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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Who's Legally A Parent? Vermont Supreme Court Says Behavior Can Make The Difference

The exterior of the Vermont Supreme Court.
John Dillon
VPR File
The Vermont Supreme Court ruled a parent's behavior toward children can play a key role in determining whether they can be granted legal parental rights.

Who is legally recognized as a parent? That's the question at the heart of a recent Vermont Supreme Court decision that a family law expert says exposes the gaps in Vermont's laws that affect modern families.

The decision of Sinnott v. Peck, handed down Dec. 1, looks at the case of two Vermont women in a long-term relationship that included raising an adopted daughter and caring for one another's aging parents. The couple decided to adopt a second child, but without a civil union or marriage (and due to the foreign country's laws), only one of the women was legally recognized as the adoptive parent. The relationship ultimately ended, and the two women agreed to share custody of the children. That agreement broke down, and the second mother's fight for legal recognition as the children's parent went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Wednesday on Vermont Edition, Vermont Law School professor Susan B. Apel discusses the details of the Sinnott v. Peck case, what the court's decision means for the women and children involved, and the broader gaps in Vermont law when it comes to modern families.

Listen above to Apel's conversation with Vermont Edition.

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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