In Vermont, divorce is defined as the dissolution of marriage or civil union. Couples can opt for legal separation rather than divorce. Legal separation has the same effect as divorce, except the parties cannot remarry. Grounds for legal separation as well as the proceedings are the same as divorce. It is enforced by formal agreement or court order. Further, a legal separation can last for an unspecified length of time. 

To obtain a divorce, the couple must show they have lived apart for at least six months by the time of the final divorce hearing. A couple meets this requirement even if they remain in the same household, so long as they cease their marital relationship.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce? 

At least one spouse must live in Vermont for a petition for divorce to be filed. In addition, either spouse must have lived in the state for one year by the time of the final divorce hearing. An exception to the residency requirement exists for couples who entered a civil union or same sex marriage in Vermont. They can obtain a divorce if their civil union or marriage is not recognized in their current state of residence.

You have several options for completing a petition for divorce. You can visit CourtFormPrep, a website with online tools to help you complete the necessary forms, or you can go directly to the forms and fill them out online. Paper versions of the forms are also available at your local Superior Court – Family Division. Forms are filed with the Superior Court – Family Division in the county where either spouse lives. The petitioner can serve the documents on the other spouse by mail or sheriff. If your divorce is complicated or contested, or you are just unsure how to proceed, you may want to hire a lawyer.

Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property

Unlike community property states where property acquired during the marriage is typically divided equally in divorce proceedings, Vermont, an equitable distribution state, divides property “equitably.”  This means the court will divide the property based on what is fair, which is not always a 50/50 split. And unlike community property states, an individual’s property acquired before marriage is not protected, nor is a gift of inheritance.

The court will look at several factors, including length of the marriage, employability, earning capacity, each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of marital property, and whether one spouse contributed to the education or career training of the other spouse.  

What Should You Do If There are Children Involved?

The battle over child custody and support can become highly emotional, and the parties involved may need a lawyer to help resolve sensitive issues. If parents agree on the issues regarding their children’s care, a court will likely make their agreement a court order. However, when the issues are contested, the court will decide by applying the “best interest” of the child standard. Vermont uses a guideline to calculate child support, which takes into account both parents’ incomes, child care costs, and time spent with each parent.

Do You Need to Pay Alimony?

Either spouse may request alimony from the other. The court will consider income, assets, and the reasonable needs of each spouse. When the spouses cannot agree, the goal of the court may be to make them both self-sustaining. Whether you can obtain alimony is a major issue in divorce and should be discussed early with your lawyer.

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Divorce can be messy and very stressful, but you can get the professional help you need to ease the process. If you are considering filing for divorce, or you have been served with divorce papers, it’s in your best interest to contact a local Vermont divorce lawyer today.