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Vermont Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
To begin, the plaintiff completes a number of forms, and he or she can find the majority of the required documents on the Vermont Judiciary's website.
Vermont requires a Cover Sheet, a Summons, Complaint for Divorce, and Notice of Appearance (these can also be filed as three separate forms), a Confidential Sheet, and a Health Department Vermont Record of Divorce or Annulment.
There are two variations of the combined summons, complaint, and notice of appearance form: one with children and one without. Divorcing parents with children under the age of 18 must use a slightly longer form and provide information about the children. When the spouses agree on all the issues, they can speed up the hearing process by filing, in addition to the above papers, an Affidavit of Income and Assets, Final Divorce Stipulation, an Agreement on Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Parent Child Contact, and Provisions Relating to Children (if minor children), and a Proposed Final Order.
The required paperwork to complete a divorce in Vermont varies from county to county and depending on the county of residence, additional forms may be required.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
The plaintiff files the divorce papers in his or her home county or in the county where the defendant resides. They will also pay a filing fee. When the divorce is uncontested – that is, both sides agree about everything – the filing fee is less.
Serving the Documents
Vermont law requires the filing spouse to serve the divorce papers on the opposing spouse. Known as service of process, this allows the defendant to answer or make a counterclaim.
Several acceptable service routines are permitted under Vermont law. If the defendant consents to the divorce, he or she can sign an Acceptance of Service form, which is then filed with the court. This method allows the plaintiff to personally hand-deliver the documents to the defendant. The plaintiff can also serve the forms via certified mail, first class mail, or sheriff's service. Service by first class mail requires an Acknowledgement Form, which is filed with the court after the defendant signs it.
In the case of a missing spouse, Vermont permits service by publication, which requires the plaintiff to place the advertisement in a newspaper that circulates in the spouse's last-known community. The must appear for three consecutive weeks.
Disclosing Financial Information
Under Vermont law, both sides must exchange financial information. If they want to expedite the case, they file the Affidavit of Income and Assets along with the initial paperwork. Otherwise, this form is filed sometime between the opening of the case and the final hearing.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
A contested divorce typically takes longer and costs more. It moves through the courts like any other civil action suit.
Finalizing the Divorce
Unlike some other states, Vermont does not have a set timeline on how long spouses must wait for a divorce. Their divorce takes as long as it takes to have a final hearing before the court. Once the plaintiff files a final stipulation, the court clerk schedules a hearing for the spouses. The date the judge signs the Divorce Order, not necessarily the hearing date, is when the divorce becomes final.
In Vermont, a legal separation forever or for a limited time may be granted for any of the causes for which an absolute divorce may be granted.
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