The family division provides protection orders against abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults.

To file a request for relief, you can find the forms online or contact your local family division. If you or someone you know needs help, contact Adult Protective Services: (802) 241-0512. More information is also available here.

Who Is Considered a Vulnerable Adult

Most elders and people with disabilities successfully manage their own lives and are capable of providing for their own care without assistance. They are not automatically defined as vulnerable adults simply because of age or disability. The term vulnerable adult has a very specific meaning as defined by Vermont law under Title 33 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated (33 V.S.A. §6902). A vulnerable adult is a person who

  • is age 18 or older and
  • is a resident of a licensed facility such as a nursing or community care home; or
  • is a patient in a psychiatric unit or hospital; or
  • has received personal care services for longer than one month; or
  • regardless of residence or whether any type of service is received, is impaired as a result of brain damage, infirmities of aging, or a physical, mental, or developmental disability.
What Is Considered Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult

Abuse

Vermont law provides a broad definition of abuse as it applies to vulnerable adults.
Abuse is defined as follows:

  • Any treatment of a vulnerable adult that places that person’s life, health, or welfare in jeopardy or results in a health impairment
  • Any conduct committed with an intent to cause, or reckless disregard of, unnecessary pain, harm, or suffering
  • Unnecessary or unlawful confinement or restraint of a vulnerable adult
  • Intentionally subjecting a vulnerable adult to behavior that results in intimidation, fear, humiliation, degradation, agitation, disorientation, or other forms of serious emotional distress
  • Any sexual activity with a vulnerable adult by a caregiver who volunteers for or is paid by a caregiving facility or program (This definition does not apply to a consensual relationship between a vulnerable adult and a spouse, nor to a consensual relationship between a vulnerable adult and a caregiver hired, supervised, and directed by the vulnerable adult.)
  • Administration of a drug, substance, or preparation to a vulnerable adult for a purpose other than legitimate and lawful medical or therapeutic treatment

Neglect

Neglect may be a single incident or repeated conduct that results in physical or psychological harm. Neglect is defined as follows:

  • Failing to provide care or arrange for goods or services necessary to maintain the health or safety of a vulnerable adult, including food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, and medical services
  • Not protecting a vulnerable adult from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others
  • Failure to carry out a plan of care for a vulnerable adult when such failure results in physical or psychological harm or a substantial risk of death to the vulnerable adult
  • Not reporting significant changes in the health status of a vulnerable adult to a physician, nurse, or immediate supervisor, when the caregiver is employed by an organization that offers, provides, or arranges for personal care

Exploitation
Vermont statutes define exploitation of a vulnerable adult as follows:

  • Willfully using, withholding, transferring, or disposing of funds or property of a vulnerable adult for the wrongful profit or advantage of another
  • Acquiring possession, control, or an interest in funds or property of a vulnerable adult through undue harassment or fraud
  • Forcing a vulnerable adult against their will to perform services for the profit or advantage of another
  • Any sexual activity with a vulnerable adult when the vulnerable adult does not consent or is incapable of resisting as a result of age, disability or fear of retribution or hardship
How to File a Complaint for Protection Against Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult

To file a request for protection, you need to complete forms. You can file a complaint if you are in need, or you can file for someone else who needs protection.

These are the forms needed to start a case:

After Hours

If you need to request an order when the court is closed, you can contact law enforcement or the court's answering service at 1-800-540-9990. The answering service will contact court staff, and they will contact you for more details about your situation.

What Happens After Filing a Request for Emergency Relief

Once you file your request for emergency relief, your complaint and affidavit are given to the judge for expedited review.

If Your Request Is Granted

If the judge grants your request for emergency relief, the judge will issue a temporary order with details on the type of restrictions the defendant will need to follow.

The court staff will set a hearing date within 10 court days of the order date. You will receive a copy of the temporary order (with the hearing date and time), your complaint, and affidavit. A copy of the paperwork you filed will be sent by the court to the defendant. The case will go forward as scheduled as long as the defendant is served before the hearing date.

If you, as the plaintiff or interested person, fail to appear for the hearing, the case will be dismissed. The temporary order expires on the day of the hearing.

If Your Request Is Denied

The judge may deny your request for relief if the information you provided does not meet the requirements for an order to be issued. If this happens, you may ask to provide additional information to support your request.

You have the right to ask for a hearing within five business days of the denial to pursue your request for an emergency order. Or you can withdraw your request by completing and filing an Intent to Pursue or Withdraw Complaint form . If you do not file this form, the court will assume that you have withdrawn your request. The court will close your case without any further action. The documents you filed will be kept confidential.

To request a hearing, you must complete and file an Intent to Pursue or Withdraw Complaint form. Remember that there is no order in place until a hearing is held, and unless the court issues an order.

The court will set a hearing date and send a copy of your Complaint, Affidavit, Relief From Abuse Order, and Intent to Pursue form, as well as a copy of the denial for service on the defendant. The case will go forward as scheduled as long as the defendant is served before the hearing date. If you fail to appear for the hearing, the case will be dismissed.

Preparing for Your Hearing

If You Are a Plaintiff

If you filed the request for relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you are the plaintiff. You must be at court no later than the time on your notice. This is your opportunity to present information from you and your witnesses to the court. If you do not come to the hearing, your request for a final order will be dismissed. Any temporary order will expire on that day.

