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The Vermont Guide to
Civil Unions


Published by the Office of the Secretary of State
Revised July 2008
Deborah L. Markowitz, Secretary of State


The Vermont Guide to Civil Unions

Who may be joined in civil union?

How to get a Vermont civil union

Who may certify a Vermont civil union?

Where is the official record of the civil union?

What must a Vermont civil union ceremony include?

What are the legal consequences of a civil union?

Parties to a civil union may modify the terms of the union

How are civil unions dissolved?

Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under Vermont law, whether they derive from statute, policy, administrative or court rule, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.  

Vermont Act 91, 2000 Session 

Since July 2000, Vermont has permitted eligible couples of the same sex to be joined in civil union.  As of June 2008, over 1,490 Vermont couples have joined in civil union.  In total, more than 8,711 couples from all over the country and all over the world have obtained a Vermont civil union.


 

1.  Who may be joined in civil union? 

To be joined in civil union a couple must satisfy all of the following criteria: 


2.  How to get a Vermont civil union 

In order to be joined in civil union the couple must complete the following three steps: 

        Obtain civil union license from town clerk.  Vermont residents must get a civil union license from the town clerk of the town where either party resides.  Nonresidents may go to any town clerk in the state to obtain a civil union license.  It is not necessary for both parties to be present to obtain the license as only one signature is required on the application form.  A $45.00 fee must be paid to the town clerk. 

There are no residency nor citizenship  requirements for Vermont civil unions.

        Solemnize the civil union.  After obtaining the license, the couple must have the civil union solemnized by an official authorized to certify a civil union.  A Vermont judge, Vermont justice of the peace, a temporary officiant registered with the Secretary of State's Office, a member of the Vermont clergy, or a clergy person from another state who has been granted permission by a Vermont probate judge may certify a civil union.  The civil union may be solemnized anywhere in the state but must occur within 60 days of the issuance of the license by the town clerk. If the certification is delayed for more than 60 days a new license must be obtained. 

         Return the certified license to the town clerk.  The official who has solemnized the union must fill out and sign a portion of the civil union license.  Within ten days of the certification, the official who certifies the union must return it to the town clerk who issued it. If the official delays returning the certification beyond the tenth day, the official may be penalized, but the civil union will still be valid. 18 V.S.A. 5131.

For civil unions, as for marriages, Vermont law requires no medical certificate, blood test, nor waiting period.  18 V.S.A. 5145.

 

WARNING to NON-RESIDENTS 

It is easy to get a civil union in Vermont, but it may be hard to dissolve the civil union later.  See Section 8, How are civil unions dissolved, below. 


3.  Who may certify a Vermont civil union? 

Civil unions may be certified by any of the following: 

 


4.  Where is the official record of the civil union?  

Once the civil union license is certified and returned to the town clerk, the town clerk records the certificate in the permanent records of the town.   The clerk must send a copy of the certificate to the department of health.   A copy of the civil union certificate received from the town clerk, the commissioner of health or the director of public records shall be presumptive evidence of the civil union in all courts. 18 V.S.A. 5167.


5.  What must  a Vermont civil union ceremony include?  

There is no law governing what a civil union ceremony (or marriage ceremony) must include.  Indeed, the couple is free to discuss with the officiant their own ideas of what they want in a ceremony.  What is important is that the officiant is present for the ceremony and is able to certify that the parties entered into the civil union with mutual consent.   

While it is traditional that, at a minimum, the ceremony conducted by an officiant involves saying the words, "By the authority vested in me by the State of Vermont, I hereby join you in civil union,"  this is not required by law.

Text Box: Sample Civil Union Ceremony
Officiant: We are here to join _____ and ______ in civil union. (Then to each in turn, giving names as appropriate) Will you ____ have ____ to be united as one in your civil union? 
Response: I will. 
Officiant: (Then to each in turn, giving names as appropriate): Then repeat after me: 
"I ____ take you ____ to be my spouse in our civil union, to have and to hold from this day on, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, to love and to cherish forever."
Then, if rings are used, each in turn says, as the ring is put on:
"With this ring I join with you in this, our civil union."
Officiant: By the power vested in me by the State of Vermont, I hereby join you in civil union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


6.  What are the legal consequences of a civil union? 

Parties to a civil union are given all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under Vermont law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage. These include: 

 


7.  Parties to a civil union may modify the terms of the union 

Parties to a civil union may modify the terms, conditions, or effects of their civil union in the same manner and to the same extent as parties to a marriage.  This is done by executing an antenuptial agreement or other agreement recognized and enforceable under the law, setting forth particular understandings with respect to their union. 18 V.S.A. 1205.  The family court determines the enforceability of such agreements.

Text Box: Note that a party to a civil union is included, by law, in any definition or use of the terms "spouse," "family," "immediate family," "dependent," "next of kin," and other terms that denote the spousal relationship, as those terms are used throughout Vermont law.

 

 


 

8.  How are civil unions dissolved?   

The Vermont family court has jurisdiction over all proceedings relating to the dissolution of civil unions. The dissolution of civil unions follows the same procedures and is subject to the same substantive rights and obligations that are involved in the dissolution of marriages, including any residency requirements. 18 V.S.A. 1206.

The Vermont Family Court only has authority to consider a dissolution when at least one member of the couple has been a resident of Vermont for at least one year preceding the date of the final hearing of the dissolution.  A complaint to dissolve a civil union in Vermont may be brought if either party to the civil union has resided within the state for a period of six months or more, but dissolution cannot be granted unless one of the parties has resided in the state at least one year preceding the date of the final hearing.  Nonresident couples should consult with a domestic relations attorney in their home state to see whether the courts in their state will consider the dissolution action.  It is unclear how other states may handle a civil union dissolution.


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