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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Vermont

Vermont laws provide two ways to end a marriage, which are divorce and annulment. The effects of both processes differ; therefore, each process is only applicable to particular couples. Divorce terminates a legal marriage, while annulment invalidates a marriage; this means that an annulled marriage is void, and the state regards the marriage as never having existed. Although divorce and annulment share few similarities, each process has different requirements. In Vermont, the Family Court, also known as the Superior Court’s family division, hears divorce and annulment cases.

What is a Vermont Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is the final divorce order that a judge signs at the end of the divorce process. In Vermont, parties in a divorce case initiate and file a divorce decree in the divorce process. The divorce decree contains personal information about the case parties, including financial and tax information, and the couple’s agreement on divorce-related issues, including child custody, property division, alimony, and name change. It also contains the docket number, the name of the divorced parties, and the date of the final hearing. The divorce process is complete when the judge signs the divorce decree at the final hearing.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Vermont?

An annulment renders a marriage invalid and legally non-existent. In Vermont, only voidable, prohibited, or void marriages are eligible for annulment. At the end of the annulment process, a Family Court judge issues a Decree of Nullity, which signifies that the couple was never married legally. According to Vermont laws (15 V. S. A. § 512),, a voidable marriage is one where at the time of the marriage,

  • Either party was not yet 16 years old.
  • Either party was not physically or mentally capable of entering a marriage contract.
  • Either party obtained consent by fraud or force.

Additionally, marriages where parties are closely related (consanguinity) or where either party had a living spouse at the time of marriage are prohibited in Vermont.

Generally, interested parties may request annulment records from Vermont’s Health Surveillance Division.

Annulment vs Divorce in Vermont

Annulment and Divorce sometimes involve the same issues, including child custody, child support, and property division. As is the case with divorce, parties in an annulment case may agree or disagree on the issues mentioned above. The annulment process is typically easier or more straightforward for parties who agree. Parties who disagree may pursue mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods to reach a settlement.

Parties interested in filing for annulment may begin by filing a Summons and Complaint for Annulment form with the Family Court clerk in the county where the plaintiff or the defendant resides. The defendant must respond within 21 days; otherwise, the court may grant the plaintiff’s requests without the defendant’s input. Upon receipt, the court will review the plaintiff’s complaint to see if there are sufficient grounds for annulment. Some of the legal grounds for annulment in Vermont have other rules and requirements:

  • For marriages that took place when either party was not yet 16, the court will not annul the marriage if the party continued to live with the partner after the party turned 18.
  • If either party was not mentally capable of consent at the time of marriage, and the party has since regained mental ability but continued living with the partner, the court will not annul the marriage.
  • For marriages where either party is physically incapable, the plaintiff must file a complaint for annulment within two (2) years of the marriage event; otherwise, the court will not annul the marriage.

Parties who are ineligible for annulment may file for divorce or civil union dissolution.

Unlike annulment, divorce is the process of terminating a legal or valid marriage. The divorce process begins when one party, the petitioner, files a Complaint for Divorce. The court charges filing fees; parties who cannot afford filing and other court fees may petition the court for a fee waiver. Divorce can be contested or uncontested; in a contested divorce, parties do not agree about divorce or divorce-related issues. In an uncontested marriage, parties agree about divorce-related issues. In an uncontested divorce, parties who agree will not go to trial and may not need to appear in front of a judge for hearings. However, in annulment, parties who agree must still appear in court for the judge to determine the facts of the case.

In order to be eligible to file for divorce in Vermont, either party must have lived in the state for at least six (6) months at the time of filing and must have lived in Vermont for one (1) year before the final hearing. Vermont is a no-fault divorce state; this means that even though the law provides for divorce based on grounds like incurable insanity, parties may file for divorce solely on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Divorce is complete when the judge signs the final order of divorce.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Vermont?

Depending on whether the parties agree on issues, both divorce and annulment can be expensive.

Both processes require filing fees, surcharges, court hearings, and may require an attorney’s services. Divorce and annulment also involve issues like property division and child support. In both cases, parties who cannot afford court fees may request a waiver; however, an annulment is not cheaper than a divorce in Vermont.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Vermont?

In Vermont, when parties in a divorce case agree on major issues, including spousal support or alimony, child support, child custody, and visitation, it is an uncontested divorce. Vermont’s residency requirements for divorce is one year; either party must have lived in Vermont for one year, and the couple must have been separated and living apart for six (6) months. Uncontested divorces in Vermont are also known as stipulated divorces. Parties must memorialize all agreements in writing; this is the stipulation, which the parties must sign and file with the family court.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Vermont?

Interested parties who meet residency and grounds requirements for uncontested divorces in Vermont may obtain necessary forms online from the Vermont Judiciary website or in person at the Court Clerk’s office in the county where either party resides.

Parties in an uncontested divorce who have filed required documentation with the court, including the stipulation, must attend a final hearing. When a judge signs the final divorce order, indicating that divorce is granted, each party must sign an Acceptance of Service of the final order. Vermont has a nisi period of 90 days. Divorce is not final until 90 days after the judge enters the final order (15 V. S. A. § 554)..

Divorce records in Vermont are generally accessible to the public. Interested parties may request divorce records from the Court Clerk in the county where a judge finalized the divorce. Alternatively, interested parties may request divorce records from the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont State Archives Records Administration.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Vermont?

Interested parties may obtain copies of divorce decrees from the Family Court Clerk in the county where the court heard the divorce case. Court Clerks are record custodians, and state laws task them with making records available to authorized and eligible persons on request. Interested parties may obtain certified copies of divorce records online through the Vital Records Request Service. Alternatively, interested parties may submit request forms for certified copies of divorce records by mail to the state registrar at:

Vermont Department of Health
Vital Records Office
P O Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How do I get a Vermont Divorce Decree Online?

Interested parties may request divorce decrees at the Office of the Court Clerk in the county where a judge granted the dissolution. Vermont does not currently provide online requests for divorce decrees. However, interested parties may request certified copies of divorce records online through the Vital Records Request Service.

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