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The Legal Status of Women
in the
United States of America








' •"


as of



1, 1959

"Vvs/ 7'f;



Bureau Bulletin 157-44 (Revised)

James P. Mitchell, Secretary
Mrs. Alice K. Leopold, Director

The report for Vermont was prepared by Laura H. Dale, with
the assistance of Mary Z. Bastian, under the general direction
of Alice A. Morrison of the Division of Women’s Labor Law and
Civil and Political Status of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Depart­
ment of Labor.


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D.C. - Price 15 cents


Civil rights____ _________________________________________________________
Contracts and property________________________________________
1. Age of majority
2. Contractual powers of a minor
3. Property exemptions from seizure for debt______________________
A. Respective rights of man and woman______________________
B. Homesteads_____
4. Ownership and control of property owned at marriage___________
5. Contractual powers of a married woman________________________
6. Earnings of a married woman
7. Liability for family support____
8. Right of a married woman to engage in a separate business_____
9. Rights of a married woman with respect to separate property___
10. Property acquired by joint efforts of husband and wife__________



11. Damages for injury to person, property, or character....................


12. Damages for injury by spouse to person or property____________
13. Competency of husband or wife to testify for or against each other.
14. Right to dispose of separate property by will____________________
15. Inheritance rights in deceased spouse’s estate___________________
16. Provision for survivors during administration of estate__________
17. Right of husband or wife to disinherit the other by will_________
Marriage and divorce
18. Age of consent to marriage
19. Common-law marriage
20. Premarital requirements
21. Interstate cooperation in marriage-law enforcement_____________
22. Annulment
23. Divorce _
Parents and children
24. Parents’ right to services and earnings of a minor child__________
25. Guardianship of a minor child
26. Appointment of testamentary guardian for a minor child________
27. Inheritance—child
28. Child born out of wedlock
29. Inheritance—child born out of wedlock
Political rights
30. Domicile of a married woman
31. Public office—eligibility of women
32. Jury service—eligibility of women




The Legal Status of Women in the
United States of America

Any conclusion bearing on woman’s status under the laws of the
United States of America must take into account the common law,
on which the fabric of the Nation’s jurisprudence is woven.
The common-law rules of property sprang from various causes,
notably tradition, military or economic exigency, and “natural male
dominance.” Economic and social advances in the position of women
in the United States have brought about marked changes in the laws
governing property and family rights and political status.
In general, it has been the rule that where specific statutes abrogat­
ing common-law principles have not been enacted, the common law
applies. In the century just past, many of the old common-law
injustices to women have been removed by statute.
The material considered centers largely around the woman in the
marriage relation, since the legal status of the unmarried woman
is practically identical with that of the unmarried man.
The United States Summary of the Legal Status of Women in the
United States of America, Bulletin 157, has been brought up to date
as of January 1, 1953. Information in the Summary is compiled
from the reports for 48 States and the District of Columbia.
Material for Alaska and Hawaii will be incorporated in the United
States Summary when the latter is revised.



Constitution of Vermont
1958 Revision of Vermont Statutes
Vermont Reports
Atlantic Reporter

Explanatory Note

This pamphlet, Bulletin 157-44, presents a digest of the Constitu­
tion and statutory provisions affecting the legal status of women in
the State of Vermont. It includes pertinent statutory changes enacted
in that State up to January 1, 1959, and supersedes the previous
report and addendum for Vermont.
References to the State Constitution are indicated by parenthetical
insertions of article and section numbers following the abbreviation
“Const.,” as (Const., art. 6, sec. 4), placed after the related subject
References to the code sections are likewise in parentheses, as
(T. 9, sec. 5153).
Case citations definitely construing statutes or declaring judicial
policy in the absence of express statutory provision are indicated by
footnote references. Cases showing historical development of a
statute or policy are followed by the abbreviation “hist.”
Numbered subject headings are the same as those in the Summary.
Cross references employ these numbers for brevity, as “See number
6,” which refers to the subject heading “Earnings of a married


Contracts and Property

1. Age of majority

Persons are considered of age at 21 years and are minors until they
attain that age (T. 1, sec. 173).
The marriage of a female minor under guardianship discharges
her guardian from all right to her custody and education, but not
from his right to her property (T. 14, sec. 3002).
2. Contractual powers of a minor

A minor is bound to pay a reasonable price for necessaries sold and
delivered to him, such necessaries being goods suitable to his condi­
tion in life and his actual requirements at the time of delivery (T. 9,
sec. 1502).
Every personal contract to which a minor is a party, if not entered
into for necessaries which he has actually received, may be avoided
by him, whether fully executed or not, unless he has confirmed such
contract by his acts or words after arriving at the age of 21 years.1
A deed executed and delivered by a minor conveying land remains
good and valid until it is avoided by him. As he alone has the power
of avoiding the deed and rescinding the contract, he is bound, after
he comes of age and is competent to exercise a discretion upon the
subject, to make his election and give notice of his intention. Unless
he makes known his determination in a reasonable time, the contract
becomes enforceable against him.2
A minor may hold shares of stock in cooperative savings and loan
associations in his own name and under his own control (T. 8, sec.
1 Abell v. Warren (1832,), 4 Vt. 149.
3Bigelow y. Kinney (1830), 3 Vt. 353; 21 Am. Dec. 589.




The trustees of a bank may pay to a minor such sum as is de­
posited to his credit. Receipt from the minor constitutes a full dis­
charge for the amount given (T. 8, sec. 812). Bank deposits to the
credit of a minor, earned by or belonging to him, are exempt from
trustee process (T. 8, sec. 813).
The earnings of a minor are exempt from trustee process in an ac­
tion against a parent of such minor (T. 12, sec. 3020).
A bank, insurance company, or other financial institution is au­
thorized to make loans secured by a mortgage on real estate to a hus­
band and wife where the wife is a minor over 18 years old and where
said real estate is to be used as a home by them, and may make any
contract relating thereto with such minors. Minority is not a defensein any lawsuit in which the mortgage or contract is material (T. 8,
sec. 131).
(See number 14 as to minor’s capacity to make a valid will.)
3. Property exemptions from seizure for debt
A. Respective Rights





A debtor may hold exempt from execution for debt any or all of
the various articles of personal property enumerated in the statute,,
and according to the limits of value there specified. The exemption
includes among other items: Suitable apparel, bedding, tools, arms,,
household furniture necessary for sustaining life, sewing machine;,
foodstuffs, fuel, livestock and provisions for it through one winter;
and mechanical or professional equipment for use in earning a liv­
ing. Personal property is not exempt from debts for purchase price,
nor for material or labor expended on it (T. 12, sec. 2739).
Wages or compensation due to a person for his work or labor per­
formed before service of the trustee process on the employer are
exempt to the amount of $25, or one-half of such wages or compen­
sation, whichever amount is the lesser (T. 12, sec. 3020).
Accumulations upon shares in a cooperative savings and loan asso­
ciation held by any person are exempt from levy to the amount of
$1,000 (T. 8, sec. 1512).
A sum payable to a policyholder for loss by fire of property exempt
from attachment and execution is likewise exempt in the hands of the
insurance company against the policyholder’s debts. Nor is a lifeinsurance company subject to trustee process on funds in its hands not
exceeding $500 due or payable under a policy of life insurance (T. 12,
sec. 3020).
A policy of insurance on the life of a person expressed to be for the
benefit of a married woman inures to her separate use and benefit
and that of her children. Neither the husband, nor the person whose



life is insured, nor any creditor or representative of either of these, has
any right, title, or interest in such policy or the benefits from it (T.
15, sec. 143).
B. Homestead

The homestead consisting of a dwelling house, outbuildings, and
the land used in connection with them, valued at not more than $2,500,
owned and used or kept as a homestead, together with the rents, issues,
profits, and products from it, is exempt, in general, from attachment
and execution (T. 27, sec. 101).
The homestead is subject to levy of execution on causes of action
existing at the time the homestead is acquired (T. 27, sec. 107) for
taxes assessed against it (T. 27, sec. 108) ; for material and labor ex­
pended on the property (T. 9, secs. 1921-1922, 1927-1928) ; and for
maintenance of division fences between the property and adjoining
lands (T. 24, sec. 3814).
If the owner of a homestead is a married person, both husband and
wife must join in any conveyance of the property, except a mortgage
given for the purchase-money at the time the homestead is acquired
(T. 27, sec. 141). Any mortgage on real property to secure a present
debt and any future advances are a lien upon the mortgaged property
for the full amount of debt directly created between the parties. If
the mortgaged property includes a homestead, however, the spouse of
the mortgagor must consent in writing to the creation of any subse­
quent, indebtedness (T. 13, sec. 3307).
Statutory provision is made for conveyance of the homestead when
the spouse owning the property is under guardianship (T. 27, sec.
142), or when the owner’s husband or wife is insane (T. 27, sec. 143).
Provision is also made for protection of funds for the best interest of
all concerned (T. 27, sec. 143; T. 27, secs. 184, 185).
On the death of the owner the statutory homestead passes to and
vests in the surviving spouse, free from debts of the decedent unless
such debts were legally charged against it in the owner’s lifetime
(T. 27, sec. 105). But if there are minor children living, the home­
stead right of the surviving spouse may be lost through his or her
fault in not residing at the homestead together with the deceased
spouse for the 2 years immediately prior to decedent’s death. It may
also be lost by residing away from the homestead with the intention of
abandoning the minor children, or through leaving the homestead so
that his or her whereabouts cannot be found after diligent search by
the estate’s representatives (T. 27, sec. 106).
The homestead right of the surviving spouse cannot be destroyed
by the will of the deceased owner.3
8In re O’Rourke’s Estate (1934), 106 Vt. 327; 175 Atl. 24 (hist.).



