Vermont law provides several ways to establish parentage. They include:

  • marriage or civil union
  • voluntary acknowledgement
  • court order
  • assisted reproduction
  • surrogacy

You can find more information on these pages:


Find forms for parentage at the bottom of this web page. Read about forms generally on the About Court Forms web page.

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Reasons for Establishing Parentage

If the law does not recognize you as the child's legal parent:

  • The child may not have access to health insurance through your employer, union, or military service.
  • The child may not be entitled to financial support from you, or contact with you.
  • If you die, the child may not qualify for many benefits. These include social security, pension, inheritance rights, veterans' benefits, and life insurance.
  • You may not be entitled to contact with the child or a relationship with the child if the child's legally recognized parent denies you access.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage

If both parents agree that they are the parents of a child, they may sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form. This form is a legally binding document. Both the legally recognized parent and the other parent must sign it. The Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form is available online, at hospitals and birthing centers, at Office of Child Support (OCS) offices, and at the courts.

By signing the document, both parents swear that they are the child's parents. Signing the acknowledgment means that either parent may seek parental rights and responsibilities or ask for parent–child contact. Both parents also have an obligation to support the child financially.

You must file your voluntary acknowledgment with the Department of Health at the address listed on the form. If you do not, it won't be effective. You can rescind (withdraw) your voluntary acknowledgment of parentage within 60 days if there has been no court order.

If you file your form with the Department of Health within six months of the child's birth, your name will be added to the birth certificate. After six months you can only get on the birth certificate by order of the probate division.

If you don't live with the other parent, you may have to go to court for an order setting parental rights and responsibilities and rules for parent–child contact (select Parent-Child Contact here). You may also have to go to court for a child support order.

The Office of Child Support helps people establish legal parentage. For more information about voluntary acknowledgment of parentage, contact the Office of Child Support.

Parties Agree (Stipulation)

stipulation is an agreement between the parties to all of the terms of the parentage case.

  • You may be in complete agreement at the start of the case.
  • You may come to an agreement at any time during your case with the help of a mediator or your case manager, or on your own.

mediator is a neutral third party who can help you reach agreement on the issues in your divorce case. The Family Mediation Program web page has information about the program and a list of mediators. In some cases, the judge may require parties to meet with a mediator before the case can move ahead.

If you start your parentage case with a stipulation, the filing fee is less. The cost to file without a stipulation is $120. The cost to file with a stipulation is $35. If the judge doesn't approve your stipulation, you may be required to pay the higher filing fee.

Even if you are in complete agreement, the judge will review the paperwork to make sure everything complies with Vermont law.


If you and the other party agree about everything, these forms must be filed in addition to the other forms needed for the parentage case:

  Signed by the defendant

  • Acceptance of Service (form 600-00028)
  • Answer to Parentage and Counterclaim (form 400-00840)

  Signed by both parties

  • Parentage Stipulation (form 400-00872).
  • Agreement on Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Parent Child Contact and Provisions Related to Children (form 400-00825).
  • Child Support Order (form 400-00802)
  • Child support worksheet using the Child Support Calculator from the Office of Child Support website

You can find all of these forms at the bottom of this web page in the Forms section. 

Your stipulation will specify:

  • Legal responsibility: Who will make major decisions about medical issues, education, and religious upbringing.
  • Physical responsibility: Where the children will live.
  • Parent-child contact: How much time will the children spend with each parent.
  • Child support: Vermont law requires parents to support their children. The amount of child support calculated using the child support guidelines. Your stipulation must include a copy of the child support worksheet, which you can generate using the Child Support Calculator. You can find more information about calculating child support on the Child Support web page.

You can find information about these topics on the Judiciary's website:


Don't sign stipulation forms if you don't agree

Only sign the stipulation forms if you completely understand and completely agree with what you're signing.

If you have questions or concerns, or are feeling pressured or forced to sign something, consider talking to an attorney. The Finding Legal Help web page has information about the ways to get the help of an attorney.

Starting a Parentage Case

Help from the Office of Child Support (OCS)

A parent may ask the Office of Child Support (OCS) for help filing a parentage case. Contact their office to see what services may be available to you.


Forms to file

These are the documents needed to start a parentage case:

  • Information Sheet (form 800) 
  • Complaint to Establish Parentage and/or Related Obligations (form 400-00817) 
  • Statement of Confidential Information (form 400-00849)
  • Copy of the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form if one was signed 
  • Filing fee (select Family Division Fees here)

You can find the forms at the bottom of this page in the Forms section. 

