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.

Even if you don't agree on all issues before one of you starts a divorce or civil union dissolution case, you may be able to agree on some matters along the way. You may even be able to agree on all matters. If you do, you can still file a final stipulation with the court. However, the reduced filing fee only applies at the first filing.

Stipulated Divorce or Civil Union Dissolution Process

Residency

To file for divorce or to dissolve a civil union, you or your spouse must be 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 or dissolution hearing.

Grounds

Vermont allows a no-fault divorce or civil union dissolution if you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least six consecutive months and are not likely to get back together. There are other grounds for divorce or dissolution, but this is the most common.

You can file your papers before you separate, as you are separating, or after you separate. You can't have a final divorce or dissolution hearing until you've been living separate and apart 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. 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 or your child or children. It can also result in complications during the final hearing.

Timeline

The court won't schedule a final hearing until you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for six months. If you have been living separate and apart for some period before you file your papers, that time can count toward the six months.

But, if you have minor children, the court usually won't schedule a final divorce hearing until six months after the divorce starts. A judge may allow a final divorce in a shorter time if, for example, you have had a stable and effective parenting agreement for at least six months.

What to File

If you and your spouse file everything together at the beginning of your case, you can save money on the filing fee. Filing documents means delivering them to the court. You can do that by mail or in person.

You can file the case in a county in which either of you live. You can find the address of your court here.

In addition to the documents you must file, you must pay a filing fee. 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. You do this by filling out 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.

You must file the following documents:

  • Cover sheet
  • Summons and complaint signed by the plaintiff
  • Health Department form
  • Acceptance of Service signed by the defendant (if the defendant has been willing to accept service by signing for the papers)
  • Notice of Appearance filed by the defendant
  • Final stipulation as to divorce and financial matters

If you have minor children, you must also file the following documents in your initial filing:

  • Final stipulation as to parenting plan
  • Plaintiff's financial affidavits
  • Defendant's financial affidavits
  • Final stipulation as to child support
  • Guideline worksheet

You can find more information about each of these in the following sections.

Cover Sheet

The cover sheet gives the court general information about your case. 

(Form 800)
Summons and Complaint Signed by the Plaintiff

One of you will sign the complaint. That person is the plaintiff. The other is the defendant. It doesn't matter which of you is the plaintiff or which is the defendant.

If you are married, you should file the Divorce Summons and Complaint form.

If you are joined in civil union, you should file the Civil Union Summons and Complaint form.

There are two ways you can fill out a divorce complaint.

  • You can use CourtFormPrep. This is an online tool that helps you fill out the complaint form. It is an interview-style program that walks you through a series of questions. It then generates the forms you need to start your divorce. You can go through the questions at your own pace, save a form and go back to it later, or add more information or explanation as you go through the interview. Once the online interview is complete, you can print out the forms you created. You should sign them and have them notarized before filing them with the court. You can have your forms notarized at the clerk’s office if you are there in person.
  • You can get the court forms you need and fill them out by hand. You can also complete the forms online and print them out when you are done. There are separate forms for:

The complaint asks for information about you, your spouse, your children, and your marriage or civil union. You need to know when and where you were married or entered into your civil union. Most people ask for a no-fault divorce or dissolution of civil union. If you do that, you need to state the date you and your spouse or civil union partner separated.

Health Department Form

The Health Department keeps statistics about marriages and divorces and civil unions and civil union dissolutions.

If you are married, you should fill out the Health Department form for divorce.

If you are joined in civil union, you should fill out the Health Department form for civil union dissolution.

Acceptance of Service Signed by the Defendant

The Acceptance of Service form confirms that the defendant has copies of all the papers the plaintiff has filed.

(600-00028)

You should list those papers in the Acceptance of Service form.

Notice of Appearance Filed by the Defendant

The Notice of Appearance form confirms that the defendant is representing themselves. It also gives the court all of the defendant's contact information.

Both parties must notify the court immediately if their address or other contact information changes. You can do that by completing Notice of Name and/or Address Change and sending a copy to the court and your spouse.