4. Ownership and control of property owned at marriage

All personal property and rights of action acquired by a woman
prior to her marriage are her separate property. Such property and
the rent, issues, income, and products from it are not subject to her
husband’s control or liable for his debts (T. 15, secs. 66, 68).
A married woman may convey or mortgage by her separate deed
the real estate owned or acquired by her for her sole and separate use
as if she were unmarried (T. 15, sec. 64). When a married woman
deeds or conveys real property acquired under some name other than
her present one, her conveyance must show both her former and present
name (T. 15, sec. 65).
A married man is not liable for a debt contracted by his wife before
marriage (T. 15, sec. 69).
(See also number 9 for status of land.)
5. Contractual powers of a married woman

A married woman may make contracts with any person other than
her husband, and bind herself and her separate property as if she were
unmarried. She may sue and be sued as to all such contracts made
by her, either before or during marriage, without the joinder of her
husband; and execution may issue against her and be levied on her sole
and separate goods, chattels, and estate. A married woman may be­
come a general or limited partner in a business in which her husband
also is a partner, and be a partner with him. She may contract with
him for that purpose (T. 15, sec. 61). Under this statute, a wife is
liable on her surety contract for her husband.4
No assignment of or order for payment of any salary, wages, or
other compensation for services earned or to be earned, or chattel
mortgage on household furniture in use and possession of the borrower
is valid if the borrower is married, unless it is signed in person by
both husband and wife. However, the written assent of a spouse is not
required when husband and wife have been living separate and apart
for at least 5 months prior to the making of such assignment (T. 8,
sec. 3028).
A policy of insurance issued within the State on the life of a
husband for the benefit of his wife, whether taken out by the husband
or the wife, may be assigned by the wife with the husband’s written
consent (T. 15, sec. 141). A woman may cause the life of her father
or brother to be insured for her sole use for a definite period or
during his lifetime (T. 15, sec. 144).
A married woman may serve as executrix, administratrix, guardian,
or trustee. The marriage of a single woman does not affect her
* McNamara v. Pickett (1938), 109 Vt. 500 ; 1 Atl. (2d) 716.



authority to act in any such capacity under a previous appointment
(T. 14, sec. 912; T. 15, sec. 63; T. 14, sec. 3001).
A married woman is eligible for appointment as guardian of a
spendthrift, insane, or absconding person, whether he is her husband
or any other person. Upon appointment under the statute authorizing
such guardianship, she has the same rights, powers, and privileges,
and is subject to the same liabilities as if unmarried (T. 14, sec. 2692).
The surviving husband or wife has preference for appointment as
administrator of the estate of a deceased spouse. Unless a widow or
next of kin applies for administration, or requests that it be granted
to some other person, within 30 days after the husband’s death,
administration may be granted to one or more principal creditors,
if qualified (T. 14, sec. 903).
(See number 9 as to control of real property.)
The marriage of a woman during litigation to which she is a party
does not abate the action. The fact that the marriage was contracted
may be shown upon the record, but the case proceeds as if she had
remained unmarried (T. 15, sec. 62).
6. Earnings of a married woman

Earnings of a married woman are her separate property and are
not subject to seizure for her husband’s debts (T. 15, sec. 66).
7. Liability for family support

It is the husband’s duty to support the family and he is liable for
necessaries. A wife is liable for necessaries furnished the family when
she has contracted for them (T. 15, sec. 61).
Unless there is just cause or lawful excuse, if financially and
physically able to do so, a husband or wife must provide for the
support and maintenance of the other, and a parent must provide for
the support and maintenance of his child, when any of these is in
destitute or necessitous circumstances.
Any parent who deserts, willfully neglects, or refuses to provide
for the support and maintenance of his child without lawful excuse,
is liable to criminal prosecution, and on conviction subject to im­
prisonment or fine or both (T. 15, sec. 202). A wife who is supporting
her husband is liable for the payment of a poll tax or an old-ageassistance tax. A husband living with or supporting his wife is
liable for such taxes assessed against her. Payment of these taxes
is required to qualify citizens for voting in town meeting (T. 32,
sec. 5011; T. 24, sec. 701).



