This page provides a general overview of the divorce process from start to finish. 

Special considerations may apply if either party is serving in the military, if there is a relief from abuse case involving the parties, or if the parties are in complete agreement on all issues.

 

Not finding what you're looking for? Email us: jud.selfhelp@vermont.gov.

Costs and Timeline

Costs

When you file a divorce case in court you have to pay a filing fee (Select Family Division Fees, Filing for entry of divorce, annulment or dissolution of civil union or legal separation). 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. For information about how to file for a stipulated divorce, click here
  • If you receive public assistance, are on a fixed income, or have a low-paying job, you can ask the court to waive the filing fee by filing a form. The form is called an Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs. If you qualify and the court approves your application, you won’t have to pay the fee. See the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs web page for more information. 

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 will have to pay a fee for that. You can ask to waive service fees as part of the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs.

If you have children, you will be required to take a course about parenting and divorce. There is a fee for this course.

 

Timeline

Several timing issues come into play in a divorce.

  • Residency: 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.
  • Grounds for divorce: Vermont allows a no-fault divorce. That requires that you and your spouse live separate and apart for at least six consecutive months and that you are not likely to get back together. There are other grounds for divorce, but this is the most common.
    • You can file for divorce before you separate, as you are separating, or after you separate. You can't have a final divorce hearing until you've been separated for six months.
    • Living separate and apart means not living as a couple. 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 separate and apart. You may want to talk to a lawyer if you are considering living in the same home as your spouse during the divorce process. Living together while you are going through a divorce can be very difficult for you and your children.
  • Minor children: If you have minor children, the court usually won't schedule a final divorce hearing until six months after the divorce starts. Sometimes a judge may allow 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 run at the same time.

People often assume that after the final hearing they will be divorced; 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 become final. You won't get any more orders or communications from the court.

If you have minor children, your divorce will usually take at least six months. If you don’t have minor children, it’s possible to get through the process more quickly. That could happen 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 for you, the divorce will likely take much longer.

Parties Agree (Stipulation)

A stipulation is an agreement between the parties to all of the terms of the divorce.

  • You may be in complete agreement at the start of the case.
  • You may come to an agreement at any time during your case with the help of a mediator or your case manager, or on your own.

A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you reach agreement on the issues in your divorce case. The Family Mediation Program web page has information about the program and a list of mediators. In some cases, the judge may require parties to meet with a mediator before the case can move ahead.

If you start your divorce case with a stipulation, the filing fee is less. The cost to file without a stipulation is $295. The cost to file with a stipulation is $90. If the judge doesn't approve your stipulation, you may be required to pay the higher filing fee.

Even if you are in complete agreement, the judge will review the paperwork to make sure everything complies with Vermont law, and to make sure you meet all the requirements to be divorced in Vermont.

 

If you and the other party agree about everything, these forms must be filed in addition to the other forms needed for the divorce:

  Signed by the defendant

  • Acceptance of Service (form 600-00028)

  and one of these (depending on whether the parties have minor children):

  • Notice of Appearance, Answer to the Complaint and Counterclaim (without children-Defendant) (form 400-00837 (without Children))
  • Answer to Complaint (with children) (form 400-00837 (with Children))

  Signed by both parties

  • Final Stipulation –  Property, Debt and Spousal Support (form 400-00878).
  • If you have minor children together:
  • If you meet certain requirements, you can ask to waive the final hearing and grant the final divorce or civil union dissolution using the Stipulation and Motion to Waive Final Hearing (form 400-00841). This option is not available if the an abuse prevention order in effect involving the parties.
  • There is a 90-day waiting period after the final hearing before the divorce is final. This is called the nisi period. One of the sections in the Final Stipulation –  Property, Debt and Spousal Support (form 400-00878) asks whether you would like to waive or shorten the nisi period. There may be insurance or tax reasons for not asking to waive or shorten the nisi period.

