Vermont Divorce Basics

Get started here to learn about divorce laws in Vermont.

Vermont allows couples to file for divorce based on either fault or no-fault grounds. The fault grounds are: adultery, a prison sentence of three years or more, intolerable severity, willful desertion for at least seven years, incurable insanity, or the refusal to support the other spouse by a spouse who has the ability to provide support.

Grounds for Divorce

Vermont allows couples to file for divorce based on either fault or no-fault grounds. The fault grounds are: adultery, a prison sentence of three years or more, intolerable severity, willful desertion for at least seven years, incurable insanity, or the refusal to support the other spouse by a spouse who has the ability to provide support.

The only no-fault ground for divorce in Vermont is living separate and apart from your spouse for at least six months. The court will allow the divorce to proceed if it finds that resuming the marriage is not likely.

Vermont recognizes marriage equality; same-sex couples may marry there and divorce there, and same-sex couples who married in another marriage equality state may also get divorced in Vermont if they meet the residency requirements.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

A couple may file for divorce in Vermont if either of the spouses has been a resident of the state for at least six months. However, in order to obtain the final decree of divorce, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least one year.

There is a mandatory waiting period, which Vermont refers to as the “nisi period.” A couple must wait at least three months after the divorce papers are filed before the divorce can be finalized.

Property Division  

Vermont is an equitable distribution state, meaning that at divorce, the court will divide marital property equitably (in other words, fairly but not necessarily equally) between the two spouses. Any property that either spouse brought into the marriage or acquired through separate gifts or inheritances will remain that spouse's separate property and will not be subject to division.

When making an order for property division, the court evaluates the following factors: the length of the marriage, the occupation and income of each spouse, each spouse’s contribution to the other’s education and training, how each property was acquired, and the respective merits of the parties. The court may also award the family home for a certain period of time to the parent having custody of the children.

Alimony

Either spouse can request rehabilitative or permanent spousal support payments from the other spouse. In making a decision about alimony, the court would look at each spouse’s resources and needs, the standard of living that was established during the marriage, how long the marriage lasted, and each spouse’s emotional and physical condition.

The court may order rehabilitative alimony for a short period of time so that the supported spouse can become self sufficient through education or training. Permanent spousal support can last for an indefinite period of time, or it can be a large lump sum amount paid at the time of the divorce.

Child Support

The Vermont child support guidelines require the court to take each parent’s monthly gross income into consideration. This income would then be adjusted to deduct taxes, any pre-existing child support, and health insurance for the child. In addition to paying monthly child support, the judge might order one or both parents to provide health insurance for the child.

The court  has the discretion to adjust the guideline child support amount by balancing the child and parents’ financial resources and needs, the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed if the parents had not gotten divorced, and whether there are any extraordinary travel expenses related to maintaining the parent and child relationship. By looking at these different factors, the court has the discretion to make an order that does not follow the guidelines.

Parents can find out more information about child support calculations at the website for the Office of Child Support, here.

Child Custody

When faced with a child custody determination, the Vermont court will use the best interests of the child standard. The court will look at several different factors, including the child’s relationship to each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child, the child's adjustment to each environment, and the ability of the parents to work together cooperatively.

If there is a substantial change in circumstances, either parent may ask the court to modify the custody order, as long as the change is in the best interest of the child.

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