8. Right of a married woman to engage in a separate business

No formal statutory procedure is required for a married woman to
engage in a separate business.
9. Rights of a married woman with respect to separate property

All personal property and rights of action acquired by a woman
before or after marriage, except by gift from her husband, are her
separate property. Neither such property nor the rents, issues, income,
and products from it is subject to her husband’s control or liable for
his debts (T. 15, secs. 66, 68).
Ownership and control of real estate

A married woman may convey or mortgage by her separate deed the
real estate which she owns in her own right for her “sole and separate
use,” as if she were unmarried. By her deed she may convey or
mortgage, and may manage and control any other real estate acquired
by her on or after February 13,1919. However, a homestead interest
in such property and the real estate which she owns jointly with her
husband are exempt and may be conveyed or mortgaged only by the
joint deed of herself and husband (T. 15, sec. 64).
To convey land acquired by her prior to February 13, 1919, not
her separate property, the statute provides: “A husband and wife
may, by their joint deed, convey the real estate of the wife as she
might do by her separate deed if unmarried” (T. 27, sec. 343).
The husband does not have a freehold interest in the real estate
of his wife which is not held by her for her sole and separate use.5
A tenancy by the entirety is created by a conveyance to husband
and wife. The parties take the property as one person, and have but
one title, each owning the whole. When one party dies, the estate
continues in the survivor. Neither acting alone can convey the prop­
erty to bind the other. A conveyance to husband and wife is ex­
pressly excepted from the operation of the statute (T. 27, sec. 2),
preferring tenancies in common to joint tenancies.0
Real estate and tangible personal property with the products from
them, owned as an estate by entirety, are chargeable during the hus­
band’s lifetime for debts contracted by him for the necessary upkeep
of the property. The liability is as complete as if lie owned the prop­
erty in his name only (T. 15, sec. 67).
The income from the real estate of a married woman; the profits
from the sale of such real estate; and her husband’s interest in the
real estate, which belonged to her before marriage or which she ac­
quired during marriage, are exempt from attachment for the sole
“ Proulx V. Farrow (1947), 115 Vt. 232, 56 Atl. (2d) 623.
« Corinth v. Emery (1891), 63 Vt. 505 ; 22 Atl. 618.



debts of her husband. However, annual products may be attached
for a debt of the husband for necessaries for his wife and family,
and for debts for labor or materials furnished for cultivation or im­
provement of such real estate (T. 15, sec. 68). The real estate of a
married woman may be charged with a mechanic’s lien when she
assents to the contract (T. 9, sec. 1928).
10. Properly acquired by joint efforts of husband and wife

In the absence of a statute to the contrary, the common-law rule
governs that property acquired by joint efforts belongs to the husband.
The court has ruled that presumption of ownership of personal prop­
erty in the joint possession of parties who are husband and wife is in
favor of the husband, until proved otherwise.7
The statute giving a married woman the absolute right in her per­
sonal property and rights of action, and declaring such property free
from liability for her husband’s debts, expressly provides that
“nothing herein contained shall authorize a claim by either husband
or wife against the other for personal services” (T. 15, sec. 66).
The fact that a wife assisted her husband in his business and in
caring for the money which was the product of their joint labor does
not make any part of the money thus accumulated the property of the
11. Damages for injury to person, property, or character

A married woman may sue and be sued as to all contracts which she
is authorized by statute to make (T. 15, sec. 61). In general, all
rights of action acquired by a woman, either before or after her mar­
riage, are her sole and separate property (T. 15, sec. 66).
A married man is not liable for the torts of his wife unless com­
mitted by his authority or direction (T. 15, sec. 69).
12. Damages for injury by spouse to person or property

Neither spouse has a right of civil action against the other for a
tort committed upon the one spouse by the other.
The statute empowering a married woman to sue and be sued on her
contracts does not give the wife a right of action against her husband
for his torts against her. In passing that statute, the legislature in­
tended only parity between the spouses and did not intend to give to
the wife a remedy which the husband did not possess against her either
at common law or under the statute.
The purpose of the statute was not to abolish the legal identity of
husband and wife, but to empower the wife, while that status exists, to
7 State v. Kamuda (1925), 98 Vt. 466; 129 Atl. 306.
8 Monahan

v. Monahan

(1904), 77 Vt. 133 ; 59 Atl. 169 ; 70 L. R. A. 935,



sue and be sued in her own name as a femme sole in those instances
where a right of action arises by reason of injuries to her committed
by someone other than her husband.9
13. Competency of husband or wife to testify for or against each
Husband and wife are competent witnesses for or against each other
in all causes, civil or criminal, except that neither may be allowed to
testify against the other as to a statement, conversation, letter, or other
communication made to the other or to another person. Neither
spouse may testify in any case as to a matter which, in the opinion of
the court, would lead to a violation of marital confidence. However,
this statute does not prevent the parties to a divorce suit from testifying
as to all matters in such proceeding (T. 12, sec. 1605).
In actions against a bank by a husband to recover for moneys de­
posited by his wife in her name or as her money, the wife may be a
witness as if she were an unmarried woman (T. 8, sec. 814).
Both husband and wife are competent to testify against each other
in matters related to actions for desertion and nonsupport of family
(T. 15, sec. 207).
Laws attaching a privilege against the disclosure of communications
between husband and wife are inapplicable to proceedings under the
Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act. Husband and wife
are competent witnesses to testify to any relevant matter, including
marriage and parentage (T. 15, sec. 268).
14. Right to dispose of separate property by will