You can find all of these forms at the bottom of the Divorce web page

 

Your stipulation will specify:

  • Who will live in the marital home. If the parties own the home, whether it will be sold, how the proceeds or debt will be split, and who will be responsible for expenses in the meantime.
  • Who gets which assets. This includes bank accounts, personal property, retirement accounts, cars and trucks, and valued possessions.
  • Who will be responsible for which debts, including credit card debts. Even if one of you agrees to be responsible for paying a debt, the creditor may pursue payment of a joint debt from both of you.
  • Whether one party will pay spousal maintenance to the other. Spousal maintenance is also called spousal support or alimony.

If you have minor children with the other party, your stipulation will also specify:

  • Legal responsibility: Who will make major decisions about medical issues, education, and religious upbringing.
  • Physical responsibility: Where the children will live.
  • Parent-child contact: How much time will the children spend with each parent.
  • Child support: Vermont law requires parents to support their children. The amount of child support calculated using the child support guidelines. Your stipulation must include a copy of the child support worksheet, which you can generate using the Child Support Calculator. You can find more information about calculating child support on the Child Support web page.

You can find information about these topics on the Judiciary's website:

 

Don't sign stipulation forms if you don't agree

Only sign the stipulation forms if you completely understand and completely agree with what you're signing.

If you have questions or concerns, or are feeling pressured or forced to sign something, consider talking to an attorney. The Finding Legal Help web page has information about the ways to get the help of an attorney.

Starting a Divorce Case

Completing the Divorce Complaint

The spouse who starts the divorce by filing papers with the court is called the plaintiff. The spouse who receives the papers is the defendant. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant does not affect the outcome of your case.

The main form you file to start a divorce case is called a complaint. The complaint is not the only form you have to fill out. There are two ways you can fill out the forms for a divorce:

  • You can fill out the forms online and print them when you are done. There are different forms for filing for divorce with children and for divorce without children. You can find forms in the Forms section of the Divorce web page.
  • You can get paper versions of the forms from the court and fill them out by hand.

The complaint asks for information about you, your spouse, your children, and your marriage. You need to know when and where you were married. It will also ask you if you would like to be restored to a former name.

Most people ask for a no-fault divorce. If you do that, you need to provide the date you and your spouse separated.

 

If you have minor children with the other party, fill out the following:

  • Combined Summons, Complaint for Divorce, Notice of Appearance, and Affidavit of Child Custody (Form 400-00836 with children)
  • Information sheet with basic information about yourself (Form 800)
  • Health Department information
  • First page of the Child Support Order form (Form 400-00802)
  • Financial Affidavit - Income and Expenses (Form 400-00813A)
  • Financial Affidavit - Property and Assets (Form 400-00813B)

 

If you do not have minor children with the other party, fill out the following:

  • Combined Summons, Complaint for Divorce and Notice of Appearance (Form 400-00836 without children)
  • Information sheet with basic information about yourself (Form 800)
  • Health Department information

You may also have to fill out the Income and Expense and Property and Assets financial affidavits if your spouse requests them or the court orders you to do that:

  • Financial Affidavit - Income and Expenses (Form 400-00813A)
  • Financial Affidavit - Property and Assets (Form 400-00813B)

 

The financial affidavits take some time to complete. It’s 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 have an accurate picture of your family’s finances. 

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. You can find these forms in the Forms section of the Divorce web page.

 

Filing and Serving the Forms

Filing means giving the completed forms to the court. Serving means delivering a copy of the completed forms to your spouse. You have to do both before your case can move forward.

 

Filing the Forms

File your completed forms with the family division of the Superior Court  in the county where you or your spouse lives. See the Filing Procedures web page for more information about filing.

You will be required to pay a filing fee (select Family Division Fees, Filing for entry of divorce, annulment, or dissolution of civil union or legal separation). If you can't afford the filing fees, you can ask the court to consider waiving them. See the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs web page for more information and forms.

Be sure to keep a copy of everything you file with the court.

 

Serving The Forms

The next step is to serve your spouse the papers. There are rules about how to do this. The process may be different if you and your spouse have minor children. See the Serving Papers web page for more information. 

If you or the court arranges to serve your spouse by mail or by sheriff, you may want to consider letting your spouse know. Whether that is a good idea will depend on your circumstances.

