Ending a marriage is stressful and trying, especially if you have children. This information can help guide you through the legal process of a Vermont divorce.

Lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you make the best decisions. They may be able to help you find practical solutions to the challenges you face. Talking to a lawyer is especially important if:

  • There are complex property issues
  • Either party has a pension or retirement account
  • You and your spouse disagree about your children
  • There is a history of domestic abuse
  • You or your spouse do not live in Vermont

You may represent yourself in a divorce. The decision to represent yourself is for you to make. Even if you don’t hire a lawyer to represent you in court, you can learn a lot by talking with one early in the divorce process. Some lawyers charge only a small fee for initial advice that is usually very general.

If there has been abuse during the marriage, you may want support from a domestic violence program. For the one nearest you, call 1-800-228-7395, or visit www.vtnetwork.org.

You may also be able to get help with child support issues by visiting the Office of Child Support website.

Apart from the legal issues, you and your children (if you have any) should be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Families Change is a guide to separation and divorce. The interactive tool has age-appropriate information for young children, teenagers, and adults.

When a Party Serves in the Military

The law protects parents who are on active duty in the military. Sometimes the court postpones or suspends hearings until the service member can take part. This is so that service members can devote their full attention to their duties.

If a parent is absent because of active military duty, the judge may make temporary decisions. This includes parental rights and responsibilities, and child support.

The law also protects reservists and members of the National Guard while they are on active duty.

Civil Union and Dissolution

Between July 1, 2000 and September 1, 2009, same-sex couples could join in civil union pursuant to Vermont's civil union law. That law extended almost all of the benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage to same-sex couples joined in civil union. These benefits included the ability to dissolve a civil union in court using the same procedures and laws as for divorce. When same-sex couples gained access to full civil marriage in 2009, couples could no longer join in civil union. However, existing civil unions remained in effect. Those civil unions continue to be recognized in Vermont, and couples joined in civil union have access to Vermont's family court in the event that they break up. This section addresses the legal procedures for dissolving a civil union if either party is a Vermont resident, and for dissolving a civil union if neither party lives in Vermont.

Annulment

An annulment means that the court has decided your marriage was never valid. You will need to provide a legal reason for the annulment. After the judge reviews the case, the process for preparing and holding a hearing is similar to divorce and parentage cases.

Divorce Process: From First Filing Through Appeal

This section walks you through the divorce process from start to finish. The purpose is to give you a general overview. You can click on links to more in-depth information on particular topics throughout this section. Special considerations may apply if you or your spouse are serving in the military, have filed a relief from abuse complaint, or have agreed on all issues before either of you files a divorce complaint (this is called a stipulated divorce).

Financial Issues in Divorce

Your divorce case will resolve a number of financial issues. These are in addition to child support and financial issues involving your children. In particular, your final divorce order will:

  • Divide your financial assets, including pension plans, retirement accounts, and deferred compensation plans
  • Determine which of you will pay which debts that you and your spouse have, whether individually or as a couple
  • Divide your real and personal property
  • Determine whether any spousal support (alimony) will be required

You will need to understand your own finances in going through a divorce. And you will need to understand how the court will approach the financial issues if you and your spouse cannot agree.

Modifying and Enforcing Divorce Orders

This section covers the process and standards for changing, or modifying, an order in a divorce, and for enforcing a final order.

Divorce, Civil Union Dissolution, and Relief From Abuse

This section deals with special issues that arise when there is a relief from abuse case at the same time as a divorce or dissolution case. You can find more information about relief from abuse cases here.

Stipulated Divorce or Civil Union Dissolution

You and your spouse may agree on all of the issues in your divorce or civil union dissolution before you ever go to court. If that happens, and you are able to stipulate (agree) to all of the necessary terms, you can file your divorce or civil union dissolution action for a reduced filing fee. Stipulation is another word for agreement. This page describes the process for filing for a divorce or civil union dissolution when you agree on all issues before you go to court.