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Rhode Island Divorce Laws

The state of Rhode Island has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.

We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce.

Residency Requirements: When filing for divorce in RI, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:

No complaint for divorce from the bond of marriage shall be granted unless the plaintiff has been a domiciled inhabitant of this state and has resided in this state for a period of one year next before the filing of the complaint.

The divorce would be filed in the county in which the plaintiff resides or in the county in which the defendant resides if he or she meets the 1 years residency requirement. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-12)

No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Rhode Island the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:

(1) Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage. (2) Living separate and apart without cohabitation for 3 years. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapters 15-5-2 15-5-3, 15-5-3.1 1505-5)

Filing Party Name: The Plaintiff. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Complaint for Divorce with the county court.

Non-Filing Party Name: The Defendant. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.

Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: State of Rhode Island, Family Court, __________ Division. All divorce cases in the state of Rhode Island are facilitated through this court for that particular county.

Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Rhode Island clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: County Clerk's Office of the Family Court.

Property and Debt Division: Rhode Island is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.

The court will consider the following when making a property award: (A) The duration of the marriage; (B) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; (C) The contribution of each of the parties during the marriage in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates; (D) The contribution and services of either party as a homemaker; (E) The health and age of the parties; (F) The amount and sources of income of each of the parties; (G) The occupation and employability of each of the parties; (H) The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income; (I) The contribution by one party to the education, training, license, business, or increased earning power of the other; (J) The need of the custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects taking into account the best interests of the children of the marriage; (K) Either party's wasteful dissipation of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce without fair consideration; and (L) Any factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-16.1)

Changing Name: Any woman, to whom a divorce from the bond of marriage is decreed, shall, upon request, be authorized by the decree to change her name, notwithstanding that there may be children born of the marriage, and subject to the same rights and liabilities as if her name had not been changed. This statute is in addition to, and not in abrogation of, the Common Law. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-17)

Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.

In determining the amount of alimony the court shall consider: (1) The length of the marriage; (2) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; (3) The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and (4) The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties. (5) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately; (6) The extent to which a party was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities, and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience of that party have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished; (7) The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment; (8) The probability, given a party's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting; (9) The standard of living during the marriage; (10) The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income; (11) The ability to pay of the supporting spouse, taking into account the supporting spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living; (12) Any other factor which the court expressly finds to be just and proper. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-16)

Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Rhode Island courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.

The court will rule on a custody decision with the best interests at the forefront of the decision.

In regulating the custody of the children, the court shall provide for the reasonable right of visitation by the natural parent not having custody of the children, except upon the showing of cause why the right should not be granted. The court shall mandate compliance with its order by both the custodial parent and the children. In the event of noncompliance, the noncustodial parent may file a motion for contempt in family court. Upon a finding by the court that its order for visitation has not been complied with, the court shall exercise its discretion in providing a remedy, and define the noncustodial parent's visitation in detail. However, if a second finding of noncompliance by the court is made, the court shall consider this to be grounds for a change of custody to the noncustodial parent.

Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Rhode Island child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.

After calculating support based upon court established formula and guidelines, the court, sahll consider all relevant factors including, but not limited to: (a) The financial resources of the child; (b) The financial resources of the custodial parent; (c) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved; (d) The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs; and (5) The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-16, 15-5-16.2 15-5-22)

Copyright Notice: These Rhode Island divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.

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