If you are concerned about your safety, you can ask the court to keep your address confidential from the other parent. Use the Miscellaneous Motion (form 400-00830) and Affidavit Family Division (form 400-00804) to make the request. You can find the forms at the bottom of this page in the Forms section.

After the documents to start the case have been filed, the court generally schedules a case manager conference and serves the other party with all the documents including the notice of conference. See the Case Management section of the Divorce Process web page for information about what to expect at a case manager conference.


Filing and Serving the Forms

Filing means giving the completed forms to the court. The Filing Procedures web page has information about filing filing options. File your completed forms with the family division of the Superior Court  in the county where you or the other party lives.

You will be required to pay a filing fee. If you can't afford the filing fees, you can ask the court to consider waiving them. See the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs web page for more information and forms.

Be sure to keep a copy of everything you file with the court for your records.


Serving means having a copy of the completed forms delivered to the other parent. 

The court usually takes care of serving the other party, but the plaintiff must give the court the defendant's address. See the Serving Papers in Family Division Cases web page for more information about service options. If the parties are in complete agreement (stipulating), other less formal service options are available.

Responding to a Parentage Case

Accepting Service

The documents can be served on you by mail or in person. If you are served by certified mail, the mail receipt will prove that you have been served. If you are served by law enforcement, the officer will provide a service affidavit to the court.

You may be mailed an Acceptance of Service form. You don't have to sign this form. But, if you don't sign it, the court may later make you pay the costs of sending a sheriff to serve you.

See the Serving Papers in Family Division Cases web page for more information about service.


Filing an Answer

Once you have received a summons and complaint, you have 21 days to file an answer with the court. The 21 days starts on the date the sheriff serves you, on the date you sign an acceptance or acknowledgment, or on the date you sign for the papers at the post office. You can make a written request to the court for more time if you need more time to file your answer. You should tell the court why you need more time. For example, if you can't get an appointment with a lawyer sooner than 21 days, you can say that.

The answer tells the court that you want to participate in the case. If you are representing yourself, you will tell this to the court in your answer. You can use the Answer to Parentage & Counterclaim (form 400-00840), which you will find at the bottom of this web page in the Forms section. The numbered statements in the answer correspond to statements in the complaint form. Check the box indicating whether you agree with each statement in the complaint. You can write in what you believe to be true if you disagree with a statement.


Making a Counterclaim

The Answer to Parentage & Counterclaim (form 400-00840) includes a section to make an optional counterclaim. A counterclaim is a lawsuit filed by the defendant against the plaintiff in the original case. There is no fee to file a counterclaim in a parentage case.

There are a several reasons why you might want to make a counterclaim. For example:

  • There are things you want to ask for as part of the parentage case which weren’t included in the plaintiff’s complaint. For example, you want to ask for genetic testing to determine paternity of the children, but the plaintiff did not include that in their complaint.
  • You not only disagree with some of the things the plaintiff asked for in the complaint, you want to ask for something different. For example, the plaintiff asked for sole parental rights and responsibilities of your children. You can use the counterclaim to ask for shared parental rights and responsibilities.
  • You are concerned the plaintiff will change their mind about the parentage case and ask to dismiss the case. If you file a counterclaim, the case will not be dismissed because of their request to dismiss.
  • You are concerned the plaintiff will not follow through with the steps in the case, and it will be dismissed because of inactivity. If you file a counterclaim you can keep the case moving.

There may be other reasons. Talk to an attorney if you have questions about whether you should make a counterclaim. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about the ways to get the help of an attorney.

A counterclaim is usually filed at the same time as your answer – within 21 days of being served with the complaint. It is possible to ask permission to file a counterclaim after the deadline has passed. Use the Miscellaneous Motion (form 400-00830) to make your request.  You can find the form at the bottom of the page in the Forms section.


If You Do Not File an Answer

It is very important for you to file an answer. If you don't file an answer to the complaint, the court can enter a default judgment against you. A default judgment is a decision made by the court without your input or participation. The order can determine parentage and parental rights and responsibilities, and the court can also order you to pay child support.

If you don't file an answer but show up for a scheduled court hearing, you will be allowed to participate. You will need to file with the court a Notice of Appearance form, which you can find at the bottom of this web page in the Forms section. This tells the court how to contact you and where to send you information about your case.

If any of your contact information changes, you must notify the court and the other party by completing Notice of Name Change or Change of Address (form 400-00846), which you can find at the bottom of this web page in the Forms section. Send a copy to the court and the other party and to the Office of Child Support (OCS), if they are involved in your case. That includes notices telling you the date and time of court hearings in your case. If you file a Notice of Appearance or appear for a court hearing before the hearing, the court will allow you to participate. But you should not delay in filing papers to let the court know you want to participate.


