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Family Law

Marriage is complicated, and so are the many laws that cover separation and divorce, child custody and visitation, division of property and businesses, and more. As your advocates, we believe strongly that it is in everyone's best interest to minimize conflict and we work to find resolution. But if conflict is needed to protect your rights, we will fight hard for you every step of the way.

We offer affordable flat fees for many divorce and custody issues. A description of these flat fee options is here.

Chris Larson and Erin Gallivan have written extensively on family law issues on our related website, www.vermontfamilylaw.com.

Call today and learn your options about:

  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation
  • Nullification
  • Paternity
  • Domestic partnerships
  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Child support and spousal support (alimony)
  • Relief from abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Guardianships
  • Adoption, including stepparent adoptions
  • Grandparent's Rights
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Post-nuptial Agreement
  • Non-Marital Cohabitation Agreements
  • Juvenile Court Dependency

The following is a summary of Vermont Family Law:

Vermont Divorce Laws

Residency Requirements

To file for divorce in Vermont, either party must have been a resident of Vermont for at least 6 months before the divorce is filed. Additionally, either spouse must have been a resident for 1 year before the divorce is made final.

Where to File

The divorce may be filed for in any county where either or both of the spouses currently reside.

Grounds for Divorce

The grounds for divorce in Vermont are:

  • Living separate and apart for 6 consecutive months and the resumption of marital relations is not reasonably probable
  • Adultery
  • Imprisonment for 3 years or more or for life
  • Willful desertion for 7 years
  • Cruel and inhuman treatment of intolerable severity
  • Incurable mental illness
  • Gross neglect

Almost all divorces filed are based on the first grounds listed above.

Vermont Alimony Laws

Either party may be awarded spousal maintenance on a rehabilitative (temporary) or permanent basis. Support will often be awarded if the party seeking the award:

  • Lacks sufficient income or property to provide for his or her reasonable needs
  • Is unable to support him or herself through appropriate employment at the standard of living established during the marriage or is the custodian of any children.

In determining the amount and duration of the award, the Court will consider the following:

  • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment, and that spouse's future earning capacity
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The ability of the spouse from whom support is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking support
  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including property apportioned to such spouse and such spouse's ability to meet his or her needs independently
  • The age of the spouses
  • The physical and emotional conditions of the spouses
  • The effects of inflation on the cost of living

Vermont Property Division Laws

All property may be divided on an equitable basis, regardless of when it was acquired or how the title is held, including any gifts and inheritances. The factors to be considered are:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker
  • The value of each spouse's property
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of the spouses
  • The occupation of the spouses
  • The amount and sources of income of the spouses
  • The vocational skills of the spouses
  • The employability of the spouses
  • The liabilities and needs of each spouse and the opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income
  • Whether the property award is instead of or in addition to maintenance
  • How and by whom the property was acquired
  • The merits of each spouse
  • Any custodial provisions for the children, including the desirability of awarding the family home to the parent with custody of any children
  • The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other

Vermont Custody Laws

Custody, referred to as "parental rights and responsibilities" is divided into physical custody, legal custody and visitation (referred to as "parent-child contact.") Physical responsibilities refers to where the child physically resides and the rights and responsibilities to provide routine daily care and control of the child. This can be awarded solely to one parent, or jointly to both parents. When one parent is awarded sole physical rights and responsibilities, the other parent is almost always awarded visitation rights (unless visitation would cause harm to the child). Legal responsibilities refers to decisions regarding issues like medical care, education and religion. This can also be awarded solely or jointly. A parent who does not have legal rights and responsibilities still has the right to have access to all of the child's records.

The Court will award parental rights and responsibilities based upon the best interests of the child, and upon a consideration of all relevant factors, including the following:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • The relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and other significant family members
  • The ability and disposition of each parent to provide love, affection, and guidance
  • The ability of each parent to provide food, clothing, medical care, other material needs, and a safe environment
  • The ability of each parent to meet the child's present and future developmental needs
  • The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing contact with the other parent, including physical contact unless it will result in harm to the child or parent
  • The quality of the child's relationship with the primary care provider, given the child's age and development
  • 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
  • Evidence of abuse
  • Which parent has been and is the primary caretaker for the child

Child Support Laws

Vermont has official child support guidelines for the calculation of child support. The amount arrived at under the guidelines is presumed to be correct, unless they are shown to be unfair under the circumstances. The Court will also consider the following factors in determining child support:

  • The financial resources of the child
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved
  • The physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child
  • The financial resources, needs, and obligations of both the non-custodial and the custodial parent
  • Inflation with relation to the cost of living
  • The costs of any educational needs of either parent
  • Any travel expenses related to parent-child contact
  • Any other relevant factors

The Court may order additional payments to support the child called "maintenance supplement" if there child has additional needs which are not met by the child support payment.

Modification of Existing Orders

An existing order of the Family Court, whether issued after a hearing or stipulation of the parties, only can be modified if the party first proves that there is a real, substantial, unanticipated change of circumstances. For example, a child support order might be changed by the Court if the non-custodial parent is laid off from work. Or, an order for a specific visitation/contact schedule might be changed if one parent moves out of state.

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