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Vermont Divorce Laws

Deciding to end your marriage may be the hardest thing you ever do. Nobody gets married thinking they’ll get divorced. The sad truth is that many marriages don’t work out. If you’re considering divorce, becoming familiar with Vermont divorce law is a good idea.

Many petitioners feel overwhelmed by the Vermont divorce process. This is why many people hire a seasoned Vermont divorce lawyer to handle their case. Vermont divorce attorneys are familiar with the law and the local court rules. They also have the skills and experience to negotiate a fair marital settlement agreement.

Here, we’ll discuss Vermont's divorce laws and the divorce process in Vermont. You’ll find a chart below that highlights the crucial provisions in Vermont’s Domestic Relations Code. There are also helpful links where you’ll find additional information on divorce in general.

Legal Requirements for a Vermont Divorce

The State of Vermont is strict regarding the legal requirements for divorce. Like every other state, Vermont has residency requirements for divorce. However, Vermont’s laws are more complex than most other states.

To file for divorce in Vermont, you must have lived in-state for at least six months. This isn’t unusual. The challenging part is that Vermont law also requires that you be a state resident for at least one year before the judge can issue your final divorce decree.

This is unusual because the waiting period for a Vermont divorce is only three months. The Vermont Judiciary refers to this time as the “nisi period.” This means the judge may be ready to issue your final judgment for divorce before you meet the one-year residency requirement.

In such cases, you and your spouse can waive the waiting period. If you do this, the judge can hold your final court hearing before the one year is up.

Finally, you must pay the requisite filing fee to file for divorce in Vermont. If you cannot afford this fee, you can request a waiver from the court.

No-Fault Divorce and Fault-Based Divorce

Most people who file a complaint for divorce opt for a no-fault divorce case. With a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to accuse your spouse of marital misconduct. Under Vermont law, a plaintiff can file a no-fault divorce if they cite irreconcilable differences in their complaint.

You can also file a fault-based divorce case in Vermont. The State of Vermont recognizes the following traditional grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Imprisonment for more than three years
  • Six-month separation
  • Willful desertion, or absence of more than seven years and has not been heard from
  • Intolerable severity, extreme cruelty, or neglect
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Persistent financial neglect of the other spouse despite the ability to provide for them

You must cite the specific grounds for divorce in your fault-based divorce complaint. You must also submit proof of the alleged behavior.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Vermont

Another decision you must make is whether you’ll file an uncontested or contested divorce. The courts resolve uncontested divorce cases a lot faster than contested cases. The actual terminology used by the Vermont courts is a Stipulation for Divorce. With an uncontested divorce action, the parties have already agreed to the material divorce terms.

You and your spouse must live separately for at least six months before filing a stipulated divorce. You must also prepare and sign a stipulation for the divorce terms. Your settlement agreement must address the following:

You must also submit specific court forms when you file your stipulated divorce papers. For example, your spouse must submit a signed acceptance of service form and a signed stipulation agreement.

With a contested divorce, the parties disagree on the divorce terms. Once you file your complaint for divorce, the court will schedule your case manager conference. This conference involves both spouses and their divorce attorneys, if applicable.

The goal of this conference is to negotiate a settlement agreement. If this doesn’t work, the court will schedule your hearing to decide any unresolved issues.

Alimony and Spousal Support

If you expect to receive spousal maintenance, you must demand it in your original complaint for divorce. Your spouse has the right to challenge this. If you cannot agree on a fair alimony arrangement, the court will decide this issue for you.

The court considers traditional factors when determining alimony. Primarily, the court considers the following:

  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Financial resources of both parties
  • Earning capacity of the receiving spouse
  • Age and physical and emotional condition of both spouses
  • Child custody and child support
  • Education and employment history of the receiving spouse

There’s no guarantee that the court will grant you alimony. Your divorce attorney must convince the judge that it’s fair to both parties.

Child Custody and Child Support

The family division of the Vermont court focuses on the best interest of the child. Optimally, both parents should have a say in their children’s welfare. However, the court doesn’t presume joint legal or physical custody is in the child's best interest. This is something the parties should work out together.

If you cannot agree on child custody, the court will decide based on the child's best interests. Usually, the court will award some form of joint physical custody, with each parent having the kids at least 30% of the time.

The courts use the state’s child support guidelines to determine how much support the non-custodial parent must pay.

Property Division in a Vermont Divorce Case

Vermont is an equitable distribution state. The Vermont Judiciary will divide your marital debts and assets as they see fit. Rarely will the courts divide your property 50/50. Instead, the judge will do their best to split the marital properties reasonably and logically.

If there are no minor children, selling the marital home and splitting the proceeds may make the most sense. The judge may allow one party to buy out the other party’s interest in the marital home.

According to Vermont law, the courts will deem the following marital property to be divided by the court, regardless of how the property is titled:

  • Real estate
  • Personal property (cars, art, etc.)
  • Family pets
  • Retirement accounts
  • Pension plans
  • Bank accounts

Both parties must submit financial affidavits when they file their complaint/answer. The courts will rely on this information for equitable distribution purposes.

Vermont Divorce Laws: At a Glance

The following table outlines the basic divorce laws in Vermont. See Details on State Requirements for DivorceDivorce and Out-of-Court Proceedings: Alternative Dispute Resolution, and An Overview of Fault and No-Fault Divorce Law to learn more.

Vermont Divorce Code Section

Title 15, Chapter 11, Subchapter 2 of the Vermont Statutes

Residency Requirements

Six months before commencing the action and one year before the final hearing. Two years before commencing an action for grounds of permanent mental or psychiatric incapacity

Waiting Period

Three months (nisi period)

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

Separation (six months)

Defenses to a Divorce Filing


Other Grounds for Divorce

Adultery; intolerable severity; desertion (for seven years); nonsupport; incurable insanity (confined for five years); conviction of crime with imprisonment (for three years)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, higher court rulings, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information, please consult an attorney or conduct legal research to verify your state’s laws.

A Skilled Vermont Divorce Attorney Can Help

Every divorce in Vermont is unique. While some issues are common to most divorce cases, every situation differs. Understanding Vermont divorce law can be challenging. It becomes even more difficult when you’re dealing with the emotional distress of a divorce. That's why it's important to retain an experienced Vermont divorce lawyer.

Not only will your divorce attorney represent you in court, but they’ll also work hard to negotiate a fair marital settlement agreement. They know the laws and are familiar with the family courts. Visit Findlaw’s attorney directory to find a family law attorney near you.

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