Filing and Serving the Answer and Counterclaim

See the Filing Procedures web page for information about how to file the documents with the court.

You must also serve the papers on the other party and the Office of Child Support, if they are involved. This is true for every document you file with the court in the case. If the other party is represented by a lawyer, you must serve papers you file on the lawyer. To prove that you have served the people you are required to serve, you must file a Certificate of Service (form 600-00264) with every paper you file in court. You can find that form at the bottom of this web page in the Forms section. The Certificate of Service tells the court:

  • the document has been given to every other party
  • how it was given (e.g., mail or personal delivery)
  • the name and address of each person or entity served, and
  • the date of the mailing or other means of delivery
Initial Orders and Notices

The court will start the case with several notices and orders. You must follow the court's orders and attend hearings when you get a notice.


Order Regarding Parenting Course

Both parents must attend a parenting course called Helping Children Cope with Separation and Divorce (COPE). You can choose the time and place that best fits your schedule. The COPE course gives you information to help you and your kids deal with the changes to your family relationships. The sooner you attend the course, the better.


Order Regarding Self-Represented Litigant Education

Most courts require you to attend a one-and-a-half-hour course to help you represent yourself. The course is usually offered at the courthouse. Volunteer lawyers generally provide the education. The sooner you attend, the better informed you will be. This course will help you represent yourself more effectively.


Notice to Attend a Case Manager Conference

You will receive a notice to attend a case manager conference. This is a meeting with both parties and a case manager at the courthouse. If the Office of Child Support (OCS) is a party to the case, a representative from OCS will also attend the conference on behalf of the State of Vermont regarding child support only. This conference is usually held four to eight weeks after the case is filed. Use the time before that to fill out your financial forms and gather the financial records that you are required to bring to the conference. You must bring copies of all of these documents for the court, the other party, and OCS if they are a party. Also, always keep a copy for yourself.

Case Manager Conference

Usually, the first court hearing will be a case manager conference. The judge won’t be there. A case manager will run the conference with both of you. The purpose is to figure out what you can agree to, and what issues you will be asking the judge or magistrate to decide. The case manager will help you. Here are some topics you will cover:

  • Parentage (Do you agree about who are the child's parents?)
  • Parental rights and responsibilities (sometimes called custody)
  • Parent–child contact (sometimes called visitation)
  • Child support
  • Health insurance

If you don't agree about parentage, the court can order genetic testing.


Parental Rights and Responsibilities and Parent–Child Contact

Your child’s best interests are very important. If you and the other parent have agreed on parentage, you can then try to come up with a plan that is best for your child. In particular, you will need to reach an agreement on the following matters:

  • What’s the best schedule for your child in terms of the time your child spends with each of you? Consider your child’s needs and where each of you live.
  • How should vacations and holidays be handled?
  • Should the schedule change as your child gets older?
  • How will the child get back and forth between the two households?
  • Who should be responsible for the day-to-day care of your child? This is called physical parental rights and responsibilities.
  • Who should be responsible for the major decisions about things such as medical care, religious upbringing, and education? This is called legal parental rights and responsibilities.
  • Should these responsibilities be shared, or primarily held by one parent? You can agree to share legal rights and responsibilities, physical rights and responsibilities, or both. And you can come up with a schedule for your child to spend time with both of you in a way that best meets the child’s needs. The court cannot order shared custody unless you both agree.

You can find more information about parental rights and responsibilities and parent–child contact on this site here.


Child Support

The case manager will address child support and health insurance for the child (or children). You should come to the conference with information about the cost of including your child on your health insurance plan, even if you have not currently enrolled in the plan. You should also bring:

  • Your completed Financial Affidavit – Non-Divorce Form (Form 400-00813S)
  • Your four most recent paystubs
  • Your two most recent federal income tax returns

Make sure you bring enough copies for all participants.

Your child support is based on a computer model that considers:

  • Each parent’s gross monthly income or earning capacity
  • What each parent pays for health insurance and day care for the child
  • How many nights the child spends with each parent
  • Whether the child has special needs and expenses

The computer calculates a child support guideline amount to be paid by one of you. The person who pays, who is called the obligor, is usually the parent who has less time with the child or who makes more money. This guideline amount is legally presumed by the court to be the amount to be paid. You and the other parent can’t just pick a figure and hope the court will agree. The court will order a different amount to be paid if it finds that the guideline amount is unreasonable. You can find more information about child support on the Child Support web page.

