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. Some exceptions apply to the one-year rule for couples married (including common law marriage) in Vermont, who do not have minor children, and who have agreed on all aspects of their divorce. See 15 V.S.A. § 592 (2019).
Vermont allows both no-fault and fault-based divorces. Many couples prefer no-fault divorce, because it allows you to file for divorce without addressing the specific reasons why your marriage ended. No-fault divorces tend to be quicker and less expensive. In a no-fault divorce, you can simply state that you have lived separately 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. In Vermont, you must file 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 include information about your children.
In addition to the documents listed above, couples with children must also file the following:
The information you provide will assist a judge in dividing property, deciding child support, and determining the custody arrangement best suited to your child's needs.
Once you've gathered the required forms, you can either file them in your own county or the county in which your spouse resides. There is a filing fee required to begin a divorce. If you're unable to afford the court's fee, you may file a request for the court to waive fees based on financial need.
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 respond to a divorce complaint and avoid being unfairly surprised.
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 the 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.
Vermont has different service requirements for divorcing couples with children and for couples without. Specifically, the court clerk serves (delivers) the summons and complaint on the other parent. At the time you file your case, the clerk will ask how you want your spouse served. If you don't make a specific request, the clerk will serve your spouse by certified mail.
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. It's important to disclose all accounts and assets in your divorce case. There are serious consequences for a spouse who attempts to hide assets or misrepresents financial information in a divorce.
Vermont Legal Aid provides free legal assistance to needy Vermont residents who qualify. Vermont Legal Aid also maintains the Vermont Legal Help website with an extensive family law forms database and additional information about the divorce process.
For more information or assistance, you can contact Vermont's legal help line at 1-800-889-2047 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.