Final Stipulation as to Divorce and Financial Matters

The final stipulation shows your mutual agreement to divorce, and your agreement on all financial and property issues. That includes the division of your property, allocation of your debts, and whether either of you will pay the other any ongoing spousal support. Both of you must sign the stipulation.

You should understand your rights and obligations before signing a final stipulation. Even if you don't hire a lawyer to represent you in court, you should consider meeting with a lawyer before you sign any agreements. That way you can learn about your rights. If you are having doubts about what to agree to, that is a sign that you should get a lawyer’s advice. And certainly, if you are feeling forced or pressured into signing a stipulation, you should definitely check in with a lawyer.

Read more about your rights relating to financial issues.

If you don't have children, you don't have to file your financial information with the court. You will have to certify that each of you has shared with the other all financial information about your income, assets, and liabilities.

The stipulation form asks whether you want to waive the nisi period. People often assume that after the final hearing they will be divorced. However, there is a three-month waiting period after the final hearing before the divorce is final. This is called a nisi period. At the end of this period, your divorce will automatically become final. You won't get any more orders or communications from the court. The judge may shorten or waive the nisi period if you both agree to do that.

Final Stipulation as to Parenting Plan

If you and your spouse have minor children, you must complete a final stipulation concerning your parenting plan.

You should understand your rights and obligations before signing a final stipulation. Even if you don't hire a lawyer to represent you in court, you should consider meeting with a lawyer before you sign any agreements. That way you can learn about your rights. If you are having doubts about what to agree to, that is a sign that you should get a lawyer’s advice. And certainly, if you are feeling forced or pressured into signing a stipulation, you should definitely check in with a lawyer.

Read more about your rights and obligations relating to parental rights and responsibilities (sometimes called custody) and parent–child contact.

Once the court signs the final order, you and your spouse will be bound by this agreement unless both of you agree to a change, or one of you can show a real, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances.

Plaintiff's and Defendant's Financial Affidavits

If you have minor children, you must file the financial affidavits with your other papers. Each of you must complete and sign one. Even if you don't have children, you may find these forms to be a useful way to exchange information with each other.

There are two ways to fill out these forms.

  • You can use CourtFormPrep. This is an online tool that helps you fill out the financial affidavits. It is an interview-style program that walks you through a series of questions. It then generates the forms you need to start your divorce. You can go through the questions at your own pace, save a form and go back to it later, or add more information or explanation as you go through the interview. Once the online interview is complete, you can print out the forms you created. You should sign them and have them notarized before filing them with the court. You can have your forms notarized at the court clerk’s office if you are there in person. CourtFormPrep has separate tools for Form 813A (income and expense) and Form 813B (property and assets).
  • You can get the court forms you need online or from the court and fill them out by hand. You can also complete the forms online and print them when you are done. You can find detailed instructions for completing these forms in the Child Support section of this site.
Final Stipulation as to Child Support and Guideline Worksheet

Vermont law requires both parents to support their children. That means that if you have children, the court will need to sign a child support order in connection with your divorce or civil union dissolution. Child support orders in Vermont must meet very specific guidelines and legal rules. You and the other parent can’t just pick a child support amount and hope that the court agrees.

You can find detailed information for calculating child support and for getting help with the child support calculation. You will need to make sure that your final child support agreement is consistent with the guidelines. In order to show that, you must file the child support worksheet along with your Child Support Stipulation. If you calculate child support by hand, this is the worksheet form you will use to calculate it. If you use the computer child support calculator, the worksheet is the form you use to calculate the child support.

You can use the form Child Support Order for your stipulation:

(400-00802)

Fill it out completely and then sign it at the end. The person who is obligated to pay child support signs as the obligor. The person who gets the child support payments signs as the obligee. The court will review this proposed order to make sure it is consistent with the guidelines. If it is, the court will sign at the end of the order.

Stipulation to Waive Final Hearing

You or your spouse (or both of you) may sign and file a document asking the court to waive the final hearing and grant the final divorce or civil union dissolution on the paperwork.

This option is available when conditions are met. It is not available if either of you has been the subject of a final abuse prevention order between you and your spouse.