Divorce Guide

Divorce Guide


Divorce Laws in Rhode Island



Residency Requirements for Divorce in Rhode Island
Either spouse must have been a resident of Rhode Island for 1 year prior to filing for divorce. The divorce may be filed for in the county of residence of the plaintiff, unless the 1-year residency requirement has been satisfied by the defendant's residence. In such case, the divorce must be filed for in the county of the defendant's residence.

Legal Grounds for Divorce in Rhode Island

  1. No Fault Divorce:
    1. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage (or)
    2. living separate and apart without cohabitation for 3 years
  2. General Divorce:
    1. Impotence
    2. adultery
    3. abandonment and presumed dead
    4. alcoholism and/or drug addiction
    5. willful desertion for 5 years (or less within the discretion of the court)
    6. cruel and inhuman treatment
    7. bigamy
    8. gross neglect

Legal Separation in Rhode Island
Legal separation (or divorce from bed and board) may be granted for the same grounds as that required for a divorce. The spouse seeking legal separation must have been a resident for a period of time that the court deems proper.

Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures in Rhode Island
A court hearing will be required in all divorce cases. An official Financial Statement must be filed in all divorce cases. In addition, an official Child Support Guidelines form must be filed in all cases involving minor children. Official sample forms are available for use in preparing the Complaint for Divorce and other documents are found in Rhode Island Rules of Procedure for Domestic Relations, Appendix of Forms.

Divorce Mediation in Rhode Island
In cases which involve child custody or visitation, the court may direct the parents to participate in mediation in an effort to resolve any differences. There is an official Family Court counseling form which must be filed with the Complaint for Divorce.

Divorce Property Distribution
Rhode Island is an "equitable distribution" state. Separate property which a spouse owned prior to the marriage and any property which a spouse receives by gift or inherits (either before or during a marriage) is not subject to division. Any other property (including any income from separate property that was earned during the marriage) may be divided by the court. The following factors are considered:

  1. the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker
  2. the length of the marriage
  3. the conduct of the spouses during the marriage
  4. the health and ages of the spouses
  5. the amount and sources of income of the spouses
  6. the occupation and employability of each of the spouses
  7. the contribution by 1 spouse to the education, training, licensure, business, or increased earning power of the other
  8. the need of a custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own the household effects according to the best interests of any children
  9. either spouse's wasteful dissipation or unfair transfer of any assets in contemplation of divorce
  10. the opportunity of each spouse for acquisition of assets and income
  11. any other factor which is just and proper

Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be awarded alimony after a divorce or legal separation. In determining the amount of alimony, the following factors are to be considered:

  1. the extent to which either spouse is unable to support himself or herself adequately because of his or her position as primary caretaker of a child whose age, condition, or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not seek employment outside of the home
  2. the extent to which either party is unable to support himself or herself
  3. the extent to which a spouse was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities
  4. the extent to which a spouse's education may have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished
  5. the time and expense required for a supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education and training to develop marketable skills and become employed
  6. the probability, given the spouse's age and skills, of completing education and training and becoming self-supporting
  7. the standard of living during the marriage
  8. the opportunity for either spouse for the future acquisition of capital assets and income
  9. the ability of the supporting spouse to pay, taking into consideration the supporting spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living
  10. the length of the marriage
  11. the conduct of the spouses during the marriage
  12. the health, age, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, and employability of the spouses
  13. the liability and needs of the spouses
  14. any other factors which are just and proper

Spouse's Name After Divorce
Any woman may request that her name be changed.

Child Custody After Divorce
Child custody is determined according to the best interests of the child. Reasonable visitation should be granted to the non-custodial parent, unless it would be harmful to the child. There are no factors for consideration set out by statute. There is no specific provision for joint custody in Rhode Island.

Child Support After Divorce
Either parent may be ordered to provide child support, after a consideration of the following factors:

  1. the financial resources of the child
  2. the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved
  3. the physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child
  4. the needs of the noncustodial parent
  5. the financial resources of both the noncustodial and the custodial parent
  6. any other factors
Family Court child support guidelines have been adopted. In order to guarantee child support payments, the court may require:
  1. income or property assignments
  2. posting of bond
  3. wage withholding
There is an official Child Support Guidelines Form which must be filed in cases involving minor children.


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