Responding to a Divorce Case

If your spouse starts the divorce case by filing a complaint, then your spouse is the plaintiff. You are the defendant. Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant does not affect the outcome of your case.

 

Accepting Service

Your spouse can serve. the divorce papers on you by mail or in person. If that happens, your spouse will ask you to sign either an Acceptance of Service or an Acknowledgment form. You can find these forms in the Forms section of the Divorce web page. .

Signing one of these does not mean that you agree to anything in the papers. It just means that you received them.

You don't have to sign an acceptance or acknowledgment. But if you don’t, the court may later make you pay the costs of having you served by the sheriff.

 

Preparing an Answer

Once you have received a summons and complaint for divorce, you will have 21 days to file an answer with the court. The 21 days start on the date the sheriff serves you, the date you sign an acceptance or acknowledgment, or the date you sign for the papers at the post office. If you need more time to file your answer, you can make a written request to the court for more time. You should tell the court why you need more time. For example, if you can't get an appointment with a lawyer sooner than 21 days, you can explain that.

Your answer tells the court that you want to participate in the case. If you are representing yourself, you will tell this to the court in your answer.

There are two ways you can fill out an answer:

  • You can get the answer form from the court and fill it out by hand.
  • You can complete the answer form online and print it out when you are done. There are different answer forms for a divorce with children and a divorce without minor children. The numbered statements in the answer correspond to statements in the complaint form. Check the box indicating whether you agree with each statement in the complaint. If you disagree, you can write in what you believe to be true.
    • If the complaint isn't written on the court form, you should go through each statement in the complaint and state whether you agree, disagree, or don't know whether it is true.

 

Counterclaim

The answer form includes a section to make an optional counterclaim. A counterclaim is a lawsuit filed by the defendant against the plaintiff in the original case.

There is no fee to file a counterclaim in a divorce, legal separation or civil union dissolution case.

There are several reasons why you might want to make a counterclaim: 

  • There are things you want to ask for as part of the divorce which weren’t included in the plaintiff’s complaint. For example, you want to be restored to the name you had before you got married, but the plaintiff did not include that in their complaint.
  • You not only disagree with some of the things the plaintiff asked for in the complaint, you want to ask for something different. For example, the plaintiff asked for sole parental rights and responsibilities of your children. You can use the counterclaim to ask for shared parental rights and responsibilities.
  • You are concerned the plaintiff will change their mind about the divorce and ask to dismiss the case. If you file a counterclaim, the case will not be dismissed because of their request to dismiss.
  • You are concerned the plaintiff will not follow through with the steps in the case, and the case will be dismissed because of inactivity. If you file a counterclaim you can keep the case moving.

There may be other reasons. Talk to an attorney if you have questions about whether you should make a counterclaim. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about the ways to get the help of an attorney.

A counterclaim is usually filed at the same time as your answer – within 21 days of being served with the complaint. It is possible to ask permission to file a counterclaim after the deadline has passed. Use the Miscellaneous Motion (form 400-00830) to make your request.  You can find the form in the Forms section of the Divorce web page, under Miscellaneous.

 

If You Do Not File an Answer

It is very important for you to file an answer to the complaint. If you don't, the court can enter a default judgment against you. A default judgment is a decision made by the court without your input or participation. The order can involve your property, responsibility for debts, and other financial matters. If you have children, the order may determine where your children live and how much time they spend with each parent. The court can also order you to pay child support.

If you don't file an answer but show up for a scheduled court hearing, you will be allowed to participate. You will need to file with the court a Notice of Appearance form. This tells the court how to contact you and where to send you information about your case. Anytime your contact information changes, you must notify the court and the other party by completing Notice of Name Change or Change of Address form and sending a copy to the court and to your spouse. You can find the form Forms section of the Divorce web page.  

If you do not update your information, you may miss important hearings because the notice was sent to your old address. If you file a Notice of Appearance or appear for a court hearing before the final hearing, the court will allow you to participate. But you should not delay in filing papers to let the court know you want to participate.

 

Filing and Serving the Answer and Counterclaim

You must file your answer with the court. See the Filing Procedures web page for more information about filing options.

