If you're considering ending your marriage in Vermont, you probably have questions about where to begin. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the divorce process in Vermont and walks you through all the necessary steps to resolve your case as efficiently as possible.
To begin your Vermont divorce case, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months. Furthermore, Vermont family law courts will not grant a final decree of divorce until one of you has lived in the state for a period of one year. This means you can file your initial paperwork after six months, but you must wait at least a year before your case is finalized.
Vermont is a mixed grounds states, which means it allows both no-fault and fault-based divorce. Many couples prefer no-fault divorce, because it allows you to file without addressing the specific reasons why your marriage ended. Instead, you simply state that you have lived apart for at least six months and that the marriage can't be salvaged.
The state also permits divorces based on fault. If one or both sides wish to pursue a fault-based divorce complaint, Vermont allows the following grounds:
To start your case, you must file a number of forms. If you prefer a do-it-yourself divorce, the majority of the required documents are available on the Vermont Judiciary's website. The state requires the following forms:
There are two variations of the combined summons, complaint, and notice of appearance form: one with children and one without. If you have kids under the age of 18, you must choose the slightly longer form and provide information about them. Additionally, if you and your spouse agree on all the issues related to the divorce, you can speed up the hearing process by filing additional forms. In addition to the documents above, you must file:
Once you have gathered the required forms, you can either file them in your own county or the county in which your spouse resides. If both sides already agree to all issues and the divorce is uncontested, you will pay a reduced filing fee.
Vermont law requires the filing spouse to "serve" copies of all divorce documents on the opposing party. Known as "service of process," this allows the other person to file a response or counterclaim.
There are several acceptable service methods under Vermont law. If your spouse consents to the divorce, he or she can sign an Acceptance of Service form, which is then filed with the court. This method allows you to personally hand-deliver the documents to the other side. You can also serve the forms via certified mail, first class mail, or sheriff's service. If you choose to use first class mail, you must include an Acknowledgement Form, which is filed with the court after your spouse signs it.
If you can't find your ex, Vermont law also allows you to place an advertisement in a newspaper, notifying him or her about the divorce case. In Vermont, "service by publication" requires you to place the ad in a newspaper that circulates in your spouse's last-known community. You must also pay for the ad to run for three consecutive weeks.
Under Vermont law, both sides must exchange financial information. If you wish to expedite your case, you can file the Affidavit of Income and Assets along with your initial paperwork. Otherwise, this form is filed sometime between the opening of the case and the final hearing.