Vermont Divorce Law

Divorce – State Law Summary – Vermont

Notes: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive summary of the laws of divorce in Washington, but does contain basic and other provisions.

No-fault Grounds
To obtain a no-fault divorce in the State of Vermont, the spouses must have lived apart from each other for six consecutive months, and the court must conclude that the resumption of marital relations is not reasonably probable.  The court will conclude that resumption is not probable unless one of the spouses objects.  15 VSA § 551.

Waiting Period
Except under extraordinary circumstances, no divorce action shall be heard on its merits until after the expiration of six months from the date of service, if the custody of a child or children of either party is involved.

A decree of divorce shall become absolute at the expiration of three months from the entry thereof but, in its discretion, the court may fix an earlier date upon which the decree shall become absolute. If one of the parties dies prior to the expiration of the the decree shall be deemed absolute immediately prior to death.  15 VSA § 554

Residency Requirements
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.  15 VSA § 592

Name of court and title of action/parties
An action for divorce is filed in the Family Court.  The action is instituted by the filing of the Complaint for Divorce, while the document granting the dissolution is referred to as the Final Divorce Order.  The party instituting the action is referred to as the Plaintiff, and the opposing party is the Defendant.

Where to File – Venue
Complaints for divorce shall be brought in the county in which the parties or one of them resides.  15 VSA § 593

Property Division
The court shall settle the rights of the parties to their property, by including in its judgment provisions which equitably divide and assign the property. All property owned by either or both of the parties, however and whenever acquired, shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Title to the property, whether in the names of the husband, the wife, both parties, or a nominee, shall be immaterial, except where equitable distribution can be made without disturbing separate property.

In making a property settlement the court may consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to:

The length of the marriage;

The age and health of the parties;

The occupation, source and amount of income of each of the parties;

Vocational skills and employability;

The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other;

The value of all property interests, liabilities, and needs of each party;

Whether the property settlement is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance;

The opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income;

The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live there for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of the children;

The party through whom the property was acquired; and

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;

The respective merits of the parties.  15 VSA. § 751

The court may order either spouse to make maintenance payments, either rehabilitative or permanent in nature, to the other spouse if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

Lacks sufficient income, property, or both, to provide for his or her reasonable needs, and

Is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment at the standard of living established during the marriage or is the custodian of a child of the parties.

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:

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;

The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;

The standard of living established during the marriage;

The duration of the marriage;

The age and the physical and emotional condition of each spouse;

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

Inflation with relation to the cost of living.  15 VSA. § 752

Parental Rights and Responsibilities
The court may order parental rights and responsibilities to be divided or shared between the parents on such terms and conditions as serve the best interests of the child. When the parents cannot agree to divide or share parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall award parental rights and responsibilities primarily or solely to one parent.  In making an order awarding parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, and shall consider at least the following factors:

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;

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;

The ability and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s present and future developmental needs;

The quality of the child’s adjustment to the child’s present housing, school and community and the potential effect of any change;

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;

The quality of the child’s relationship with the primary care provider, if appropriate given the child’s age and development;

The relationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child;

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.

In addition, the court shall consider evidence of abuse, 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.  15 VSA § 665

Any agreement between the parents which divides or shares parental rights and responsibilities shall be presumed to be in the best interests of the child.  An agreement between the parties which is a complete agreement on parental rights and responsibilities shall include provisions that address at least the following:

Physical living arrangements;

Parent child contact;

Education of the minor child;

Medical, dental and health care;

Travel arrangements;

Procedures for communicating about the child’s welfare; and

If parental rights and responsibilities are to be shared or divided, procedures for resolving disputes. Such procedures may include but shall not be limited to mediation and binding arbitration.

If the court finds that an agreement between the parents is not in the best interests of the child or if the court finds that an agreement was not reached voluntarily the court shall refuse to approve the agreement. 15 VSA § 666

Parent Child Contact
The legislature finds and declares as public policy that after parents have separated or dissolved their marriage it is in the best interests of their minor child to have the opportunity for maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents, unless direct physical harm or significant emotional harm to the child or a parent is likely to result from such contact. 15 VSA § 650

Child support
The legislature finds and declares as public policy that parents have the responsibility to provide child support and that child support orders should reflect the true costs of raising children and approximate insofar as possible the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved. 15 VSA § 650

Guidelines for child support have been established which reflects the percent of combined available income which parents living in the same household in Vermont ordinarily spend on their children. The amounts of child support determined under the guideline shall be presumed to be the total support obligation of parents. 15 VSA § 654

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.  15 VSA § 656

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:

The financial resources of the child.

The financial resources of the custodial parent.

The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marital relationship not been discontinued.

The physical and emotional condition of the child.

The educational needs of the child.

The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.


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.

Extraordinary travel and other travel-related expenses incurred in exercising the right to parent-child contact.

Any other factors the court finds relevant.

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.  15 VSA § 659

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.  15 VSA § 558

The court may change the names of the minor children of divorced parents when application for that purpose is made in the complaint for divorce.  15 VSA § 559

Inside Vermont Divorce Law