How to File for Divorce in Vermont

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 How Can You File For a Divorce in Vermont?

The Vermont Judiciary system is a helpful resource that informs you on how to file for a divorce. According to Vermont Courts, you must pay a filing fee to file a divorce case in court. The filing fee may be reduced or waived in the following cases:

  • The filing fee is lower if, at the outset, you and your spouse file an agreement settling all matters. That agreement is called a stipulation;
  • If you receive public assistance, are on a fixed income, or have a low-paying job, you can request the court to waive the filing fee by filing a form. The form is referred to as an Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs;
  • You may have costs in connection with serving the documents on your spouse. If you have children, the court will serve the documents, and you must pay a fee. You can request to waive service fees as part of the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs; and
  • If you have children, you will be mandated to take a course about parenting and divorce.

What are Some Basic Requirements for Filing for Divorce?

There are some basic requirements that Vermont Courts highlight as part of filing for a divorce. First, you must meet the residency requirements. To file for divorce, you or your spouse must have been a resident of Vermont for six months. One of you must have lived continuously in Vermont for at least a year before the final divorce hearing can be held.

Second, you need to satisfy the grounds for divorce. Vermont does allow no-fault divorce. This requires you and your spouse to live separately and apart for at least six consecutive months, and you are not likely to come together. There are other grounds for divorce, but this is one of the most common. You can file for divorce before you separate, as you are separating, or after you separate. You cannot have a final divorce hearing until you have been separated for six months. Living separate and apart means not living as a couple.

Remember that it is possible to do this while living in the same home. You need to sleep in separate rooms and keep your households separate. If you do that, a court may conclude that you have been living separately and apart. You may want to communicate with a lawyer if you are considering living in the same home as your spouse during the divorce process. Living together during a divorce can be challenging for you and your children.

Furthermore, if you have minor children, the court typically will not schedule a final divorce hearing until six months after the divorce starts. Sometimes a judge may permit a final divorce sooner than that. It may happen if you have had a stable and effective parenting agreement for at least six months. The six-month separation period for a no-fault divorce and the six-month parenting period for couples with kids can occur at the same time.

Moreover, people often assume that after the final hearing, they will be divorced, but this is not true. There is a three-month waiting period after the final hearing before the divorce is final. This is called a nisi period. The judge may shorten or waive the nisi period if you both agree to do that. At the end of this period, your divorce will automatically be finalized. You will not receive further orders or communications from the court.

If you have minor children, divorce generally takes at least six months. If you do not have minor children, getting through the process more quickly is possible. That could occur if you separated before either party filed for divorce. The most important factor is how much you and your spouse agree. Things will go faster if the two of you can agree on as much as possible. That includes decisions about parenting, support, debt payment, property division, and other issues. If you ask a judge to decide these issues, the divorce will likely take much longer.

What Documents are Needed for a Divorce?

The Vermont Courts share that necessary documents are needed to file for a divorce In Vermont. The spouse who initiates the divorce by filing papers with the court is referred to as the plaintiff. The spouse who receives the papers is the defendant. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant does not impact the outcome of your case. A complaint is the main form you file to start a divorce case.

There are various ways you can fill out a divorce complaint:

  • You can obtain paper versions of the court forms you need and fill them out by hand;
  • You can complete forms online and print them out when they are done. There are separate forms and instructions for filing for divorce with and without children. If you need assistance getting these forms, you can call or visit your local family court; and
  • The complaint inquires about information regarding you, your spouse, your children, and your marriage. You need to know when and where you were married. Most people request a no-fault divorce. If you do that, you must state the date you and your spouse separated.

The complaint is not the only form you have to fill out. If you have children, you should complete the following:

  • Combined Summons, Complaint for Divorce, Notice of Appearance, and Affidavit of Child Custody;
  • Complaint for Divorce or Legal Separation or Dissolution with Children;
  • Information sheet with basic information about yourself;
  • Health Department information;
  • The first page of the Child Support Order form;
  • Child Support Order;
  • Income and Expense Affidavit;
  • Financial Affidavit;
  • Property and Assets Affidavit; and
  • Financial Affidavit Property and Assets.

You should fill out the following forms if you do not have minor children. It is important to fill them out accurately. You and your spouse must each fill out your own set. You should share family financial records such as investments, monthly bills, car loan papers, tax returns, and credit card debt so that you each understand your family’s finances accurately. You can find more instructions for filling out the financial affidavits online on the Vermont Family Court Website.

Additionally, if you are afraid for your safety, you can file a motion, asking the court to keep your address confidential from your spouse. Your motion must be accompanied by an affidavit describing the facts or events that support your request. Filing means handing in the completed forms to the court. Serving means delivering a copy of the completed forms to your spouse. You have to do both for your case to move forward.

Lastly, file your completed forms with the family division of the Superior Court in the county where you or your spouse reside. You will be requested to pay a filing fee. If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can request the court to consider waiving them, as mentioned earlier. Ensure you maintain a copy of the forms you file with the court.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you reside in Vermont and are dealing with divorce issues, you can contact a local Vermont divorce attorney to assist you with your case. Your lawyer can provide advice, guidance and representation for your legal issue.

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