Divorce can be one of the most challenging experiences in a person's life—for everyone involved. However, some divorces are far more amicable, faster, and easier than others. Contrary to popular belief, your divorce doesn't have to become the plot of a dramatic television series because, in Vermont, you may qualify for an "uncontested' divorce.
Vermont's uncontested divorce process allows spouses to reach an agreement on all issues in their divorce and avoid the headache and stress of attending a trial before a judge.
This article provides a general overview of the uncontested divorce process in Vermont. If you still have questions about obtaining a divorce in Vermont, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Regardless of where you live, a "traditional" divorce can be emotionally and financially draining. It's common for couples to fight throughout the process, which often requires each spouse to hire expensive divorce attorneys. Additionally, if you can't agree on how to settle issues like custody and support, the judge will do it for you (and you may not like the result.) Traditional divorces can take years to settle, require you to miss work for court hearings, and can ruin long term relationships with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
On the contrary, an uncontested divorce is a process that eliminates arguments, reduces time in court, and saves a significant amount of money for each spouse. Uncontested divorces are generally less expensive and quicker than traditional because you're not required to "fight it out" in court. Every state requires a filing fee to begin the divorce process.
In Vermont, the filing fee for an uncontested divorce is less than if you file a traditional "contested" divorce. An uncontested divorce is available for all couples in Vermont, including those who have minor children, if you meet the state's requirements.
The most important requirement of an uncontested divorce is that you and your spouse agree on all issues in your divorce, including child custody, visitation, and child support. If you agree, you can submit a request for the expedited divorce process.
If you and your spouse disagree on any issue in the divorce, then the court considers your divorce "contested" and will require a trial where a judge will decide the unresolved issues in your case.
If you're interested in filing for an uncontested divorce in Vermont, you and your spouse must agree on each of the following divorce-related issues:
Although the divorce process varies depending on the type of case you're filing (legal separation, annulment, or divorce", every divorce filing must first meet the state's residency requirement. In Vermont, you must demonstrate that at least one spouse has been a resident for at least 6 months. Additionally, one of you must have lived continuously in Vermont for at least one year before the final divorce hearing. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 592 (a))
To file for an uncontested divorce, you'll need to agree with your spouse on all divorce-related issues (listed above.) Additionally, you must provide a written statement to the court resolving child custody, child support, and alimony issues. If you don't have children, you will need to provide a statement to the court that you are not requesting any support or custody services.
If you meet the above criteria, you may proceed with your uncontested divorce by filing the required forms (explained below) and paying the filing fee. The Vermont Court System offers extensive information, including costs, steps to take, and how to file for a divorce, on its Vermont Judiciary website.
If you plan to file for divorce without the help of an attorney, you will be responsible for filing the right documents with the proper court. Vermont's family courts oversee all divorce cases and trials. It's critical that you file your paperwork in the right family court. Typically, you'll file in the court in the county where you live. However, if you and your spouse reside in different counties, you can submit your paperwork in either location. (Va. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 593)
The Vermont Judiciary offers online forms for completing an uncontested divorce available on the court website or in hard copy at your local courthouse. You must include the following documents when you submit your paperwork to the court:
If you and your spouse have children together under the age of 18, then the following forms must be filed as well:
You can complete the forms online using CourtFormPrep, which is an online tool provided by Vermont's Legal Help website, to help you fill out the complaint. You can also download the forms from the website, complete them on your computer, and print them to bring to the court.
Depending on where you live, the court may require you to complete forms in addition to those listed above. To make sure that you submit all the forms your judge requires, contact your local court clerk to verify what you need to bring with you before you file. If you don't submit everything necessary, the judge may dismiss your complaint, and you'll need to start over from the beginning.
Unlike some other states, Vermont does not have a set timeline on how long spouses have to wait for a divorce. However, before the court can schedule your final divorce hearing, you and your spouse must submit all the required paperwork. If you've agreed to everything in your divorce, the court will schedule a final uncontested divorce hearing. Unlike a traditional divorce trial, which involves exhibits, witnesses, and testimony, a final uncontested divorce hearing is relatively simple.
During the hearing, you will need to tell the judge that you and your spouse meet the residency requirements, you lived in the county where you filed for divorce (when you filed), you and your spouse agree on all divorce-related issues, and your reason (ground) for divorce. In Vermont, you can request a divorce if you can prove that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for a minimum of 6 months and that there is no chance for reconciliation. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 551 (7))
If you have minor children, you'll also need to explain the terms of your custody and visitation and child support agreement.
At the end of your hearing, if the court finds that you've met all the requirements, the judge will sign a final divorce order. Both spouses must complete an "acceptance of service-family division" form, which you can find at the clerk's office. Give the signed form to the clerk before you leave the courthouse. If either spouse fails to sign the form, the court can't finalize the divorce.
In Vermont, your divorce isn't final until 90-days after the judge signs the final divorce order. The state calls this a "nisi" period. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, § 554) The judge can waive the nisi period if both spouses request it, or if the court believes it is appropriate. However, neither spouse can remarry until the judge signs the final divorce order, and the nisi period expires.
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in Vermont, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on uncontested divorces in Vermont, see Vermont Statutes, Title 15, Chapter 11, Subchapter 2.