If the complaint has been filed on your behalf by an interested person, the court must determine at the hearing whether you are capable of expressing your wishes with respect to your requests, and whether you wish to pursue the case.

You can arrange in advance for an advocate from your local Adult Protective Services agency to be with you in court.

If You Are a Defendant

If you have been served with a temporary order for relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation, or with a notice of hearing, you are the defendant.

Before the hearing date, you have the right to ask the judge to change the restrictions of the order. You need to make this request in writing by filing a Motion to Modify Temporary Relief from Abuse/Neglect/Exploitation Order. 

You must be at court no later than the time on your notice. This is your opportunity to present information from you and your witnesses to the court. If you do not come to the hearing, the court may grant a final order if the plaintiff's testimony supports it. You won't get a chance to give the court your side of the story.

You can request to take part in the hearing by phone if you are in jail or live far away. You must file your request in writing before the hearing.

For Both of You

You may want to talk to or hire a lawyer. 

If there are adult witnesses to the abuse, you may want to bring them to testify at the hearing. The judge may not accept written statements from people not in court, and may not allow them to testify by telephone.

If there are witnesses who will require a court order (subpoena) to attend your hearing, you must request a subpoena from the court clerk well before your hearing date. This is so that it can be properly served on your witness.

If you need help with English or sign language, please contact the court right away. A special video is available that may assist you.

The Day of the Hearing

You should arrive at the time on the notice. Courts provide separate areas for plaintiffs and defendants if possible.

Do not expect to talk to each other before the hearing.

You should bring your paperwork with you.

You may want to have paper and a pen to take notes.

You may bring a support person to the hearing. The judge will decide whether that person will be allowed to sit with you or speak to the judge.

If you are bringing exhibits (papers or pictures related to your case), bring a copy for the court, one for the other person in the case, and one to keep. If you are bringing a tape recording, also bring the equipment needed to play it. The judge may not allow what you bring to become part of the case.

You can find general information about going to court here.

There is no child care available at the courthouse. Also, children are not allowed in the courtroom. Please arrange for someone to care for your child (or children) during the hearing.

Information for Plaintiffs About the Effects of a Relief From Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation Order

The court has issued a final order intended to protect you from abuse, neglect, or exploitation. If the defendant violates the order, contact law enforcement.

Service: Usually, the defendant receives a copy of the final order at the end of the hearing. If the defendant was not at the hearing, it is the court’s responsibility to have law enforcement serve the final order on the defendant. If the defendant is not personally served, the order will not be enforceable, and your safety could be at risk.

Enforcement: All orders forbid the defendant from abusing, neglecting, or exploiting you. Depending on what your order says, the defendant may not contact you or be near you, your home, work, school, or vehicle. You should immediately report any violations of the order to law enforcement. They will help you enforce your order. Keep a copy of the order with you.

Coverage: All law enforcement officers can check a nationwide list to see whether your order is in effect and what its terms are. Your order is enforceable throughout the state and the country.

Understanding your order: You need to read your order and understand it. The order is only against the defendant. This means that only the defendant can violate the order. Do not encourage contact with the defendant if the defendant is ordered not to contact you. Any criminal case against the defendant is separate from this relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation case. This order will not change conditions of release or probation conditions against the defendant that have been issued. A change or dismissal of this order for relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation does not change the defendant’s conditions of release or probation conditions, if any.

Changes to the order: Only the court can change or dismiss the order. You or the defendant can request a change to the order in writing by filing a Motion to Modify/Extend/Vacate Relief from Abuse Order. The judge may schedule a hearing before making any changes to an existing order.

Communication: If your order prevents contact between you and the defendant, the judge must change the order before the defendant may have contact with you.

Expiration: Please note the expiration date of your order on the first and last pages. If you want to extend the order beyond the expiration date, you must file a written request with the court. Be sure to file it a few weeks before the order ends.

Information for Defendants About the Effects of a Relief From Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation Order

The court has issued a final order for relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation. You can be charged with a crime in criminal court if you violate this order.

Understanding your order: You need to read the order and understand exactly what it says so that you do not violate it. If you do not understand it, you may wish to get legal help. Keep a copy with you.

Enforcement: The order is only against you. Only you can violate it. If you do, you can be arrested. The order will be enforced by law enforcement, and you may be subject to proceedings and punishment for criminal contempt.

What to do: If accidental contact with the plaintiff happens (usually in a public place), get away from the situation immediately. If the order does not allow telephone contact and the plaintiff calls you, hang up the phone.

Changes to the order: Only the court can change or dismiss the order. You or the plaintiff can request a change to the order in writing by filing a Motion to Modify/Extend/Vacate Relief from Abuse Order. The judge may schedule a hearing before making any changes to an existing order.

Coverage: All law enforcement officers can check a nationwide list to see whether the order is in effect and what its terms are. Your order is enforceable throughout the state and country.

Criminal orders: Any criminal case against you is separate from this order for relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation. This order (or its dismissal) will not change conditions of release or probation conditions against you.

Expiration: This order will remain in effect until the expiration date on the first and last pages. It will be enforced as written until it expires.