Establishing a Support Order
Once parentage has been legally established, parents and their children share all rights and responsibilities granted by law. One of these is support. Children who do not live with both parents are legally entitled to receive both child and medical support.
What is a child support order?
A child support order requires one of the parents to pay the other an ongoing cash amount toward support of the child. Child support orders are issued by the court either upon agreement (stipulation) by the parties or as a result of a court hearing.
What is a medical support order?
A medical support order requires either:
Medical support orders are issued by the court either upon agreement (stipulation) by the parties or as a result of a court hearing.
When should I establish support?
Medical and child support are typically determined at the same time as custody—during a separation or divorce process or as part of a legal action to establish parentage. However, it can be decided anytime the parents are not living together.
You must have a custody order before you can obtain a child support order but not necessarily before you can get an order for medical support.
How do I establish support?
In Vermont, legal issues involving child and medical support and most other family-related issues are settled in Family Court.
How does the legal process work?
When OCS files a motion with a Family Court, the court serves notice to all parties involved and schedules a case manager conference as well as a hearing before the magistrate or judge. Proceedings cannot go forward until each party has been served notice (called perfection of service).
Once all parties have been notified, they must appear in court at the scheduled time. If one of the parties fails to appear, the court may issue a default judgment against that person.
Case Manager Conferences: During the conference, which is typically scheduled for one hour, the case manager explains the court process and the motions and issues at hand. If the parents reach agreement on the issues, a legally binding agreement (called a stipulation) is prepared and submitted to the magistrate or judge for signature. If the parents fail to reach agreement, the matter is set for a hearing.
Hearings Before a Magistrate: Magistrate hearings are scheduled when either a) the parents cannot agree on the establishment, modification, or enforcement of support; or b) the court does not accept the agreement reached by the parents. Parents may represent themselves or have their attorneys attend with them.
Hearings Before a Judge: A judge has broader powers than a magistrate. For example, in domestic relations cases, a judge hears divorce and property issues as well as child and medical support issues. When a hearing is held before a judge, many parents choose to have their attorneys attend with them; however, this is a personal choice and not a requirement.
Documents Required: Both parents must provide the court with the following financial information:
How is the amount of support determined?
Family Court calculates the amount each parent should provide the children based on:
OCS recommends child support based on the parents’ documented income. However, if either parent does not provide all the required documentation, Vermont law allows us to assume that his or her income is the greater of either:
Click here to learn how to apply for OCS services.
If you need more information or help establishing support, please contact the OCS Helpline at 1-800-786-3214 or OCSCSU@ahs.state.vt.us.
For more detailed information about establishing support and other child-support related topics, you should read: