Vermont Divorce

These divorce resources can help you get a divorce in Vermont. You will find VT divorce laws and child support calculation software and guidelines, as well as separation and divorce forms. You'll also be able to contact experienced divorce professionals, get domestic abuse shelter and contact information, divorce support groups, other support services as well. 

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Vermont Divorce Laws

By WomansDivorce

If you are considering or have started a divorce in Vermont, you will need to make important decisions concerning the custody, support, and care of your children. You'll also need to decide how assets and debts will be decided. Most couples are able to reach an agreement on these things without having to take the case to court. If you do end up having to go to court to settle the issues in your case, a judge will first apply the laws of the state before making a decision. Before reaching this point, you should review the relevant divorce statutes to know which procedures need to be followed and how your case could possibly be decided. 

Residency Requirements and Filing for Divorce

Like many other states, if you want to file for divorce in the state of Vermont, at least one spouse must have lived in Vermont for at least six months immediately prior to filing. What is more unusual about Vermont divorce law is that a final divorce will not be granted until at least one of the parties has resided in the state for at least one year. 

There is one notable exception to the Vermont residency requirements: If neither spouse resides in Vermont, however all the following statements are true, then a divorce in the state may be obtained:

  • You and your spouse married or entered into a civil union in the state of Vermont; 
  • There are no minor children of the marriage; 
  • You and your spouse are unable to divorce in your current state because the state fails to recognize the marriage or civil union, and 
  • A written agreement between you and your spouse or you and your civil union partner exists which mutually agrees to divide all property and debts. 

In addition, in the state of Vermont only one partner needs to want the divorce—in other words, if one spouse files for divorce, the divorce will move forward and be completed, whether or not the other spouse wants to be divorced. A final divorce hearing in the state of Vermont cannot be scheduled until you and your spouse have been separated for a minimum of six months. While even starting a Vermont divorce can be expensive, with court fees up to $300; if you are unable to afford these fees, you can submit a waiver application. Once your divorce is filed, you must wait a minimum of three month before a court will sign the divorce decree, although couples who have a Divorce Settlement Agreement may waive that three-month period. 

If you file for divorce, you will be known as the plaintiff (sometimes “petitioner” is also used) from the time you file, going forward. If your spouse files for divorce, he or she will be known as the plaintiff. The spouse who is served with the divorce papers is known as the defendant. Whether filing first offers any significant advantages depends on who you ask and on your individual circumstances. The person who files for divorce is able to plan in advance, taking his or her time to select a divorce attorney. In the same vein, there is time to mentally and emotionally prepare for the many aspects of divorce. As the plaintiff, you are allowed to have the first argument at trial, plus filing first could potentially give you time to protect your marital assets. 

Contested vs. Uncontested

In an ideal world, you and your spouse would pursue your divorce amicably. An uncontested divorce is one in which the couple agrees on all issues, from the division of assets to the custody of the children. However, conflict is often a part of divorce. A contested divorce is one in which there are few agreements regarding any of the decisions which must be made. 

Many divorces which begin as uncontested, quickly heat up and become contested. In the end, if you do not think you will be happy with the decisions a judge will make for your future and the future of your children, it is a good idea to work hard and make some concessions so you and your spouse can set the terms of your divorce. 

Fault or No-Fault?

Many years ago, a person who wanted to divorce was forced to name a “fault”—that is, they had to name the reason for their divorce and have evidence to back up that reason. Therefore, if the “fault” was adultery, then the spouse who claimed the other spouse committed adultery would be required to have some evidence supporting that claim.

Vermont is now a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning courts will generally not consider evidence of marital misconduct and that marital misconduct is not a factor in the financial considerations of the divorce, such as asset division and spousal support. When filing under no-fault, the “reason” for the divorce is only listed as “irreconcilable differences.”

That being said, fault can be claimed under certain circumstances, such as: infidelity, being incarcerated for more than three years, extreme cruelty, desertion for at least seven years, refusal by one partner to provide suitable maintenance, despite having the means to do so, and incurable insanity. 

Is Legal Separation Recognized in Vermont?

A legal separation can be obtained in the state of Vermont under the same grounds a divorce can be obtained. A legal separation may also be obtained if the couple has lived apart for a minimum of six months and there is no reasonable hope of restoring the marriage. A legal separation may be an alternative for those who want to permanently separate, but may have reasons they choose not to divorce. These reasons could include tax benefits, medical insurance, a break from the marriage or religious reasons. 

During a legal separation, the non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support, and the couple’s assets will be divided equitably. The “nuances” of a Vermont separation are practically identical to those of a divorce. The filing process for a legal separation is also very similar to the process for a divorce. Vermont treats a legal separation as either a sort of “hiatus” from the marriage, or as a final separation agreement. 

The primary difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that the parties are not legally free to remarry when they are only legally separated. A legal separation is different from a trial separation in that the couple’s assets are divided in a legal separation, while a trial separation only involves physically living apart from one another. Following a two-year legal separation, either spouse can convert the legal separation to a divorce, even if the other party objects. 

Division of Assets and Debts During a VT Divorce

Vermont operates under equitable division laws during a divorce. Under the laws of equitable division, the division of assets and debts does not have to be equal, however it does have to be fair. The court’s beginning presumption will be that marital property will be split at least somewhat equally between the spouses.

From that point forward, a specific set of factors will determine a shift in those assets from one spouse to the other. In the end, the goal is a fair division which accurately reflects future needs as well as past efforts of both spouses. The court may also, under the laws of equitable distribution, include the separate property of one or both spouses, in an effort to make the total division of assets more equitable.

Typically, marital assets will include the marital home, vehicles, jewelry, artwork, other household or personal items, cash, stocks and bonds, and even one partner’s retirement account. A variety of factors will be considered during the division of assets such as each spouses’ financial and non-financial contribution to the marriage and to the acquisition of assets. Non-monetary contributions to the marriage include unpaid work such as child care and homemaking. The length of the marriage will be factored in, as well as the health of each spouse and the occupations and employability of each spouse. In situations where one spouse contributed to the education or increased earnings of the other, the contributing spouse will be compensated with additional assets.

The divorcing couple will have the opportunity to determine an equitable asset settlement themselves, however if they are unable to do so, a judge will make those decisions. Courts will usually accept an agreement between the spouses without further involvement in the issue. Unfortunately, far too many couples have spent months or years, along with thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting over items which are not even worth the amount spent. As an example, one couple spent nearly two years fighting over a ceramic yard owl which was worth less than $100. It is extremely important to recognize that sometimes the benefit lies not in the specific asset, rather in concluding the divorce as quickly as possible and moving on with life.

Spousal Support in Vermont

Spousal support is an issue separate from the division of assets. The goal of spousal maintenance or spousal support is to allow the receiving spouse to maintain a lifestyle as close as possible to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Courts will look at the receiving spouse’s financial resources, physical and emotional condition, age and education (at a minimum) when determining spousal support. Even though many women now work outside the home, women are typically more likely to receive spousal support as a method of maintaining economic equity following the divorce.

While some states have a particular formula for calculating spousal support, Vermont does not. The court calculates the amount and duration of spousal support payments based on the “reasonable” needs of the receiving spouse. The longer the marriage, the more likely one spouse has grown at least somewhat financially dependent on the other. Minor children will also have an impact on the amount and duration of spousal support. Spousal maintenance in Vermont is either permanent or rehabilitative.

Rehabilitative spousal support is temporary, allowing the receiving spouse to get on his or her feet financially, perhaps seeking education or training to assist in obtaining higher-paying employment in the future. Permanent spousal support is just that—permanent—unless a court order is sought to terminate or change the spousal support payments. In the state of Vermont, a remarriage does not automatically terminate the receiving spouse’s support payments because such a remarriage might or might not improve that spouse’s financial condition. 

Child Custody in Vermont

Like all states in the United States, Vermont family courts will determine custody based on the best interests of the child. The parent’s gender is not a factor when determining child custody. Parents who are not able to agree on child custody will face either sole or joint custody awarded by a judge. To determine the best interests of the child or children, the judge will factor in the following: 

  • The relationship the child has with each parent; 
  • The ability of each parent to provide the child with proper guidance and love; 
  • How the child will adjust to change in the form of housing, school and community; 
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child in a financial manner, and to provide a safe, nurturing environment for the child; 
  • How willing each parent is to encourage a positive, continuous relationship with the other parent, and 
  • Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent. 

If joint custody is awarded one parent may receive primary physical custody, although both parents will continue to make the big decisions regarding the child, and the other parent will receive liberal visitation. The court may also award sole custody in situations where there has been evidence of abuse. 

Calculating Child Support

Courts in Vermont strive to make sure children of separated or divorce parents receive the same support as if their parents were still living together. Generally, the non-custodial parent (with whom the children spend less than half their time with) will be ordered to pay child support. The custodial parent is also responsible or supporting the children, however the assumption on the part of the court is that the custodial parent spends the required amount directly on the children.

The amount of child support will be determined based on the number of children, each parent’s income and the specific custody arrangement of the parents. Although there are state guidelines in place for calculating child support, the judge is allowed to adjust the amount of the amount determined by the guidelines would be unfair to either the parent or the child. 

Same-Sex Marriages - and Divorces - in Vermont

Between July 1, 2000 and September 1, 2009, same-sex couples were allowed, under Vermont’s civil union law, to join in civil union. Under this law, same-sex couples were entitled to almost all the benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage, including the ability to dissolve a civil union in court under the same procedures and laws as any other divorce. Once same-sex couples became entitled to join in a civil marriage, existing civil unions remained in effect and were recognized in the state. Therefore, those who have an existing civil union may dissolve that union, and those same-sex couples who have a civil marriage may file for divorce in the state. 

Additional Resources:  

If you have questions regarding your divorce or legal separation, it can be extremely advantageous to speak to an experienced attorney who can answer all your questions, and guide you through this difficult time, with a goal of the best possible future for you to look forward to. 

Certified Divorce Financial Analysts

Jo Ann Thibault and Associates
457 Mill Pond Rd
Colchester, VT 05446
Phone: (802) 662-4923
Areas Served: Statewide

As a CDFA Jo Ann shows clients different scenario’s so they can make informed financial decisions during the divorce. She also helps then figure out their financial future after their divorce. Call Jo Ann today.

Jo Ann Thibault is a Registered Equity Services, Inc. Representative and Investment Adviser Representative. Securities and investment advisory services are offered solely by Equity Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, 802.864.6819. Jo Ann offers securities, and is also insurance licensed in VT. Jo Ann Thibault & Associates and all other entities are independent of Equity Services, Inc. TC79271(0414)

Parenting Services

Coping with Separation and Divorce program (COPE)

This is a parenting education program offered by UVM Extension in collaboration with the VT Courts Family Division. Parents learn about divorce and separation affect children and ways to ease the transition and avoid some of the pitfalls of co-parenting. The COPE program is often required for parents of minor children who are going through a legal separation or divorce. Call 1-800-545-8920 for more information.

Domestic Abuse Programs

VT Network Against Domestic Violence - Shelters, hotlines and member programs