A person of age and sound mind may devise, bequeath, and dispose
of his estate, real and personal, and of any right or interest which he
has in any real or personal estate, by his last will and testament. The
word “person” includes a married woman (T. 14, sec. 1).
The rights of a surviving spouse are paramount to all others, even to
the power of the other to dispose of property by will. Until these
rights are satisfied, no will can be effective.1011
15. Inheritance rights in deceased spouse’s estate

The real and personal estate of a deceased person, not passing by will
and not otherwise appropriated and distributed as directed by statute,
descends, with reference to a surviving spouse, in the following
» Comstock v. Comstock (1034), 106 Vt. 50; 169 Atl. 903.
30 In re Peck’s Estate (1907), 87 Vt. 194, 212 ; 88 Atl. 568.
11 In re O’Rourke’s Estate (1934), 106 Vt. 327; 175 Atl. 24 (hist.).



Share under inheritance laws

If no issue survives the decedent, the living spouse takes the entire
estate when not in excess of $8,000. In an estate of greater value, such
survivor is entitled to $8,000 and one-half the remainder. The sur­
viving spouse receives the entire estate, regardless of its value, if the
decedent left no kindred.
Share of widow in lieu of dower

A widow’s statutory share entitles her absolutely to one-third in
value of all the real estate which her husband owned at death. If the
husband is survived by only one heir and such heir is the issue of the
widow or the heir by adoption of both spouses, the widow is entitled
absolutely to one-half in value of such real estate (T. 14, sec. 461).
The widow is entitled to a third in value of the equity of redemption
of lands mortgaged by her husband or which he held at the time of his
decease under the mortgagor. She may pay a third of the amount due
on the mortgage and have a third in value of the land, as against the
administrator, heirs, and creditors of her deceased husband (T. 14, sec.
462). The homestead right is additional to the widow’s interest in lieu
of dower. Moreover, such interest is not subject to payment of un­
secured debts.12
But the widow may be barred of these rights when: (a) A jointure
or some pecuniary provision was settled on her before marriage by her
husband or some other person with or without her agreement or con­
sent, or after her marriage with her consent, to be effective at the hus­
band’s death, and expressed to be in lieu or discharge of her one-third
interest in the husband’s real estate; (b) the husband by will makes
provision for her which, in the judgment of the probate court, was
intended to be in lieu of such one-third interest; or (c) the husband
dies leaving no children or their representatives and the widow is
thereby entitled to the provisions made by statute in such cases (T. 14,
sec. 465).
Within the time provided by statute, the widow may waive the pro­
visions made for her in her husband’s will or the jointure or pecuni­
ary provision made for her, and take instead her share in lieu of
dower in the husband’s real estate, notifying the court in writing of
her election. If the widow was not the first wife of the decedent,
and he leaves no issue by her, and an agreement was entered into
between them regarding the widow’s claim in lieu of the one-third in­
terest, and if she has sufficient provision for her comfortable support
during life, the court may deny to her such one-third part of the real
estate, or any provision other than such as is provided by the agree­
ment between the parties (T. 14, sec. 465).
™ Blanchard v. Blanchard’s Estate (1938), 109 Vt. 454; 199 Atl. 233 (hist.).



A surviving husband is entitled absolutely to one-third in value of
all the real estate which his wife had at the time of her death. If
the wife is survived by only one heir who is the issue of the husband
or the heir by adoption of both spouses, the husband is entitled ab­
solutely to one-half in value of such real estate. The husband may be
barred from such one-third or one-half interest, when he is entitled to
and takes under the inheritance law or accepts a provision made for
him in his wife’s will (T. 14, sec. 4f4).
16. Provision for survivors during administration of estate
Until the third or one-half in value of the husband’s real estate is
set out to the widow, she may continue to occupy it, with the dece­
dent’s children and family, or may receive one-third of the rents,
issues, or profits of such estate (T. 14, sec. 4fil; T. 14, sec. 470). A
widow who elects to waive her husband’s will and take under the
statute giving her one-third in value of the husband’s realty, is entitled
also to this provision.13
The probate court may make a reasonable allowance for the main­
tenance of the widow and the minor children, or either, constituting
the family of a deceased person. This allowance may be taken from
his personal estate or the income of his real estate, from date of his
death until settlement, or in case of an insolvent estate for not longer
than 8 months (T. 14, sec. 404).
The surviving husband or wife receives from the decedent’s per­
sonal estate, not disposed of by will, all the articles of wearing apparel
and ornament, and such other part of the personal estate as the pro­
bate court assigns to the surviving husband or wife, according to his
or her circumstances and the estate and degree of the deceased. This
may not be less than a third, after payment of debts, funeral charges,
and expenses of administration (T. 14, sec. 401).
The same allowance will be made: (a) When the surviving husband
or wife waives the provision made for him or her in the decedent’s
will (except that if the decedent dies without issue, the living spouse
may take estate as if the decedent had made no will) ; (b) when the
widow waives the jointure or pecuniary provisions substituted for her
statutory interest in lieu of dower; or (c) when either spouse waives
the provisions of the law in case the decedent died without issue.
Such allowance is to be in lieu of his or her claim to the personal
estate (T. 14, sec. 402).
If the husband dies leaving a widow and/or minor children, or if
the wife dies leaving minor children and no husband, and the estate
does not exceed $300, the probate court may, in its discretion, assign
13 Blanchard v. Blanchard’s Estate (1938), 109 Vt. 454 ; 199 Atl. 233 (hist.).



che whole estate to the widow and/or minor children, for their use and
benefit (T. 14, sec. 409).
17. Right of husband or wife to disinherit the other by will

A surviving spouse has the right to reject the provisions of a dece­
dent’s will and take a statutory share of the estate (T. 14, sec. 475).
A voluntary conveyance of land made by a husband during mar­
riage to take effect at his death in order to defeat his widow’s share
in his real estate does not bar her right (T. 14, sec. 473).
Marriage and Divorce

18. Age of consent to marriage

Men at 21 years of age and women at 18 years may marry without
parental consent (T. 1, sec. 173). If the male is under 21 or the
female is under 18 years of age, parental consent in writing is
A marriage license may not be issued when the male is under 18 and
the female is under 16 unless the clerk is furnished with a certificate
from a judge of the county, stating that public good requires the
license to be issued (T. 18, sec. 5142).
19. Common-law marriage
Common-law marriages have never been recognized in this State..
The subject of marriage is regulated by statute.14
20. Premarital requirements

A marriage ceremony may not be performed until 5 days after is­
suance of the license, excluding the date of issue (T. 18, sec. 5145).
Each party to an application for license to marry must file a licensed
physician’s certificate, showing that both applicants have been given
the necessary examination for discovery of syphilis, including a stand­
ard serological test, within the 30 days immediately preceding the date
of application for license. The certificate must show that in the
opinion of the physician, the person named in the certificate either is
not infected with syphilis, or if so infected, is not in a stage of the
disease which is or may become communicable to the marital partner.
The premarital test may be waived upon authority of the probate judge
in specified cases (T. 18, secs. 5132—5138).
“A person, having been told by a physician that he or she was in­
fected with gonorrhea or syphilis in a stage which is or may become
communicable to a marital partner, or knowing that he or she is so
11Morrill y. Palmer (1895), 68 Vt. 1; 33 An. 829; 33 L. E. A. 4X1 (hist.).



infected, who marries, without assurance and certification from a
legally qualified practitioner of medicine and surgery or osteopathy
that he or she is free from such a disease, in a stage which is or may
become communicable to the marital partner shall be imprisoned not
less than 2 years or fined not less than $500 or both” (T. 18, sec. 1105).
If a person while infected with gonorrhea or syphilis, has sexual
intercourse, he or she is subject to imprisonment for not more than 2
years or a fine of not more than $500 (T. 18, sec. 1106).
21. Interstate cooperation in marriage-law enforcement

A marriage is void for all purposes in the State of Vermont if con­
tracted outside the State by any of its residents for the purpose of evad­
ing the Vermont marriage laws and with the intention of returning to
Vermont for continued residence after marriage (T. 15, sec. 5).16
A marriage is prohibited and void if contracted within the State of
Vermont by a resident of another State, when the marriage is forbidden
by the laws of such other State, and the party intends to return to that
State to reside after marriage (T. 15, sec. 6).
22. Annulment

