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Family Division

Civil Union and Marriage Related

Windham District/Family Courthouse

Civil Union Frequently Asked Questions
expand  How do I dissolve my civil union?
Marriage Related
Frequently Asked Questions
expand After the court has issued a Final Divorce Order can you make a change to it?
expand Do I need to file for legal separation before I file for a divorce or civil union dissolution?
No.  A person can file for a divorce (or civil union dissolution) and a divorce can be granted without ever filing for a legal separation.  A legal separation is for those couples who want to live separately, divide all their property, etc., but still want to be married for legal reasons.
expand How are decisions made in a Divorce?
expand How do I prepare for a Contested Hearing on Property Division?
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide all your property, you still mayhave some agreement, which you can put in writing and file with the court before thehearing. With personal property (cars, furniture etc.) you should write a list of whatyou cannot agree upon and what you believe the market value is for each item. Ifyou cannot agree on the market value of cars, boats, or other expensive property,
you may want to get an appraisal and bring the appraiser as a witness to thehearing.
You should prepare what you want to tell to the judge in the same manner as thefactors identified above, starting with how many years you have been married, yourage and health etc. You should bring documentation to court that shows the value ofthe property, such as your house appraisal, bank statements, pension or retirementor other investment statements. You should also bring documentation about the
debts on the property and other debts from your marriage.
expand How does being in the military affect the court process and court orders?
expand How does filing for bankruptcy change my financial obligations in family division?
Filing for bankruptcy does not change the child support obligation; you will still have to pay your child support under the child support order in effect. Filing for bankruptcy also does not generally change alimony or maintenance obligations; you usually will have to continue to pay your alimony or maintenance.
Once a bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court, the Family Division cannot change or modify child support or maintenance payments. This is because the Vermont State courts cannot make any orders, except enforcement of support orders, while the bankruptcy is being handled in Bankruptcy Court.
Filing for bankruptcy can affect a divorce property settlement. Typically, if one spouse owes another spouse some property as part of a divorce order, this property award can be "discharged," or canceled, in bankruptcy. If possible, you should try to make sure that you get a mortgage on any real property that you are awarded, or that you get a security interest in any personal property that is awarded to you in the divorce.
You should consult an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, if you think there is a possibility that your spouse will file for bankruptcy if there are outstanding property and support obligations in a divorce.
Click here for more information.
expand How is a court order for a divorce created?
expand How the Court Decides How the Property Should be Divided:
The court, by law, has to look at several factors to determine how the propertyshould be divided. Those factors are the following:
1. The length of the marriage;
2. The age and health of the parties;
3. The job and source and amount of income of each of the parties;
4. The vocational skills and employability of each spouse;
5. The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increasedearning power of the other;
6. The value of all property interests, liabilities, and needs of each party;
7. Whether the property settlement is to be awarded instead of, or in additionto, spousal maintenance;
8. The opportunity of each party to obtain future capital assets and income;
9. The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live there forreasonable periods to the spouse having custody of the children;
10. The party through whom the property was acquired;
11. The contribution of each spouse in the acquisition, preservation, anddepreciation or appreciation in value of the respective estates, including thenon monetary contribution of a spouse as a homemaker; and
12. The respective merits of the parties. (e.g., whether either party was abusive,or committed adultery, or was an alcoholic).
Which factor may be more or less important depends on the individual case, and the judgedoesnothave to place equal weight on each factor.
expand I am choosing not to hire a lawyer, what will I need to know?
expand My ex, who now lives in Vermont, refuses to send our children home after a 2 week vacation. How do I get the out of state divorce order, which decreed that the children should live with me, enforced in Vermont?
You must send a certified copy of the Final Divorce Order to:
     Deb Laferriere
     Vermont Supreme Court
     109 State Street
     Montpelier, VT 05609-0701