The case manager will help you write up the agreements you make. You and your child will be better off if you can reach an agreement with the other parent. Here are some reasons:

  • You and the other parent know more about your children and your finances than a judge ever will. You are in a better position to find fair and practical solutions to the issues.
  • Most people would rather make their own major life decisions.
  • The two of you will have to work together to parent your children through the rest of their lives.
  • You and the other parent are more likely to follow the court order if you have agreed to it together.

You should not agree to anything you are uncomfortable with.

If you run out of time but think you may be able to agree on more issues, the court can schedule a second case manager conference. If you have any questions or concerns, you should bring them up with the case manager.

Tell the case manager at the beginning of the conference if there is domestic abuse in the relationship. The case manager can help come up with a way to communicate—such as texting or using a third party—to keep you safe.

The more prepared you are, the more progress you can make at the conference. Sometimes people just can’t talk to each other. But if you can, try to talk with each other before the conference to see if you can work out at least some issues. You don’t need to work everything out. If you disagree about something, just make a note of it and let the case manager know.

You can agree to a temporary order or a final order. A temporary order applies until the court issues a final order after a hearing, or until you and the other parent file a final agreement that is approved by the court. If one parent is going through a job change, or is uncertain of future income, you can have a temporary child support order. The court will review the support order at the final hearing if both of you still have not agreed to a final order.

Many parents are able to work out parenting schedules and child support with the help of the case manager. When they do, the court reviews the agreement within a few days and signs it. That turns your agreement into a court order. Court orders stay in effect until the court issues new orders. Once parentage, parental rights and responsibilities, and child support orders are issued, the case will close with the court.


Sometimes you need a third party to help you come up with agreements. Mediation offers a structure for communicating at a time when working together is difficult. Mediators do not decide who is right or wrong. A skilled mediator can help you find practical solutions.

Mediation is less formal and more private than a public hearing in court. Parents who have made agreements by using a mediator have reported greater satisfaction than parents who had the court make the decisions for them.

The Family Mediation Program provides subsidized mediation services to qualifying people. See the Family Mediation Program web page for more information about the program and for a list of family court mediators.

Motions and Temporary Hearing

Sometimes parents can’t agree on critical issues that need to be decided. When that happens, the court will decide. The case manager refers disputes to either the child support magistrate or the family court judge, or both. In some cases, you may file a motion on your own to ask the court to take some action. The magistrate or the judge (or both) will hold hearings at a later date.

The kinds of issues that you may need the court to decide on a temporary basis until the final hearing include paternity, parental rights and responsibilities, parent–child contact, and child support.

Proving Parentage

If either party denies that the alleged father is the biological parent, or feels some doubt, the party can ask the court to order genetic testing using the Motion for Genetic Testing (form 400-00869). You can find the form at the bottom of this web page in the Forms section

Here are some reasons for asking the court to order genetic testing:

  • The parties were not married when the child was born, and a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage was not signed and filed
  • The parties signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form, but one party has evidence to present to the court that will demonstrate that one of the parties is not a biological parent. That party must give a description of that evidence
  • The parties were married when the child was born, but one of them has information that suggests that the other person is not the biological parent of the child. That party must present that information.

The parties must indicate who will pay for genetic testing. The Office of Child Support (OCS) usually pays for it if the court has ordered it.

The Office of Child Support (OCS) will pay for the genetic test if the mother and child are receiving assistance or one parent has applied for services from OCS and a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form was never signed. Otherwise, the court has information about laboratories and their charges, and it is up to the parties to arrange and pay for the testing themselves.

The court order will state the time and place for both parties and the child to give their genetic samples. The test results are usually available within six weeks.

After the genetic testing results come back, the court will schedule a parentage hearing unless the results show that the tested person cannot possibly be the father.

If you ignore a hearing notice and do not show up, you give up your right to present your arguments.


The Vermont Parentage Act (VPA) changed several aspects of establishing parentage. See 15C V.S.A. § 101 et seq. for the complete text of the law.

Changing Your Child's Name

You can ask the court to change a child’s name as part of a parentage case. You should also mention it during the final hearing. If your request is granted, the order will include a provision changing the child’s name. You can show the order to agencies to change the child’s name on official documents.

You are responsible for telling others about your child’s new name. Here is a list of some of the documents you might want to change and the institutions you might want to notify:

If you didn't ask to change your child’s name as part of a parentage case, you can start a minor name change case with the probate division.