Marriages prohibited because of forbidden degrees of relationship
between the parties or because either has a former wife or husband liv­
ing, if solemnized within the State, are void without any court action
(T. 15, secs. 4, 511). It should be noted that when a divorce has been
granted, it is unlawful for the defendant to marry any person other
than the former spouse within 2 years of the date the divorce is granted,
unless the former spouse has died within such time or permission of the
court is obtained (T. 15, sec. 559).
If a marriage is alleged to be void or its validity is doubted for the
causes mentioned above, either party may file a suit for annulment.
Upon proper proof, the marriage will be declared void by a decree of
nullity (T. 15, sec. 511).
The marriage may be annulled when, at the time of marriage, either
party was under 16 years of age, or was an idiot or lunatic or physically
incapable of entering into the married state, or when the consent of
either party was obtained by force or fraud (T. 15, sec. 512).
When the validity of a marriage is denied or doubted by either of the
parties, the other party may begin a court action for affirming it, and
upon proper proof of its validity, the marriage will be declared valid
by court decree (T. 15, sec. 7).
Children of annulled marriages are legitimate and succeed to the real
and personal estate of both parents (T. 15, sec. 520).
“ Wheeloch V. Wheelock (1931), 103 Vt. 417; 154 Atl. 665.



The court decrees custody of children of marriages annulled on the
ground of force and fraud to the innocent party, and may provide for
their education and maintenance out of the estate of the guilty party
(T. 15, sec. 517).
23. Divorce
An absolute divorce may be granted: (a) For adultery by either
party; (b) when either party is under sentence to imprisonment and
hard labor for life, or for 3 years or more, and is actually confined
in prison at the time the divorce action is brought; (c) for intolerable
severity in either party; (d) for willful desertion for 3 consecutive
years, or when either party has been absent for 7 years and not heard
of during that time; (e) for the incurable insanity of either party
when established as required by statute; (/) upon petition of a wife
when her husband has sufficient pecuniary or physical ability to pro­
vide suitable maintenance for her, and, without cause, persistently
refuses or neglects to do so; or (g) if husband and wife have lived
apart for 3 years without fault of the petitioner, and resumption of
marital relations is not reasonably probable (T. 15, sec. 551).
A partial divorce, that is, “a divorce from bed and board,” forever
or for a limited time, may upon petition be decreed for any of the causes
for which an absolute divorce may be granted (T. 15, sec. 554).
Alimony and maintenance

Pending or on granting a decree for an absolute or a limited divorce
or separate maintenance, the court may make orders concerning the
care, custody, maintenance, and education of the minor children of the
marriage (T. 15, secs. 293,556,600, 671).
When a husband fails to furnish suitable support for his wife with­
out just cause or has deserted her, or when the wife is actually living
apart from her husband for a justifiable cause, the court may prohibit
the husband from imposing restraint on her personal liberty. Upon
application of the husband or wife the court may make such orders
as it deems expedient concerning support of the wife and care, cus­
tody, education, and maintenance of the minor children. It may de­
termine with which of the parents the children shall remain (T. 15,
sec. 291). Either party may apply to the court for temporary relief.
The court may then make such order as is just in regard to temporary
alimony and funds to support the wife and minor children and to
maintain the litigation during pendency of the action (T. 15, sec. 672).
During the pendency of divorce, the court may enjoin either party
from interfering with the possession, use, and control of property be­
longing to the other party. The court may make mandatory orders
with respect to the real and personal property of the wife, the minor



children, the husband, or the husband and wife jointly (T. 15, sec..
On granting either a limited or absolute divorce or in annulling a
marriage, the court may make disposition of the property owned by
the parties separately, jointly, or by the entirety, as appears just and
equitable. This disposition is made taking into account the respective
merits of the parties, to the condition in which they will be left by
such divorce, to the party through whom the property was acquired,
and to the burden imposed upon it for the benefit of the children
(T. 15, sec. 751).
In granting a limited divorce decree, the court may assign to the
petitioner separate maintenance out of the estate or property of thu
other party, in such manner and of such amount as it may deem neces­
sary (T. 15, sec. 555).
Parents and Children

24. Parents’ right to services and earnings of a minor child

Vermont has no specific statute relating to a parent’s right to con­
trol the earnings of a minor child. However, a married woman whose
husband deserts her, becomes incapacitated, or neglects to provide for
his family, may make contracts for the labor of her minor children.
She is entitled to their wages and may sue for and recover such wages
in her own name (T. 15, sec. 101).
(See number 25 as to joint guardianship.)
25. Guardianship of a minor child

The father and mother of a legitimate minor child, if competent,
are the joint guardians of such child. The surviving parent, if com­
petent, becomes the sole guardian (T. 14, sec. 2641). The mother of
an illegitimate minor child is guardian of such child until another is
appointed (T. 14, sec. 2643).
When a minor is entitled to any estate, a guardian must be ap­
pointed to receive it, even though the minor has a parent living who
is authorized to act as guardian (T. 14, sec. 2646) ; but in such case
the parent so authorized may be appointed as guardian if approved
by the court (T. 14, sec. 2647). A guardian of a minor appointed
by the probate court has the care and management of the child’s
estate and, except as otherwise provided, the custody and tuition of
the minor. The guardian is required to furnish him suitable em­
ployment, provide for his education and instruction in science or some
trade or profession according to his circumstances, and may bind him
out to service as provided by law (T. 14, sec. 2652).



