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Prior to a divorce in Vermont, you have to be familiar with the process and with the laws in the state. While the proceedings are similar from one state the next, all states are allowed to set their own divorce laws, so they are rarely identical. Even the smallest detail or technicality can impact the case. Be sure that you know about all of these details so that you are never caught unaware.
While the actual grounds for your divorce can vary a lot —- from irreconcilable differences to abuse —- there are three general ways to file for a divorce. First, you can use a fault-based divorce if your spouse did something to cause you to want the split; this may be a tool that you can use to make sure that you also get custody of the children, depending on what the reason is. If the split is more agreeable and there is no incident that sparked it, you and your spouse can also file for a no-fault divorce. You are not obligated to do either one, but can choose as you wish.
Additionally, splitting up before officially divorcing can also be used as grounds for an official separation. In Vermont, the time limit is very short: You only have to have been separated for a period of six months.
Vermont is an equitable division state, so you and your spouse still get to own things individually, rather than being looked at as joint owners, like you would in a community property state. For example, you may be able to claim your income and your spouse can claim his or her income. You can also claim items that you purchased if you did so on an individual basis —- a car that you bought with your money, for instance.
Now, it is important to note that the judge is not obligated to give you everything you have claimed. Instead, he or she is asked to divide all of the property in an equitable and fair manner. Remember that equitable and equal are not the same. This is up to the court's discretion.
The best interests of your child are going to come into play for two very important parts of the case: Child support and child custody. For support, you and your spouse both have to pay. Now, if you have been given sole custody, you may not feel like you are paying, but the court will determine how much of your money has to be allotted to pay for your child each month. Additional support may be required from your spouse —- this can also work the other way around, depending on the situation. The total amount, which comes from both parties and not just one side or the other, is determined at a level that is supposed to provide the best care for the child.
Naturally, this is different for every case, depending on how much you and your spouse earn, what other assets you have, what the child needs to live comfortably, and many other factors.
The second way that the child's best interests impact the case is that the child custody arrangement will never be based solely around what you or your spouse wants. Instead, the court will look at what arrangement would be best for your child. This usually means attempting to find a solution where you both have equal roles in the child's life. Joint custody may not split up time evenly for many reasons —- such as keeping the child near his or her school during the week -— but both parents should have a role, unless other circumstances, such as criminal charges, make this undesirable.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified divorce lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.