Vermont Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Vermont divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Vermont.

To file for divorce in Vermont, either spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months before the action is started. Either spouse must be a resident of the state for a year before the action is final. Actions are filed in the county of residence of either spouse.

Grounds for divorce are No-Fault, living separate and apart for six consecutive months, with the resumption of marital relations not reasonably probable. Fault grounds include 1) adultery, 2) imprisonment for three years or more, 3) willful desertion for seven years, 4) cruel and inhuman treatment of intolerable severity, 5) incurable mental illness, 6) gross neglect.

Legal separation is available under the grounds of 1) living separate and apart without cohabitation for six months, and grounds 2 through 6 for a fault divorce. Either spouse must be a resident of Vermont for six months to file for a legal separation.

Actions are filed in the Family Court of the county of residence. The spouse filing for divorce is called the Plaintiff; the spouse responding is called the Defendant.

In Vermont, Family Courts offer the Pro Se Education Class for litigants who file for divorce without lawyers.

Vermont does not offer a summary or simplified divorce, but standard forms for all divorce paperwork are available.

If the divorce is not contested, a couple without children can be divorced by filing the following forms:

> Cover sheet (Form #800), which identifies the parties in the action:

> Summons, Complaint for Divorce and Notice for Appearance (Form #835);

> Health Department Vermont Record of Divorce or Annulment, which is used for statistic records;

> Affidavit of Military Service, which certifies that the Defendant enjoys no protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act;

> Affidavit of Income and Assets (Form #813), which provides financial information about both spouses;

> Final Divorce Stipulation;

> Proposed Final Order, which includes the separation agreement.

An uncontested divorce for a couple with children includes all of the forms used for a couple without children, plus:

> A Summons, Complaint for Divorce and an Affidavit of Child Custody (Form #836);

> Affidavit of Income and Assets, which is a 17-page form used by the court to gain financial information to determine child support payments.

> Child Support Order, page 1 (Form #802).

(In either case -- a couple with or without children -- the Plaintiff, instead of filing the combined Forms 835 or 836 may file these forms individually. When this route is taken, the forms are a Notice of Appearance (Form #831), Summons (Form #832), Complaint for Divorce (Form #833) and Affidavit of Child Custody (Form #834)).

In a divorce, the Defendant may be served in one of six ways, as follows:

> Acceptance of Service, which is the most commonly used. The divorce papers, including the Summons and Complaint, the Notice of Appearance, is delivered by the Plaintiff to the Defendant.

> First Class Mail with Acknowledgment, which requires that the Defendant sign a Form #820 and return it to the court in a prepared envelope.

> Certified Mail, which requires a return receipt;

> Personal Service by the Sheriff, which means that the sheriff or local constable serve the Summons and Complaint.

> Publication, which is used when the Defendant cannot or will not be located. In this routine, after a diligent search, the Plaintiff advertises a notice announcing the divorce in a newspaper that is likely to be seen by the Defendant. This is done over three weeks.

> Outside the State, which involves using any of the methods listed above, plus a signed affidavit that the person who delivers the papers certifies that delivery.

In all circumstances, the Acceptance of Service, Acknowledgment of Service, Return of Service or the green card from the Post Office must be returned to the clerk of the family court by either the Plaintiff, the Defendant, the Sheriff or the post office.

The Summons informs the Defendant that he or she has 20 days to answer the Complaint. If the Defendant files an Answer, he or she may also file a Counterclaim. If the Defendant changes his or her mind after a counterclaim has been filed, the Counterclaim prevents the divorce from being dismissed.

If a Defendant fails to Answer, the action proceeds as an uncontested divorce, and the Plaintiff receives a default judgment is his or her favor.

Answers and counterclaims may be preparation for a contested divorce. When a couple cannot reach agreement on the division of assets and liabilities, child custody and visitation, they often prepare for trial even as they continue to work toward a settlement. Sometimes after the filing of the Complaint and the delivery of the Summons, the court imposes an Interim Domestic Order. This order prohibits the spouses from unilateral actions -- taking custody of the children, looting assets or failure to maintain required medical insurance.

The court schedules a hearing in uncontested divorces after all paperwork and time requirements have been met. At uncontested hearings for marriages without children, the spouses must agree on the division and distribution of assets and liabilities and alimony, if any. The agreement is then memorized in writing as the Final Stipulation. At uncontested hearings for marriages with children, the spouses must agree to the division and distribution of assets and liabilities and alimony, if any, and the terms and conditions of child custody and visitation.

At the hearing, the Plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she and the spouse lived in Vermont for one year; that one spouse lived in the county where the action was filed; that the two spouses lived separate and apart for at least six months and there is no possibility of a reunification.

At the hearing, the court enters a divorce order, which normally become final 90 days later. The nisi period may be shortened, if one spouse or the other makes a request.