A minor 14 years or over may select his guardian subject to court
approval, (T. 14, sec. 2649).
26. Appointment of testamentary guardian for a minor child

A father may, by his last will, appoint a guardian for his minor
child, whether such child is living at the time of making the will or
born afterward, and the guardian is to be governed by the laws ap­
plicable to guardians appointed by the probate court (T. 14, sec.
27. Inheritance—child
The real and personal estate of a deceased person, not disposed of
by will nor otherwise appropriated and distributed under the statute,
may be inherited by his or her parents as follows: When the decedent
is a married person and leaves no issue, the remaining portion of the
estate, after the share of the surviving husband or wife has been set
apart, descends to the father and mother of the decedent in equal
shares, if both are living, or to the survivor of them if one is dead
(T. 14, sec. 551).
When the decedent leaves neither spouse nor issue, the father and
mother take the estate in equal shares, or, if one is dead, the survivor
takes the entire estate (T. 14, sec. 551).
The estate of an intestate decedent, not otherwise appropriated and
distributed in pursuance of law, passes in equal shares to the children
(T. 14, sec. 551).
28. Child born out of wedlock
When the paternity of a child born, or to be born, out of wedlock
has been established under the judicial proceeding provided by statute,
the adjudged father is ordered by the court to support the child. With
the assistance of the mother the adjudged father must provide for the
child in such manner and proportion as the court judges proper and
for such time as the child is likely to be unable to support itself, but
no longer. He must also pay to the mother at such time as the court
directs that proportion of expenses already incurred which the court
deems just, and costs of the proceeding (T. 15, sec. 339). Bond is
required of the father for performance of the court’s orders (T. 15,
sec. 340). Failure to supply bond and make required payments sub­
jects the adjudged father to jail commitment (T. 15, sec. 341), and his
refusal to make required payments will cause judgment to be entered
and execution issued to enforce payment (T. 15, sec. 342).
If a mother of a child born out of wedlock does not charge a person
with being the father within 30 days after the child’s birth, she may
be brought before the court and examined in writing, under oath, and



thereupon the court may issue a warrant causing the person charged
by her with being the father to be brought before the court (T. 15,
secs. 373, 374). On trial of the issue of paternity, the woman is a
competent witness and may be compelled to testify unless rendered in­
competent by conviction of a crime which by law disqualifies her from
being a witness in any cause. Her testimony in any paternity pro­
ceeding may not be used against her in a criminal prosecution, except
by perjury (T. 15, sec. 337). A woman may not be compelled to
testify or answer questions as to her pregnancy until 30 days after
delivery of the child (T. 15, sec. 338).
When the parents of a child born out of wedlock intermarry, the
child is considered legitimate and capable of inheriting, if recognized
by the father as his child (T. 14, sec. 554).
29. Inheritance—child born out of wedlock

The estate of a person bom out of wedlock who dies intestate and
without issue or spouse surviving, descends to the decedent’s mother,
and if the mother is dead, through the mother’s line as if the decedent
had been bom in wedlock (T. 14, sec. 553).
30. Domicile of a married woman

In the absence of an express statute the common law governs that
the wife’s domicile is determined by that of her husband.
For the purposes of relief, the domicile of a married woman is that
of her husband, and such domicile continues even though such woman
becomes a widow, is divorced, or legally separated from her husband.
However, a woman may gain a separate domicile in the same manner
as any other person after the death of her husband, by divorce, by
legal separation, or if he has deserted her for a period of three years.
When a widow, divorced woman, or unmarried mother gains a new
domicile by marriage, or otherwise, the domicile of her minor child
follows that of his mother (T. 33, sec. 741).
For the purpose of voting at a general election, a person’s residence
is determined by the residence of his family if within the State and
supported by him. If he has no such family, his residence is in the
town where he has actually spent his time the 90 days preceding the
election (T. 17, sec. 64).



31. Public office—eligibility of women

A person may not be debarred on account of sex from holding any
office or position of trust or responsibility under the State, including
United States Senator and Representative to Congress, or any county,
town, city, village, town school district, or incorporated fire, lighting,
or school district office (T. 1, sec. 273).
32. Jury service—eligibility of women
Women are eligible for jury duty on the same terms and conditions
as men (T. 12, secs. 1401, 1431,1433,1451,1501,1503).