One of the primary functions of the Office of Child Support (OCS) is to establish parentage when a child is born to unmarried parents. Usually this means identifying the father, but it can sometimes mean establishing the child’s legal mother.
OCS staff can help you to understand the legal implications of establishing parentage. And, if you apply for services, OCS can:
What is legal parentage?
When a child is born to a married couple, Vermont law automatically recognizes both parents as the legal parents. If the parents are not married when the child is born, the law:
How do I establish parentage?
You may establish parentage one of two ways:
When You May Not Want to Establish Parentage
When should I establish parentage?
For emotional and financial reasons, it is important to establish parentage as soon as possible after birth. A parent who pays support when a child is very young is more likely to continue paying support until the child is an adult. Even so, Vermont law allows parentage to be established until the child is 21. It is important to establish parentage even if the alleged father is still in school, has no income, or has no health insurance. The court may order the father to pay a very small amount of support until he finishes school or gets a job. At that time, either parent can ask the Family Division of Superior Court to modify the support order to reflect the change.
Why is it important to establish parentage?
Finances: Children need and have the legal right to receive child support; parentage must be legally established in order to receive it.
Health: Children need and have the right to know their family’s medical history. In addition, it might be possible to obtain health insurance for a child through the father’s employer, union, or military service.
Survivor Benefits: If the father dies before parentage is legally established, children may not qualify for certain benefits that would otherwise legally pass on to them (e.g., Social Security, pension, inheritance rights, veterans’ benefits, and life insurance).
Identity: Children have the right to know who their parents are.
Click here to learn how to apply for OCS services.
If you need more information or help establishing parentage, please contact the OCS Helpline at 1-800-786-3214 or OCSCSU@state.vt.us.
For more detailed information about establishing parentage and other child-support related topics, you should read: