by Erik Wheeler
December 27, 2022
Do we need to file for legal separation first before divorcing in Vermont?
No. It is a common misconception that one needs to file for legal separation before filing for divorce. While the term “legal separation” may sound like the establishment of a separation period, it is something very different.
Legal separation involves all the details of a divorce — asset division, debt division, parenting plan and child support if you have children, and potentially spousal support — but it does not dissolve the marriage. Therefore, you will not be divorced if filing for legal separation.
So legal separation is probably not what you want. It is not commonly used.
Sometimes people incorrectly believe that they need to file for legal separation either to establish the six-month waiting period, or to get the divorce started.
However, if you file the first document, the Summons and Complaint, without filing the rest of the paperwork, it will be filed as a contested divorce, which takes longer to complete (because you will need to attend a Case Manager Conference meeting and the court will plan for a divorce hearing), and costs more ($295 instead of $90 filing fee)1.
You do not need to do anything formal to establish the separation date. You also do not need to live in separate housing. You can live separately under the same roof as long as you are in separate bedrooms and no longer having sexual relations with each other.2
If you’d like to file for an uncontested divorce (also called a stipulated divorce), the first step is to come to agreement on all the details required in the filing documents. A mediator can guide you through the different decisions and understand each aspect, and then create the paperwork for you.