.