|BILL AS INTRODUCED||2007-2008|
Introduced by Senator McCormack of Windsor District and Senator Hartwell of Bennington District
Subject: Domestic relations; annulment and divorce; child custody
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to provide a rebuttable presumption of shared custody of children in a divorce proceeding and to define repeated and intentional violations of a visitation order by a custodial parent as a criminal act of unnecessary cruelty.
AN ACT RELATING TO SHARED CUSTODY OF CHILDREN IN A DIVORCE PROCEEDING
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 15 V.S.A. § 665 is amended to read:
§ 665. RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES ORDER; BEST INTEREST 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. There shall be a
rebuttable presumption that shared parental rights and responsibilities are in
the best interests of the child. 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
may award parental rights and responsibilities primarily or solely to
(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.
Sec. 2. 15 V.S.A. § 668a is amended to read:
§ 668a. ENFORCEMENT OF VISITATION
(a) When a noncustodial parent who is ordered to pay child support or alimony and who is awarded visitation rights fails to pay child support or alimony, the custodial parent shall not refuse to honor the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights.
(b) When a custodial parent refuses to honor a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights, the noncustodial parent shall not fail to pay any ordered child support or alimony.
(c) If a custodial parent refuses to honor a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights, the court shall enforce such rights unless it finds good cause for the failure or that a modification of the visitation rights is in the best interests of the child. Unless restoration of the visitation is not in the best interests of the child, enforcement of the visitation rights shall include the restoration of the amount of visitation improperly denied. When a party files a motion for enforcement of parent-child contact under this subsection, the court shall conduct a hearing within 30 days of service of the motion.
(d) A person who violates this section may be punished by contempt of court or other remedies as the court deems appropriate, including awarding attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party.
(e) If a custodial parent refuses to honor a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights without good cause, the court may modify the parent-child contact order if found to be in the best interests of the child. Good cause shall include a pattern or incidence of domestic or sexual violence, a history of failure to honor the visitation schedule agreed to in the parent-child contact order, or reasonable fear for the child or the custodial parent’s safety.
(f) A custodial parent’s intentional and repeated refusal to honor a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights without good cause shall constitute an act of abuse as defined in 13 V.S.A. § 1305.
parent-child contact orders issued by the family court in connection with a
divorce or parentage proceeding shall bear the following
statement: “A PERSON WHO FAILS TO COMPLY WITH ALL TERMS OF THE CURRENT ORDER GOVERNING PARENT‑CHILD CONTACT MAY BE SUBJECT TO CONTEMPT OF COURT CHARGES. THE COURT MAY IMPOSE ADDITIONAL REMEDIES, INCLUDING A MODIFICATION OF THE CURRENT PARENT‑CHILD CONTACT ORDER IF FOUND TO BE IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD.”
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street