Divorce in Vermont: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated April 30, 2024by Unbiased team

This article will explain the costs, processes, and grounds for filing for divorce in Vermont.

Summary

  • Vermont recognizes “fault” and “no-fault” divorces.

  • Initiating the divorce process requires a filing fee, typically between $90 and $295, depending on the complexity of your case and where in Vermont you live.

  • You can file for divorce if either you or your spouse has lived in Vermont for at least six months.

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in Vermont?

Vermont recognizes divorce based on “fault” and “no-fault” grounds:

  • No-fault divorce: Simplifies the process by allowing spouses to file without blaming the other, needing only to declare irreconcilable differences.

  • Fault-based divorce: For those preferring to cite specific reasons such as adultery or cruelty, this option requires proving such grounds in court.

The state also has various forms of separation that match the diverse situations of couples seeking to end their marriage. These include:

  • Legal separation offers an alternative for couples not ready to divorce. It allows couples to establish financial and parental agreements without ending the marriage.

  • Annulment: This applies in cases where the marriage is deemed invalid from the start, such as in instances of fraud or bigamy.

Each option provides a different legal pathway, reflecting the varied needs of individuals facing the end of a marriage.

How much does a divorce cost in Vermont?

Divorce costs in Vermont can vary widely based on case complexity and how much spouses agree. 

Here are just some of the key expenses you can expect when filing for divorce in Vermont: 

  • Filing fees: Initiating the divorce process requires a filing fee, usually between $90 and $295. This fee will vary depending on the complexity of your case and the county in which you live. 

  • Attorney fees: These fees differ greatly, especially between contested and uncontested divorces, with attorneys charging $200 to $500 per hour. The average hourly rate for a family lawyer in Vermont is typically around $279.

  • Mediation costs: Opting for mediation might involve hourly rates from $100 to $300.

  • Additional costs: Expect other expenses for document servicing and financial consultations.

While some costs, such as filing fees, are fixed, attorney and mediation expenses depend on the complexity of the divorce and how long it takes to find a resolution. 

Exploring mediation or negotiation can help control costs, and Vermont provides legal aid for those eligible, easing the financial strain of the process.

How do you file for divorce in Vermont?

Filing for divorce in Vermont involves a few key steps, along with understanding associated costs and timelines:

  1. Check eligibility: One spouse must have lived in Vermont for at least six months before filing and continue residing in the state until the divorce is finalized after a year.

  2. Gather documents: Required forms, including the divorce complaint and financial affidavits, are available on the Vermont Judiciary website or at local courthouses.

  3. Submit the complaint: File your paperwork with the county court and pay the filing fee, which is about $295. If you can't afford this fee, you might qualify for a waiver.

  4. Serve your spouse: Officially notify your spouse by serving them the divorce papers, ensuring they're aware of the proceedings.

  5. Await response: Your spouse has 21 days to respond if they're in Vermont or 30 days if elsewhere. Their response influences whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

  6. Finalization: An uncontested divorce can be quick, possibly a few months, while contested divorces may extend over a year, depending on case complexities and court schedules.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Vermont?

In Vermont, the division of assets during a divorce is guided by the principle of equitable distribution, striving for fairness rather than an exact equal split. 

This process involves two critical steps:

  • Identify and evaluate assets: The spouses will distinguish between marital and personal property and then assess the value of all marital assets and debts, including real estate, vehicles, bank and retirement accounts, and even credit card debts.

  • Divide the assets: Vermont is an "equitable property" state, where the rule of thumb is that assets and debts acquired during the marriage should be divided fairly, often aiming for a division in half. 

If spouses can't agree on how to divide their assets through negotiation or mediation, the court will make a decision. The court will endeavor to ensure both parties maintain a stable financial status post-divorce, factoring in the total contributions made by each spouse during the marriage.

How does alimony work in Vermont?

In Vermont, alimony or spousal support is awarded based on one spouse's need and the other's ability to pay, aiming to balance financial disparities post-divorce. 

When considering whether to award alimony and how much to pay, the court considers the length of the marriage, both spouses' health and financial status, their earning capacities, and their contributions to the marriage, including child care and education.

The court has broad discretion in setting alimony, considering the standard of living during the marriage and each spouse's future financial capabilities. There's no strict formula, making each case unique.

Alimony can be adjusted with significant changes in circumstances, ensuring fairness over time.

The goal is to allow both individuals to maintain a standard of living similar to that of their marriage, ensuring no undue financial hardship due to the divorce.

What happens to children during a divorce in Vermont?

The well-being of any children involved is a priority during a divorce in Vermont. Decisions made in their best interest regarding custody, support, and visitation are referred to as "parent-child contact" in Vermont law.

Custody may be joint or sole, emphasizing the child's stability and wellbeing. When deciding on custody arrangements, courts consider factors like the child's relationship with each parent, each parent's ability to provide, and the child’s adjustment to his or her environment. 

For situations where one parent is granted sole custody, the court will outline specific arrangements for "parent-child contact" to ensure the non-custodial parent maintains a relationship with the child. The schedule and conditions for this contact are detailed in the court order.

When determining child support, Vermont uses guidelines that factor in both parents' incomes and the needs of the child. The court will aim to preserve a stable living standard for the child similar to pre-divorce circumstances.

Both custody and support orders can be modified with significant life changes. Vermont enforces these orders to safeguard children's interests consistently.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.