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Vermont Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Vermont, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
A complaint for divorce or annulment of marriage may be brought if either party to the marriage has resided within the state for a period of six months or more, but a divorce shall not be decreed for any cause, unless the plaintiff or the defendant has resided in the state one year next preceding the date of final hearing. Temporary absence from the state because of illness, employment without the state, service as a member of the armed forces of the United States, or other legitimate and bona fide cause, shall not affect the six months' period or the one year period specified in the preceding sentence, provided the person has otherwise retained residence in this state.
The divorce may be filed in the county in which either the husband, wife or both reside. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 555)
Grounds for Filing:The Complaint for Divorce must declare the appropriate Vermont grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:
A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be decreed:
(1) When a married person has lived apart from his or her spouse for six consecutive months and the court finds that the resumption of marital relations is not reasonably probable.
(1) For adultery in either party; (2) When either party is sentenced to confinement at hard labor in the state prison in this state for life, or for three years or more, and is actually confined at the time of the bringing of the libel. (3) For intolerable severity in either party; (4) For wilful desertion or when either party has been absent for seven years and not heard of during that time; (5) On complaint of either party when one spouse has sufficient pecuniary or physical ability to provide suitable maintenance for the other and, without cause, persistently refuses or neglects so to do; (6) On the ground of incurable insanity of either party. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 551 and 555)
Filing Spouse Title:Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Defendant. The Defendant is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:State of Vermont, Family Court, __________ County. This is the Vermont court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Complaint for Divorce and Decree of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Vermont law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Court Information Sheet, Case Cover Sheet, Property and Debt Information Sheet, Marital Settlement Agreement, and Financial Affidavit.
Court Clerk's Title:County Clerk's Office of the Family Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Vermont is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
In making a property settlement the court may consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to: (1)The length of the marriage; (2) The age and health of the parties; (3) The occupation, source and amount of income of each of the parties; (4) Vocational skills and employability; (5) The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other; (6) The value of all property interests, liabilities, and needs of each party; (7) Whether the property settlement is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance; (8) The opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income; (9) The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live there for reasonable 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, and depreciation or appreciation in value of the respective estates, including the nonmonetary contribution of a spouse as a homemaker; and (12) The respective merits of the parties. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 751)
Restoration or Name Change:Upon granting a divorce to a woman, unless good cause is shown to the contrary, the court may allow her to resume her maiden name or the name of a former husband.
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to: (1) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, the property apportioned to the party, the party's ability to meet his or her needs independently, and the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party contains a sum for that party as custodian; (2) The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment; (3) The standard of living established during the marriage; (4) The duration of the marriage; (5) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each spouse; (6) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her reasonable needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; and (7) Inflation with relation to the cost of living. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 752 and 757)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:If one of the parties had denied under oath or affirmation that the parties have lived apart for the requisite period of time or has alleged that reconciliation is reasonably probable, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the complaint and the prospect of reconciliation, and shall:
(1) Make a finding whether the parties have lived apart for the requisite period of time or not and whether the reconciliation of the parties to the marriage is reasonably probable or not; or
(2) Continue the matter for further hearing not less than 30 or more than 60 days later, and may suggest to the parties that they seek counseling. At the adjourned hearing, the court shall make a finding whether the parties have lived apart for the requisite period of time or not and whether the reconciliation of the parties to the marriage is reasonably probable or not. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 552)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Vermont courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
In making an order under this section, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider at least the following factors: (1) The relationship of the child with each parent and the ability and disposition of each parent to provide the child with love, affection and guidance; (2) The ability and disposition of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, medical care, other material needs and a safe environment; (3) The ability and disposition of each parent to meet the child's present and future developmental needs; (4) The quality of the child's adjustment to the child's present housing, school and community and the potential effect of any change; (5) The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing contact with the other parent, including physical contact, except where contact will result in harm to the child or to a parent; (6) The quality of the child's relationship with the primary care provider, if appropriate given the child's age and development; (7) The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child; (8) The ability and disposition of the parents to communicate, cooperate with each other and make joint decisions concerning the children where parental rights and responsibilities are to be shared or divided; and (9) Evidence of abuse, as defined in Section 1101 of this Title, and the impact of the abuse on the child and on the relationship between the child and the abusing parent.
The court shall not apply a preference for one parent over the other because of the sex of the child, the sex of a parent or the financial resources of a parent.
The court may order a parent who is awarded responsibility for a certain matter involving a child's welfare to inform the other parent when a major change in that matter occurs. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 664)
Child Support:Vermont child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent's income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
Except in situations where there is shared or split physical custody, the total child support obligation shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their respective available incomes and the noncustodial parent shall be ordered to pay, in money, his or her share of the total support obligation to the custodial parent. The custodial parent shall be presumed to spend his or her share directly on the child.
The total support obligation shall be presumed to be the amount of child support needed. Upon request of a party, the court shall consider the following factors in respect to both parents. If, after consideration of these factors, the court finds that application of the guidelines is unfair to the child or to any of the parties, the court may adjust the amount of child support: (1) The financial resources of the child. (2) The financial resources of the custodial parent. (3) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marital relationship not been discontinued. (4) The physical and emotional condition of the child. (5) The educational needs of the child. (6) The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent. (7) Inflation. (8) The costs of meeting the educational needs of either parent, if the costs are incurred for the purpose of increasing the earning capacity of the parent. (9) Extraordinary travel and other travel-related expenses incurred in exercising the right to parent-child contact. (10) Any other factors the court finds relevant.
Also, If the parties agree, the court may include in the child support order an additional amount designated for the purpose of providing for postsecondary education. (Vermont Statutes - Title 15 - Section 653 through 669, and 757)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Vermont divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
Either spouse may file for divorce in Vermont if he or she has been a resident of the state for a period of six months or more. However, a divorce shall not be decreed for any cause, unless either the plaintiff or the defendant has resided in the state one year preceding the date of final hearing.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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