You must also serve the papers on your spouse. This is true for every document you file with the court in the case. If your spouse is represented by a lawyer, you must serve papers you file on the lawyer. To prove that you have served the people you are required to serve, you must file a Certificate of Service  with every paper you file in court:

The Certificate of Service must:

  • Certify that the document has been given to every party
  • State how it was given (e.g., mail or personal delivery)
  • State the name and address of each person or entity served
  • State the date of the mailing or others means of delivery
Initial Court Orders and Notices

After the complaint is filed and the papers are served, you and your spouse will start getting notices and orders from the court. Read these carefully and follow the instructions. Do not ignore a court order.

You may receive one or more orders the court often issues at the beginning of a case.

 

Interim Domestic Order

Be sure to read the Interim Domestic Order carefully. It includes many provisions that apply in every case.

  • If you have children, it prohibits you from relocating them outside Vermont, and makes it clear that you must not encourage them to take sides in the divorce.
  • It prohibits you both from harassing each other.
  • It prohibits you both from selling, borrowing against, or hiding property or investments.
  • It prohibits you both from canceling or changing beneficiaries on your insurance without the other’s written permission.
  • It requires you both to keep paying bills and not to run up unreasonable debt.
  • It requires you to forward your spouse’s personal mail and to share joint mail with your spouse.

 

Order Regarding Parenting Course

If you and your spouse have minor children together, you both must attend a parenting course called Helping Children Cope With Separation and Divorce (COPE). You can choose the time and place that best fits your schedule. The COPE course gives you information to help you and your kids deal with the changes to your family relationships. The sooner you attend the course, the better informed you will be.

 

Order Regarding Self-Represented Litigant Education

Most courts require you to attend a one-and-a-half-hour course to help you represent yourself. The course is usually offered at the courthouse. Volunteer lawyers generally provide the education. The sooner you attend, the better informed you will be. This course will help you represent yourself more effectively.

 

Notice to Attend Case Manager Conference

You will also receive a notice to attend a case manager conference. This is a meeting with your spouse and a case manager at the courthouse. If the Office of Child Support (OCS) is a party to the case, a representative from OCS will also attend the conference on behalf of the State of Vermont regarding child support only. This conference is usually held four to eight weeks after the divorce is filed. Use the time before that to fill out your financial forms and gather the financial records that you are required to bring to the conference. You must bring copies of all of these documents for the court, the other party, and OCS if they are a party. Always keep a copy for yourself. If you have children, you should also consider what parenting plan is best for your children.

Case Management

Usually, the first court event is a case manager conference. The judge won’t be there. A case manager will run the conference with you and your spouse. The purpose is to figure out what you two can agree to, and what issues you will be asking the judge or magistrate to decide. The case manager will help you.

If you have children, you will talk about these things:

  • Parental rights and responsibilities (sometimes called custody)
  • Parent–child contact (sometimes called visitation)
  • Child support
  • Health insurance

Whether or not you have children, the case manager may talk with you about your assets and debts, the home you and your spouse own, and your income. Be sure to bring your financial information, particularly information about bank accounts, income, child care costs, and health insurance.

 

Parental Rights and Responsibilities and Parent–Child Contact

If you have a child (or children), the most important goal is to try to reach an agreement that will meet your child’s needs. Your child’s best interests are critically important. If you and your spouse haven’t reached an agreement before the conference, you should use the conference to try to come up with a plan that is best for your child. In particular, you will need to reach an agreement on the following matters:

  • What’s the best schedule for your child in terms of the time your child spends with each of you?
  • How should vacations and holidays be handled, given your child’s needs and where each of you live?
  • Should the schedule change as your child gets older?
  • How will the child get back and forth between the two households?
  • Who should be responsible for the day-to-day care of and decisions about your child? This is called physical parental rights and responsibilities.
  • Who should be responsible for the major decisions about things such as medical care, religious upbringing, and education? This is called legal parental rights and responsibilities.
  • Should these responsibilities be shared, or primarily held by one parent? You can agree to share legal rights and responsibilities, physical rights and responsibilities, or both. And you can come up with a schedule for your child to spend time with both of you in a way that best meets the child’s needs. The court cannot order shared custody unless you both agree.

