Legal Memorandum: Division of Marital Assets in VT

Issue: In a divorce matter, what happens to assets that one party brings to the marriage in Vermont?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Division of assets; Marital property
Jurisdiction: Vermont 
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 15 V.S.A. § 751, § 751(b)
Date: 05/01/2008

There is no rule of equal division of assets in Vermont, and the assets that are divided are not limited to those acquired during the marriage.  Instead, 15 V.S.A. § 751 provides that the family court must “equitably divide and assign the property” and may do so with respect to “[a]ll property owned by either or both of the parties, however and whenever acquired.”  Id. §751(a).  See Guiel v. Guiel, 682 A.2d 957 (Vt. 1996) (family court has broad discretion to divide property in accord with statutory factors, and “distribution must be equitable, not necessarily equal”); Wall v. Moore, 704 A.2d 775, 777 (Vt. 1997) (although the origin of the asset is a statutory factor to be considered, it is not dispositive).  There are a total of twelve statutory factors to be considered in dividing and awarding property; none is dispositive, and the family court has broad discretion in applying them.  Id.; 15 V.S.A. § 751(b).

The fact that one party brings assets to a marriage does not mean such assets are not marital property subject to division.  See Wall, 704 A.2d at 777; Milligan v. Milligan, 613 A.2d 1281, 1284 (Vt. 1992).  However, it is a factor to be considered.  Other factors to be considered include:

·         Length of marriage

·         Age and health of parties

·         Occupation, source and amount of income of each

·         Vocational skills and employability of each