While no spouse who enters into a marriage intends to get divorced later in life, divorce has become a common fact of American life. Divorce happens, and the split does not have to be messy if the couple can come to an agreement on the terms of a divorce. This type of divorce filing is what is known as an uncontested divorce.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Vermont uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Vermont Defined
Like many states, Vermont has chosen to facilitate the divorce process for amicable spouses by allowing for an uncontested divorce process. In Vermont, an uncontested divorce is called a divorce by stipulation. A stipulation is a legal term that simply means “agreement.” Therefore, an uncontested divorce in Vermont is simply a divorce in which the spouses have made a prior agreement about the terms of the divorce.
Requirements for Seeking a Vermont Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Vermont, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Vermont divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement for seeking an uncontested divorce is the state residency requirement. To file for divorce in the state of Vermont, at least one of the spouses must have lived within the state for at least six months. That said, a court will not grant a divorce unless one of the spouses has lived within the state for at least one year.
Next, the spouses must both agree on the grounds for divorce. In Vermont, there are two categories of divorce grounds: at-fault and no-fault. At-fault divorces may occur immediately, but one of the following circumstances must have occurred (an important note: lying about the existence of at-fault grounds for divorce is considered obstruction of justice, which is a crime):
- One of the spouses was sentenced to jail for at least than three years;
- The marriage is intolerably severe for one spouse;
- One spouse willfully deserts the other spouse;
- One spouse fails to provide for the other despite having the means to do so; or
- One spouse is permanently incapacitated due to a mental or psychiatric disability.
If the circumstances of divorce do not result from one of the at-fault grounds or if the spouses are unable to agree that the at-fault grounds apply, the spouses must live apart for at least six months before the court will grant a no-fault divorce.
Finally, the spouses must mutually agree on the terms of the divorce. In the state of Vermont, this is most commonly accomplished by the filing of a Final Stipulation agreement discussed in more detail below.
On Final Stipulation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal stipulation agreement. A stipulation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A stipulation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed stipulation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any stipulation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
A complete Final Stipulation should address all of the following issues:
- Ownership of motor vehicles;
- Ownership of furniture and other personal property;
- Ownership of real property (such as a house);
- Distribution of pensions, retirement plans, and other tax deferred assets;
- Division of any other financial asserts;
- Division of any spousal debts;
- Spousal maintenance (alimony); and
- If applicable, a separate agreement regarding child-related issues. Any divorce stipulation involving children born of the marriage is not valid unless it addresses each of the following issues:1
- Physical living arrangements;
- Parent child contact;
- Education of the minor child;
- Medical, dental, and healthcare;
- Travel arrangements;
- Procedures for communicating about the child’s welfare; and
- Procedures for resolving disputes over parental rights.
If you and your spouse are preparing to divorce without the assistance of an attorney, sample stipulation agreements can be found online through the Vermont courts website.2
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Vermont
Once you have determined which court is the proper court for filing, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- You and your spouse should discuss the terms of your divorce final stipulation and agree on all of the issues that apply to your divorce.
- You should completely fill out the required divorce forms. If you have any questions about which divorce forms you will need, the local courthouse staff can assist you. Fortunately, Vermont’s state courts website has divorce forms that couples may download and fill out on their own without the help of an attorney.3 These forms are subdivided into two sections: divorces with children and divorces without children.
- Determine the proper court for your divorce filing. In general, a divorce filing is proper in the Superior Court that operates in the county in which at least one spouse resides.
- The filing spouse should then file the divorce paperwork with the proper court and serve the non-filing spouse. At that time, the court will set a hearing date for resolution of the divorce process.
- At the hearing, the judge will make a final ruling on the divorce. Either at the conclusion of the hearing or shortly after the hearing has occurred, the judge will sign a final divorce order, which will finalize your divorce.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- See 15 V.S.A. § 666.
- An example of a stipulation agreement without stipulations for parentage, custody, and child support can be found here: Final Stipulation, VERMONT JUDICIARY. If you are filing for divorce with children, your stipulation MUST also account for child support issues, and this form alone will not work for you.
- Court forms, VERMONT JUDICIARY