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.

Dissolution of a Civil Union for Vermont Residents

Vermont's domestic relations law applies to civil unions. This includes annulment, separation, divorce, child custody and support, and property division and maintenance.

A civil union dissolution follows the same procedures as divorce. And parties to a civil union are subject to the same rights and obligations as parties to a civil marriage. That means that one of you has to be a Vermont resident for six months before either of you can file a civil union dissolution complaint. And one of you has to be a Vermont resident for at least 12 months before you can get a final order dissolving your civil union. There is an exception to this for certain nonresident civil union dissolutions. This is addressed in the next section.

If you or your civil union partner is a Vermont resident, you can dissolve your civil union in the family division of the Superior Court in your county. Follow the instructions on this site concerning divorce. The one difference is that some of the forms are different from the divorce forms.

As with divorce, you can use a tool called CourtFormPrep to prepare a Civil Union Dissolution Complaint. You can also use it to prepare your Answer to a Civil Union Dissolution Complaint (form for couples with kids and form for couples without kids). This tool will ensure that you get the proper forms. You must print them out and sign them before filing. You must have your dissolution complaint notarized.

If you don't use CourtFormPrep, you will need to use the civil union forms for the complaint, answer, and health department record.

If you and your partner are joined in civil union and legally married, then you will need to ask the court to grant you a divorce and a civil union dissolution if you end your relationship.

Dissolution of a Civil Union for Non-Residents

Some couples who have joined in civil union in Vermont face challenges ending their relationships in their home states. For that reason, Vermont has created a limited exception for its residency requirement for civil union dissolutions and divorce. That exception applies when:

  • The civil union was established in Vermont.
  • Neither party's state of residence recognizes the civil union for purposes of dissolution.
  • No minor children were born or adopted during the civil union.
  • The parties together file a complaint for dissolution along with a stipulation, or agreement, that resolves all issues in the dissolution.

You must both sign the stipulation, which should state the following:

  • The terms of the agreement can be incorporated into a final order dissolving the civil union.
  • No minor children were born or adopted during the civil union.
  • Neither party's residence recognizes the civil union for the purpose of dissolution.
  • The civil union was established in Vermont.
  • The parties agree that grounds for dissolution exist (usually that the parties have lived apart for at least six months and there is no reasonable probability of resuming their relationship in civil union).
  • If either party wants to contest any of the issues relating to the dissolution, one of them must meet Vermont's residency requirement for civil union dissolutions and divorce.
  • Neither party is the subject of an abuse prevention order with the other party.
  • Each party has entered into the stipulation freely and voluntarily.
  • The parties have exchanged all financial information, including income, assets, and liabilities

In addition, the agreement should resolve all outstanding issues involving property or support. You can spell out who gets what personal or real property. If both of you currently possess the property you intend to keep after the dissolution, you can say that. If you agree that neither party has any obligation to provide ongoing financial support to the other, you can say that. You can use the court form  for this stipulation.

You should file your papers in the family division of the Superior Court in the county where you filed the civil union certificate when you joined in civil union. You should file the following required documents:

You will have to include a filing fee. (Look under Family Division Fees under Filing for entry of divorce, annulment, or dissolution of civil union or legal separation)  

The court generally signs an order without a hearing. But the court may schedule a hearing if it concludes that the filing is incomplete or if it wants to clarify a provision of your agreement. The court hearing is generally done by telephone unless one or both of you choose to appear in person.