You can find more information about parental rights and responsibilities and parent–child contact here.

 

Child Support

If you have a child (or children), the case manager will also address child support and health insurance for your child. You should come to the conference with information about the cost of including your child on your health insurance plan if one is available through your employment, even if you are not currently enrolled.

Your child support is based on a computer model that considers the following:

  • Each of your gross monthly income or earning capacity
  • What each of you pays for health insurance and day care for your child
  • How many nights the child spends with each of you
  • Whether the child has special needs and expenses

The computer calculates a child support guideline amount to be paid by one of you. The person who pays, called the obligor, is usually the parent who has less time with the child or who makes more money. This guideline amount  is legally presumed to be the amount to be paid. You and your spouse may not just pick a figure and hope the court will agree. If the court finds that the guideline amount is unreasonable or unfair, it can deviate from this amount and order support at a different level. You can find more information about child support here.

 

Other Issues

After parental issues are decided, or if you have no minor children, the case manager may talk with you about the following:

  • Who will live in the home during (or even after) the divorce
  • Whether either of you will pay the other temporary (or longer-term) spousal support
  • How you will divide your property
  • How you will divide debts and bills

The case manager will help you write up your agreements about such issues. Keep in mind, though, that you should never agree to anything you are not comfortable with.

You and your children, if you have any, will be better off if you can reach an agreement for many reasons, including these:

  • You and your spouse know more about your child, your finances, and your property than a judge ever will. You are in a better position to find fair and practical solutions to the issues in your divorce.
  • Most people would rather make their own major life decisions.
  • If you have children, the two of you will have to work together to parent your children through the rest of their lives.
  • You and your spouse are more likely to follow the court order if you have agreed to it together.

If either you or your spouse is going through a job change, or is uncertain of future income, you can enter into a temporary child support order. The court will review the order at the final divorce hearing if you both have still not agreed to a final order.

If you run out of time but think you may be able to agree on more issues, the court can schedule a second case manager conference. If you have any questions or concerns, bring them up with the case manager.

If there is domestic abuse in the relationship, tell the case manager before the first conference. The case manager can help come up with a way to communicate—such as texting or using a third party—to keep you safe.

The more prepared you are for the case manager conference, the more progress you can make. Sometimes, people just can’t talk to each other. But if you can, try to talk with each other before the conference to see if you can work out at least some issues. You don’t need to work everything out. If you disagree about something, just make a note of it and let the case manager know.

You can agree to a temporary or final order. A temporary order applies until the court issues an order after a final hearing, or until you and your spouse file a final agreement that is approved by the court.

Many divorcing couples are able to work out parenting schedules and child support with the help of the case manager. When they do, the court reviews the agreement within a few days and signs it. That turns your agreement into a court order. Court orders stay in effect until the court issues new orders.

Mediation

Sometimes you need a third party to help you come up with agreements. Mediation offers a structure for communicating at a time when working together is often difficult. Mediators do not decide who is right or wrong. A skilled mediator can help you find practical solutions.

Mediation is less formal and more private than a public hearing in court. Parents who have made agreements in their divorce by using a mediator have reported greater satisfaction than parents who have had the court make decisions for them.

The Family Mediation Program provides subsidized mediation services to qualifying people. See the Family Mediation Program web page for more information about the program and for a list of family court mediators.

Motions and a Temporary Hearing

Sometimes parents can’t agree on important issues that need to be decided before the final divorce hearing. When that happens, the court will decide. The case manager refers disputes to the child support magistrate, the family court judge, or both. In some cases, you may file a motion on your own to ask the court to take some action. The magistrate or judge (or both) will hold hearings at a later date.

