This section has basic information about divorce in Vermont. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.
- What are the residency requirements for divorce in Vermont?
- What are the grounds for divorce in Vermont?
- Can I get alimony?
- What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
- What can I do if the abuser keeps filing court proceedings against me?
- At what point in the court process can I request an order to restrict abusive litigation?
- What happens if the judge issues an order restricting abusive litigation?
- Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Vermont?
What are the residency requirements for divorce in Vermont?
The judge can grant you a divorce in Vermont if either you or your spouse has lived in Vermont for at least six months. However, if you want to file for divorce for any reason, you or your spouse must have lived in Vermont for one year before the final hearing for the judge to issue a final divorce decree.
If you or your spouse has temporarily lived outside of Vermont because of an illness, having a job outside of Vermont, service in the U.S. armed forces, or some other legitimate reason, it will not affect your six-month or one-year residency requirement if you or your spouse have otherwise lived in Vermont.1
1 VT ST 15 § 592(a)
What are the grounds for divorce in Vermont?
The judge can grant you a divorce if you and your spouse live separate and apart for six months, and it is not reasonably probable that you will resume your marital relationship.1
The judge can also grant you a divorce based on certain grounds. Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce. A judge can grant you a divorce if your spouse:
- cheats on you (adultery);
- is sentenced to confinement and hard labor in a Vermont state prison for life or for three or more years and is confined at the time you file for divorce;
- is sentenced to confinement and hard labor in another state, federal court, territory, or in a foreign country for life or for three or more years and is confined at the time you file for divorce;
- treats you with intolerable severity (cruelty);
- willfully deserts you and has been absent from your life (without being heard from) for seven years;
- neglects you and refuses to provide support to you even though s/he has the financial and physical ability to support you; or
- is permanently incapacitated because of a mental condition or psychiatric disability.2
1 VT ST 15 § 551(7)
2 VT ST 15 § 551
Can I get alimony?
Alimony, or maintenance, is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse and can be awarded through a divorce. If you request alimony, the judge will consider the following factors to decide the amount of alimony and for how long alimony will be paid:
- your financial resources, property, and your ability to meet your needs;
- whether you are getting child support for a child living with you;
- the time and money you may need to get education or training to find a job;
- the standard of living during your marriage;
- the length of your marriage;
- the age and physical and emotional condition of you and your spouse;
- the ability of your spouse to meet her/his needs while paying you alimony;
- any inflation for cost of living expenses;
- the impact of both parties reaching the age of eligibility to receive full retirement benefits under Title II of the federal Social Security Act or the parties’ actual retirement, including any expected discrepancies in federal Social Security Retirement benefits; and
- guidelines that take into account the length of marriage and the percentage of difference between the parties’ gross incomes.1
The judge can order your spouse to make alimony payments that are rehabilitative (temporary until you are able to become more financially stable) or long-term if the judge finds that:
- you lack income and/or property to provide for your reasonable needs; and
- are unable to support yourself with a job that would let you have the same standard of living that you had during your marriage; or
- have custody of your and your spouse’s child.2
1 VT ST 15 § 752(b)
2 VT ST 15 § 752(a)
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
What can I do if the abuser keeps filing court proceedings against me?
Vermont law allows a judge to issue an order that stops the abuser from filing new petitions, motions, or discovery demands against you if the abuser is engaging in “abusive litigation.” You may qualify for protection under this law if, at a hearing, you can prove all three of the following facts:
1. you and the abuser are current or former family or household members, or the abuser stalked or sexually assaulted you;1
2. one of the following is true:
• the abuser has an abuse prevention order issued against him/her from Vermont or an equivalent order from another state;
• the abuser has an order against stalking or sexual assault issued against him/her;
• the abuser has an order controlling how parent-child contact may be made in a case involving domestic violence issued against him/her;
• the abuser has a criminal conviction for domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault committed against you; or
• a judge has found probable cause that the abuser committed domestic assault against you and has put release conditions on the abuser to protect you;2 and
3. the litigation is abusive because the abuser has filed or served a new case, a new motion in an existing case, or a new discovery request on you with the intent of abusing, harassing, intimidating, threatening, or maintaining contact with you.3 The abuser’s case must also include legal claims that do not fit under any law, factual claims without any evidence, or an issue that has already been litigated in a case between you that you won.4
Note: Instead of you having to convince the judge that the litigation is abusive, the judge will assume the litigation is abusive if any of the following are true:
1. you and the abuser have had a court case dealing with the same or similar issues within the past five years;
2. issues that are the same or similar have been brought up in a court case between you and the abuser within the past five years and a judge either dismissed them or made a decision based on the merits of the case;
3. the abuser has been punished (sanctioned) by a court within the past ten years for filing baseless (frivolous), malicious (vexatious), extreme, unreasonable (intransigent) litigation, or litigation brought in bad faith against you; or
4. a judge has previously decided (found) that the abuser engaged in abusive litigation and issued an order restricting the abuser’s ability to file new cases.5
The abuser could still present evidence to change the judge’s mind in any of these circumstances, but this puts the burden on the abuser to disprove your case, rather than putting the burden on you to prove your case.
1 VT ST 15 § 1181(1)(A)
2 VT ST 15 §§ 1181(1)(B); 665a
3 VT ST 15 § 1181(1)(C), (3)
4 VT ST 15 § 1181(1)(D)
5 VT ST 15 § 1183
At what point in the court process can I request an order to restrict abusive litigation?
You may request an order restricting abusive litigation at any point, including:
- in any answer or response to a new case the abuser has filed;
- by making a motion at any time in an existing case;
- in an answer or response to a motion the abuser has filed; or
- orally at a hearing in front of a judge.1
1 VT ST 15 § 1182(a)
What happens if the judge issues an order restricting abusive litigation?
If the judge grants your request for an order restricting abusive litigation, the abuser’s current case will be dismissed or denied. The judge may also award you attorney’s fees and the costs of responding to the abusive litigation.1
Afterwards, the abuser will be required to submit any future cases to the court for review before anything can be served on you.2 The judge would then either issue an order that allows the case to go forward or prohibits the case from continuing. If the abuser serves any new case or petition on you without attaching a copy of the order allowing that case to be filed, you may respond simply by filing a copy of the judge’s order restricting abusive litigation.3
1 VT ST 15 § 1184
2 VT ST 15 § 1185(b)
3 VT ST 15 § 1185(g)
Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Vermont?
The State of Vermont Judiciary website has information on divorce, alimony, child support, and more. They also have information on COPE, which is a seminar program that parents who have minor children and are involved in divorce must attend.
WomensLaw.org is not affiliated with the above website. We provide these links for your information only.
You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.