     (802) 828-3204
expand Once the property division is final can it be modified?
expand What happens if a Spouse does not follow a Divorce Order?
NOTE: The following does not apply to failure to follow a relief from abuse order. There are special rules for such orders. (See #10, Divorce and Relief from Abuse)
Failure to follow a divorce order is a serious matter. The court can enforce its own orders through contempt in which the most drastic remedy is jailing the offending spouse. Before the court sends anyone to jail, however, the court will often first attempt to take less drastic steps to get people to do what the order says. The difference between enforcement and contempt is described below.What is a Petition or Motion to Enforce?
A Petition/Motion to Enforce is a written request (you can ask the clerk for a form 823) asking the court to enforce an order. Typically, the Petition or Motion will state the date of the order that you want enforced, what the order says and which part is not being followed. You can ask the court to order the offending spouse to pay your costs for having to file the Petition or Motion to Enforce, and for having to prepare for the hearing and come to the hearing.
You need to attach an affidavit (sworn statement) to the Motion to Enforce which outlines how the other spouse has violated the order The Motion MUST be signed before a notary public.
As with any motion, the other spouse (or ex-spouse) must be served with your Petition or Motion to Enforce, Affidavit and other paperwork before a hearing can be held. (See #25 Serving the Divorce Papers) Some courts will hold a status conference before a hearing is scheduled.
 What Happens at an Enforcement Hearing?
The judge or magistrate will ask what part of the order has not been followed, and why. If possible, attempts will be made to work out the problems so that the order is followed. If the judge or magistrate has to order enforcement, the judge may also order that the costs and attorney's fees of the person who had to ask the court for help be paid by the person who did not follow the court order.
 What is Contempt?
Contempt is willful disobedience of a court order when the obligated spouse has the ability or the capacity to comply with the order. If a spouse, or former spouse, has done everything possible to do what the order requires, the Court will not find the spouse in contempt. But if the Court determines that the spouse willfully failed to comply and had the capacity to comply, the Court may jail the spouse until such time as she or he complies with the order. Contempt is the last resort to make a spouse or former spouse follow court orders. Contempt is a matter with severe consequences. Motions for contempt are heard by the Family Court Judge.
(Please note that even if a non-custodial parent fails to pay court ordered child support, that is NOT a basis to refuse the parent parent-child contact. Conversely, if a custodial parent refuses to honor the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights, that is also not a basis for the non-custodial parent to stop paying child support. To do either of these things will place you in danger of being found in contempt by the court.)
expand What Property Can the Court Divide?
expand What should I do if I need a lawyer and/or legal advice?
Court staff cannot provide legal advice, so we refer you to the resources below:
Vermont Legal Aid provides legal assistance to many low income, elderly and disabled families. Call them at 1-800-889-2047 for more information.
You can find information about family law and how to find an attorney at
The Vermont Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (1-800-639-7036) can give you the names of lawyers in your area who handle divorce matters.
Many lawyers will help you by counseling you and providing information and advice while you represent yourself.
expand Who Decides How the Property Should be Divided:
expand Whose responsibility is it to pay for debts my spouse and I have which we are both responsible for? Such as a bank or family loans, credit cards, medical bills or utility bills.
Your divorce does not make either spouse free from the financial responsibility incurred while you were married. If a creditor cannot collect the debt from one of the spouses, the creditor can sue the other spouse for the debt.
Cars may be repossessed and homes lost through bank foreclosure unless the spouses make a responsible and timely plan for how the debts will be paid off. Unpaid debts could result in both ex-spouses having a bad credit report and the loss of future credit.
Spouses in a divorce may protect themselves by refinancing loans so that only one spouse will be liable on the debt. If you have debts which cannot be refinanced, carefully worded agreements which address in detail which spouse is responsible for repayment of the loan including the interest on the loan, the amounts to be repaid and over what periods of time, can provide protection for both spouses. Consult an attorney if you are unsure of how you can protect your financial interest.

Civil Union and Marriage Related Information

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