The kinds of issues that you may need the court to decide on a temporary basis until the final hearing include:

  • Where your child will live
  • How much child support will be paid
  • Who will live in the house until the final divorce hearing
  • Who will pay the mortgage, property taxes, credit card bills, or other bills
  • Whether either party will pay temporary support (alimony) to the other

 

Motions

If you can't work things out, you can ask the court for help. To do that, you must file a motion. A motion is a written request for the court to take some action. For example, if your spouse is refusing to share financial information that you are entitled to see, you can file a motion asking the court to order your spouse to share the information. You can use a motion form to explain the problem and ask the court to take action. You can find the form in the Forms section of the Divorce web page.

Whenever you file a motion with the court, you must send a copy to your spouse or your spouse's attorney. If the Office of Child Support (OCS) is involved, you should send a copy to OCS. To prove that you have sent the motion to everyone you are supposed to send it to, you must file a Certificate of Service with the court. You can find the form in the Forms section of the Divorce web page.

Be sure to keep a copy of everything you file.

Unless your motion involves an emergency, your spouse has 15 days to respond to it. You can use an affidavit form for objecting to a motion or to respond to a motion filed by your spouse. You can find the form in the Forms section of the Divorce web page.

In some cases the judge will decide on a motion without a hearing. In other cases the judge may decide to have a hearing. If the case is set for a hearing, a Notice of Hearing will be sent to the parties or their attorneys.

 

Temporary Hearing

If you have a court hearing, consider hiring a lawyer to represent you. Lawyers can represent you on all issues or on just some issues (which is known as a limited appearance). Even if not representing you in court, a lawyer may be able to help you organize your information to better prepare for the hearing. You can find general information about going to court here.

After your temporary hearing, the court will issue an order deciding the issues you raised. That may be an oral or written order at the hearing, or a written order after the hearing. The court's orders are usually temporary. That means that they stay in effect until the court issues another order. Sometimes temporary decisions are changed in the final order. For example, the court may decide who gets to live in the home while the divorce is pending, but it will not decide who gets to keep the home after the divorce.

Final Uncontested Hearing

If you and the other party are in complete agreement (stipulating) about all of the terms of the divorce, your final hearing will be uncontested. That means you are not fighting about anything and you don't need the judge to resolve any disputes.

If you and the other party agree about everything:

  • You will both sign a completed Final Stipulation –  Property, Debt and Spousal Support (form 400-00878) and file it with the court.
  • If you have minor children together, you will also both sign a completed Agreement on Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Parent Child Contact and Provisions Related to Children (form 400-00825) and file it with the court.

Make copies of these documents for both parties before filing them with the court.

You may have filed the stipulation forms at the start of the case, or filed them sometime later during the case once you were able to come to a complete agreement.

Even though the judge doesn't need to resolve any disputes at an uncontested hearing, the judge will need to make sure you have met all the requirements to be divorced in Vermont.

 

At the Final Hearing

The final hearing may be held remotely by video or phone, or in person at the courthouse. See the hearing notice for will specify whether the hearing is remote or in person. At the hearing, the judge will confirm:

  • One or both parties have lived in Vermont for one year,
  • At least one party has lived in the county when you filed for divorce,
  • The parties have lived separate and apart for at least six months and there is no possibility of getting back together, and
  • The parties have voluntarily agreed to a final order.

The judge may ask questions such as:

  • Where are you and the other party living?
  • How long have you lived there?
  • Where were you living when you filed for divorce?
  • How long have you lived in Vermont?
  • When and where were you married?
  • Have you lived separate and apart for six consecutive months?
  • Is there any chance you will get back together as spouses?
  • Have you both signed the final stipulation freely and voluntarily?
  • Do you believe what you agreed to is fair to both of you?

If you have minor children together and you are asking for shared parental rights and responsibilities, be prepared tell the judge how – and how well – you have been communicating about your children since you separated.

The judge will usually sign a final order at the end of the final uncontested hearing. Both parties must sign an Acceptance of Service – Family Division (form 400-00844) to indicate they received a copy of the final order.

If your final hearing is held remotely, or if the other party doesn't sign the Acceptance of Service form during an in-person hearing, or if the other party doesn't come to the hearing, the court will mail a copy of the final order, a copy of the Acceptance of Service form, and a return envelope the party can use to send the Acceptance of Service form back to the court.

