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Vermont Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Vermont

Vermont grants legal separations on the same grounds it grants divorce: adultery, jail, or abuse of the other spouse. In addition, the state permits legal separations if the spouses live separately for at least six months and there is no reasonable hope of restoring the marriage.

Legal separation is sometimes used as an alternative for people who want to permanently separate but are unwilling or unable to divorce. Like a divorce, the non-custodial parent pays child support, and the court divides personal property equitably.

In Vermont, the nuances of a separation are nearly identical to those of divorce, as is the filing process. As long as at least one party is a Vermont resident, and both parties agree to the separation, the court does not automatically direct the pleadings toward divorce. The court issues orders with regard to the care and custody of minor children.

Vermont treats legal separation as either a temporary hiatus or as a final separation agreement. The biggest difference between legal separation and divorce is that a divorce ends the marriage so that the parties are free to marry. In a legal separation the partners are still legally married.

Legal separation allows spouses to separate their lives while still maintaining some benefits of being married, including for income tax and medical insurance purposes. A legal separation can also be used to delay a divorce. Unlike a trial separation, which only involves a physical separation, a legal separation requires the court to divide the couple's assets and liabilities.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.

Complaint

The plaintiff files a petition for legal separation in a state court.

Residency

The Vermont court can hear a legal separation petition if at least one spouse has been a state resident for no less than six months prior to filing.

Grounds

Spouses can seek legal separation based on the same grounds for which a divorce may be sought. Permissible grounds, set forth in Vermont Statutes Section 551, include adultery, intolerable cruelty, voluntary separation for at least six months, imprisonment, neglect, abandonment, or mental illness or insanity.

Procedure

The plaintiff completes a Complaint for Legal Separation which states the grounds. When the parties are in agreement on all issues, they draft a Verified Agreement for Legal Separation.

The separation paperwork - the complaint form, the financial affidavit and a copy of the summons - goes to the clerk of the family court in the county of residence.

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