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Family Division

Frequently Asked Questions

Windham District/Family Courthouse

Child Support
expand  My child's other parent and I are separating/divorcing and we are told that we will need to establish child support. How and why is this done?
expand  What happens if the paying parent fails to follow a child support order?
How to Enforce a Child Support Order:
Failure to follow a court order is a serious matter. If one parent stops making child support payments ordered by the court, or begins paying less than what the court ordered, the following options exist for enforcement:
The parent entitled to support can go back to the court that issued the order and file a Petition for Enforcement. (Ask the court clerk for Form #823, “Motion to Enforce.”) In some cases, where failure to pay has already been brought to the court's attention in the past, you can ask the court to find the other parent in contempt of court. The difference between enforcement and contempt is discussed below.
Rather than going back to court on your own, you can ask the Office of Child Support for assistance. 1-800-786-3214. Or go to website:
expand  When can a child support order be changed?
Civil Union and Marriage Related Issues
expand  After the court has issued a Final Divorce Order can you make a change to it?
expand  Do I need to file for legal separation before I file for a divorce or civil union dissolution?
No.  A person can file for a divorce (or civil union dissolution) and a divorce can be granted without ever filing for a legal separation.  A legal separation is for those couples who want to live separately, divide all their property, etc., but still want to be married for legal reasons.
expand  How are decisions made in a Divorce?
expand  How do I dissolve my civil union?
The Vermont Superior Court, Family Division has jurisdiction over all proceedings relating to dissolution of civil unions. It follows the same procedures as dissolving a civil marriage (divorce), and is subject to the same rights and obligations, including a Vermont residency requirement of 12 months before a dissolution is granted.
You will need to address division of your property and debts. If you have children you will need to decide parental rights and responsibilities (custody), parent-child contact (visitation) and arrange for child support.
The family court has forms and other information pamphlets that will give you more information for filing for dissolution of your civil union.
Click here for more information:
expand  How do I prepare for a Contested Hearing on Property Division?
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Guardian Ad Litem
expand  Are all GALs part of your program?
expand  Are GALs attorneys?

While a GAL can be an attorney by profession, when she or he is serving as a GAL he or she is not an attorney for that child or for the case. The child will be assigned an attorney who will be responsible for making all legal arguments throughout a case.

expand  Are GALs paid?
expand  Can I be a GAL if I have a full-time job?

Absolutely. Our volunteers include many people who also have a full time job. However, please note that hearings are held during regular business hours which mean you should clear this with your employer prior to becoming a GAL. The program can verify your volunteer hours if your employer sponsors a community service program. You will also want to make sure to maintain a caseload that works for you and your employer.

expand  How can I report a GAL for misconduct?
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expand  How should I work with my lawyer?
expand  What are my rights and responsibilities?
The rights of parents/legal custodian and of children:
To have your position presented to the judge.
To be represented by a lawyer. All parties in a juvenile case have a right to be represented by a lawyer. The Court will ordinarily appoint a lawyer to represent the juvenile. The child's lawyer is usually a public defender.  The lawyer should explain what is going on and should speak with you before court hearings.
To be treated in a respectful manner by all parties in court.
To be notified of court hearings related to your case.
To have your questions answered.
The responsibilities of parents/legal custodians and children.
To attend and participate in all the hearings in your case, unless your lawyer tells you not to.
To always be polite in court.
To let the Court and your lawyer know how you can be reached.
To follow the case plan. This may include following through with evaluation, counseling, parenting education, substance abuse treatment, juvenile probation, community service restitution, school attendance, etc.
To work with your lawyer. Many people never worked with a lawyer before they became involved with Family Division. Sometimes you do not have the opportunity to meet with your lawyer until shortly before the hearing. Prepare by thinking through what you want to happen. Your lawyer works for you.
expand  What are the courtroom guidelines?
expand  What is the Court Diversion Program?

Court Diversion is a local community justice program that diverts some offenders, typically with minor charges, out of the court system. Upon successful completion of the program, the state’s attorney dismisses the case. If an offender does not complete the program, the matter is returned to court for prosecution. Click here for more information about the Court Diversion process.


expand  What should I know about Juvenile Hearings?
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expand  Can I Still Have an Attorney?
expand  How do you start the Mediation Process?
To start the Mediation Process read the Mediation Process located under information onthis page.
expand  How Does Mediation Differ from Counseling or Therapy?
expand  How Does Mediation Differ from Going to Court?
Separating parents often desire a fair and cooperative solution, one without the financial and emotional cost of a contested hearing.
Mediation is a voluntary and private means of resolving the issues of separation and divorce.
It is a less formal process than public Family Court hearings.
Mediators can spend more time with you both and may produce documents that contain more detail than the staff at Family Court.
The end result of the mediation sessions is a written document that clearly defines and outlines the agreements the two of you have reached.
expand  How Long Does it Take and what is the Cost?
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expand  How do I change parental rights and responsibilities (once known as "custody") if I was divorced in another state?
expand  If my child's father and I were not married is he legally the father?
No.  You will need to establish parentage.  Which is the process of legally establishing whom the father of a child is if the child's parents are not married. If the parents are married when the child is born, the law recognizes them as the legal parents.
The law assumes that the mother is the biological parent of the child, but even if the mother and father are living together or if the father's name is on the birth certificate, Vermont law does not recognize him as the father until a court has legally established his paternity.
expand  What are the two major parts to parental rights and responsibilties?
expand  What does Parent Child contact mean?
Parent child contact is the term used to describe what has been known in the past as“visitation.” Visitation is no longer used because of the negative impact it can haveon children. Children are dependent on the love and support of both of their parentsto grow and develop into healthy adults. Children do not visit with one of theirparents. They spend as much quality time as possible with each parent.
Children need to be able to spend as much time as possible with each of theirparents. When parents separate, their children should not be denied the opportunityto spend quality time with each of their parents. If the parents had remainedtogether, the children would have enjoyed access to each parent on a daily basis.Therefore, unless there are good reasons to limit the contact a parent has with the
children, the parenting plan should include contact with both parents on a regularbasis.
The ending of a relationship is often very emotional. Parents may be angry at oneanother over broken commitments and feelings of being deceived and cheated.Children who are exposed to their parents' arguments often blame themselves forthe fights of their parents. Sometimes the children feel they have to pick "sides"between their parents. Parents need to be particularity sensitive to their children and
keep them out of their adult conflicts. Unless physical or emotional abuse is involved,the reasons people have for ending their relationships are not reasons for children to
change their relationship with their parents.
expand  What is Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

Parental Rights and Responsibilities
expand   What are Parent Coordinators
expand   What does Parent Coordination sort out?
Parent Coordination helps parents work out issues such as: visitation and exchanges, health and safety issues, how decisions will be made for the children, how parents will communicate, etc.
expand   What if the parents are not able to come to an agreement?
expand   What is Parent Coordination?
Parent Coordination gives both parents and children a chance to be heard in a child-focused, non-confidential and non-neutral process. Separated parents meeting individually with the Parent Coordinator are encouraged to resolve the conflicts about their children.  The goal of the process is to minimize the children’s exposure to adult conflict and to reduce the risk of danger to all family members. Parent Coordinators also assist parents and children to connect with other resources in the community for help and support.
expand   What is the Parent Coordinators and Court's Role?