 

Asking to Waive the Final Hearing

If you meet certain requirements, you can ask to waive the final hearing and grant the final divorce or civil union dissolution on the paperwork. You can both sign a completed Stipulation and Motion to Waive Final Hearing (form 400-00841).

This option is not available if either party has been the subject of a final abuse prevention order involving the other party.

 

Waiting Period

There is a 90-day waiting period after the final hearing before the divorce is final. This is called the nisi period. At the end of the nisi period the divorce becomes final.

If the parties have signed a final stipulation, one of the sections in the form asks whether you would like to waive or shorten the nisi period. Waiving all or part of the nisi period may affect a party’s eligibility to be covered by the other party's health insurance, and may affect a party's income tax filing status.

Final Contested Hearing

If you disagree about some of the issues in your divorce, your final hearing will be contested. This means you have at least one dispute you need the judge to resolve.

If you have several disputes and one of them is about child support, you may have two contested hearings: one with the child support magistrate, and one with a judge who decides the other issues. You may have to wait for many weeks or even months for a hearing date with the court.

In some cases, one or two assistant judges may join the judge in a divorce or civil union dissolution case. They are sometimes called "side judges." Assistant judges perform the same role as a jury would: they consider the evidence, decide how much weight to give it, and determine what the facts are. They do not make legal rulings. Only the Superior Court judge makes the final decision.

At the final hearing, the judge will listen to both parties and any witnesses you bring, consider any evidence you present, and make a final decision on the issues you disagree on. The Going to Court web page has information about how to get ready for your hearing and what to expect on your hearing day.

Contested hearings can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to help you prepare, or to represent you at your hearing. The Finding Legal Help web page has information about the ways to get the help of an attorney.

If you choose to represent yourself, you must follow the same rules and procedures as attorneys do. Learn as much as you can about court rules and procedures so you are prepared. Common issues in divorce and civil union dissolution cases relate to these topics:

 

Waiting Period

There is a 90-day waiting period after the final hearing before the divorce is final. This is called the nisi period. At the end of the nisi period the divorce becomes final.

If the parties have signed a final stipulation, one of the sections in the form asks whether you would like to waive or shorten the nisi period. Waiving all or part of the nisi period may affect a party’s eligibility to be covered by the other party's health insurance, and may affect a party's income tax filing status.

90-Day Waiting Period Before Divorce is Final

There is a 90-day waiting period after the final hearing before the divorce is final. This is called the nisi period. At the end of the nisi period the divorce becomes final.

If the parties have signed a final stipulation, one of the sections in the form asks whether you would like to waive or shorten the nisi period. Waiving all or part of the nisi period may affect a party’s eligibility to be covered by the other party's health insurance, and may affect a party's income tax filing status.

Changing Your Name

You can ask the court to be restored to a former name as part of a divorce case. You should also mention it during the final hearing. If the request is granted, the divorce decree will include a provision restoring your former name. The divorce decree is a court order you can show to agencies to change your name on official documents.

You are responsible for telling others about your new name. Here is a list of some of the documents you might want to change and the institutions you might want to notify:

 If you didn't ask to be restored to a former name as part of your divorce case, or if you want to change your name to something other than a former name, you can start a name change case with the probate division.

Appealing a Divorce Judgment

If you want to appeal a final divorce judgment, you must file your Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the judgment. You can read about the process of appealing to the Supreme Court here.

Bear in mind that the Supreme Court will not hear new evidence. Instead, it relies on the documents filed in the trial court. It generally focuses on the transcripts from your final hearing and the exhibits admitted at that hearing. Also, the Supreme Court will not reverse the trial judge's decision because the trial judge believed witnesses that you do not think the trial judge should have believed.

Instead, the Supreme Court will consider whether the trial court made any legal errors. Here are the most common legal errors:

  • The trial court did not follow the correct procedure.
  • The trial court did not apply the law correctly to the facts of the case.

Appealing to the Vermont Supreme Court can be complicated. You should consider talking to a lawyer.

Modifying and Enforcing Divorce Orders

This pages covers the process to modify (change) or enforce a divorce order.