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The Basics of Rhode Island Divorce Laws

A man and woman sit at a desk together. Their wedding rings are off of their fingers.

Turning the Page

When the marriage you’ve hoped would be a dream turns out otherwise, it might be time to start looking into other options. Getting a divorce may be the best option for your situation, but you might not know where to begin or what all is involved in the process. Here are some of the basic tenets of getting a divorce in Rhode Island.

Grounds for Divorce

Rhode Island allows one to file on the basis of either fault or no-fault. Filing on no-fault grounds means that the couple has irreconcilable differences that render the marriage damaged beyond repair and that attempts at reconciliation cannot fix. A no-fault divorce can also be filed if you and your spouse have been separated and have not lived together for at least three years.

A fault-based divorce is based on a specific reason for seeking the end of the marriage. These grounds can include adultery and cruelty. These reasons could also contribute to a no-fault divorce if such actions have contributed to the irreconcilable differences given.

Filing Requirements and Procedure

In order to file for divorce in Rhode Island, you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least one year prior to filing your petition. When you file your petition, you will also have to decide whether you are filing for a fault or no-fault divorce as well if your divorce will be contested or uncontested, as this can impact which petition you ultimately end up filing.

When two spouses decide to get divorced and can agree on issues such as spousal support and child custody prior to going to court, then that divorce is considered uncontested. This type of divorce can often be quicker because of the lack of litigation.

Once you determine how you will file, you will then submit the necessary paperwork and pay the fee in the county of residence of the person filing for divorce. If the one-year residency requirement is fulfilled by the other spouse, then your paperwork needs to be filed in that spouse’s county of residence.

Once filed, your spouse must be officially notified or “served” the divorce paperwork. When served, you will receive proof of service that must be submitted to the court.

Working Through Issues

If your divorce is uncontested, then you will need to wait a period of time before your case goes to the judge to be finalized. If contested, however, then you and your spouse (and your respective attorneys) will need to try to work out an agreement on issues such as child support, custody, and property division. This can be done through several means, such as mediation. If you and your spouse do not manage to come to an agreement, then your case will go to litigation.

Property Distribution

Rhode Island uses the equitable distribution method when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. This means that all marital property (i.e. property acquired during the time of the marriage) is divided in a way that is fair and just. This does not necessarily mean that property is divided equally, but this can happen.

Child Custody

Child custody is determined based upon what is in the best interest of the child, along with several other factors taken into account. Rhode Island has two types of custody:

  • Physical placement/physical custody refers to where the child resides. The parent with whom the child lives is referred to as the “custodial parent.”

  • Legal custody refers to who gets to make decisions on behalf of the child. This can either be joint (more common) or sole.

Regardless of other factors considered, Rhode Island family court will always make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.

Child Support and Alimony

Depending on the case, child support and alimony payments may also be awarded. Child support payments are paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent and are based on factors such as the custodial parent’s income and the child’s living expenses. Exactly how much child support is paid is calculated using the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines.

Alimony payments are paid by the spouse earning more income to the lower-earning spouse. Similarly, exactly how much these payments are for are determined using a formula set forth by Rhode Island state guidelines.

Retain a Rhode Island Divorce Advocate

Whether you are ready to begin filing or still have questions about divorce, it is important to speak with an attorney with experience handling divorce cases. At Assalone Lombardi, LLC, we understand that you may feel overwhelmed with emotion and are unsure of where to begin. We are ready to answer your questions and get you started on this new path.

To speak with our Rhode Island attorneys, call us at (401) 589-5599 or visit us online.