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Rhode Island Divorce Law

Rhode Island divorce will impact you and your family in different ways, depending on the circumstances of your divorce. Many of these divorce laws are complex and have exceptions to the rules, but by speaking to a local Rhode Island divorce lawyer, you can learn how Rhode Island divorce law will affect you.

For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of Rhode Island's divorce laws:

Rhode Island State Laws

  • Fault/No-Fault: Both
  • Property Distribution: Equitable
  • ADR Available: Yes
  • Parenting Plan Required: No

Rhode Island Grounds for Divorce

Rhode Island divorce courts accept both no fault and fault grounds when filing divorce.

When a couple is filing for no fault divorce, it must be because irreconcilable differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage that is irreversible or the couple has been living separate and apart without cohabitation for at least three years.

Fault divorce grounds the Rhode Island divorce court accept include:

  • Impotency
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse
  • Willful desertion for five years - may be shorter if the court believes it's a valid amount of time to terminate a marriage
  • Neglect and refusal for one year before filing the divorce petition
  • Any other gross misbehavior in violation of the marriage covenant

Rhode Island Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce, most states require one of the spouses meet state residency requirement for divorce.

Under Rhode Island divorce law, the person filing for divorce, the petitioner, must be a domiciled inhabitant of the state for at least one year before filing the divorce petition. If the respondent meets the residency requirement and is personally served the complaint, the petitioner doesn't need to meet the requirement.

The divorce petition is filed in the county where the petitioner lives. It may also be served in the county where the respondent lives if he or she meets the one year residency requirement.

Rhode Island Divorce Waiting Period

Divorce waiting periods may be set by states before or after couples file divorce to ensure there isn't the possibility of reconciliation between the couple. Some states also set remarriage waiting periods for one or both spouses, requiring people wait for a set amount of time between the divorce being finalized and remarrying.

Rhode Island divorce laws don't have a divorce waiting period before filing for divorce, as long as the couple meets the Rhode Island residency requirement. After filing the divorce petition, there is a required three month waiting period before the divorce decree is final and operative.

Once the divorce decree is final, there is not remarriage waiting period required under Rhode Island divorce law.

Rhode Island Property Division

The Rhode Island divorce court follows equitable distribution law when determining property division. Property distribution of marital property is determined by what the Rhode Island divorce court considers fair and reasonable.

When making a property award during divorce, the divorce court will consider:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Conduct of the spouses during the marriage
  • Contributions to the acquisition, preservation or appreciation of marital property
  • A spouse's contribution as a homemaker
  • One spouse's contribution to the education, training, licensing, business or increased earning power of the other
  • Wasteful dissipation of assets or hidden assets to avoid fair property distribution
  • Health and age of the spouses
  • Each spouse's income, occupation and employability
  • The opportunity of each spouse to gain more assets and income
  • Custodial parent's need to occupy or own the family home
  • Other relevant factors

Rhode Island Alimony

The Rhode Island divorce court can order an alimony award for either or both spouses. State divorce laws may also refer to alimony as spousal support or maintenance.

The Rhode Island divorce court will consider many factors when determining alimony, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Spouses' conduct during the marriage - if one part was at fault under Rhode Island grounds for divorce
  • Health, age, occupation, income, vocational skills and employability of each spouse
  • Liabilities and needs of each spouse

The Rhode Island divorce court may also consider:

  • Which parent has primary physical child custody
  • The extent that each spouse can be self-supporting, taking into account
  • Amount of time a spouse was unemployed while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities and if any education, skills or experience has become outdated or earning capacity has diminished
  • Time and expense required for the supported spouse to gain the education or training to develop marketable skills and find employment
  • Probability of completing education or training and becoming self-support
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Each spouse's opportunity to gain more capital assets and income
  • Supporting spouse's ability to pay, considering earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts and standard of living
  • Other relevant factors

The Rhode Island divorce court may review and modify alimony if there is a substantial change in circumstances. If the receiving spouse remarries, alimony payments will be terminated.

Rhode Island Child Custody

After filing divorce, either the parents or the Rhode Island divorce court will need to determine child custody.

The parents can negotiate with divorce lawyers a parenting plan that will be approved by the Rhode Island divorce court. If the parents don't come to an agreement on their own, the divorce court may order the parents to participate in divorce mediation for child custody and child visitation issues or order child custody arrangements.

The Rode Island divorce court will assign child custody based off what's in the best interest of the child. If one parent is granted primary physical child custody, the divorce court will provide reasonable visitation to the noncustodial parent, unless it's shows the parent shouldn't be granted that right.

Rhode Island Grandparent Visitation

When couples file divorce, grandparents aren't automatically granted rights to child visitation. In Rhode Island divorce, it is possible to petition for visitation rights for grandparents. When granting grandparent visitation, the Rhode Island divorce court will consider what's in the best interest of the child.

If the petitioner feels the presumption that the parent's decision to not allow visitation is unreasonable and can't visit the child without court intervention, he or she may petition for child visitation rights.

The divorce court will determine if the petitioner is fit to have child visitation rights and the petitioner has previously attempted to visit the grandchild within the 90 days before the day the petition was filed.

Rhode Island Child Support

If couples can't negotiate a child support agreement, the Rhode Island divorce court will determine child support after couples file divorce. Rhode Island uses the income shares model to calculate child support. The divorce court estimates the amount of the support the child would have received if the couple had stayed together, and then divides the amount proportionally between the parents, according to each person's income.

The Rhode Island divorce court may choose to deviate from the predetermined child support formula, depending on the circumstances of the divorce. Some factors the divorce court may consider include:

  • Child's financial resources
  • Standard of living the child would have enjoyed if there wasn't a divorce
  • Physical and emotional health and educational needs of the child
  • Noncustodial parent's needs
  • Financial resources of the custodial and noncustodial parents

Rhode Island has adopted family court child support guidelines. Under Rhode Island divorce law, child support can continue after the child's 18th birthday but not beyond the child's 19th birthday, unless he or she has a severe physical or mental impairment. The parents may negotiate college child support with the help of local Rhode Island divorce lawyers.

Parents can petition the court to modify child support if the circumstances change that make the current order unjust or unreasonable.

Please understand that this information is provided for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. With the help of a divorce lawyer, you can learn how Rhode Island divorce law can affect you and your family. Find a divorce lawyer in your area by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out a Rhode Island divorce case review form.

Case Evaluation

The above synopsis of Rhode Island divorce laws is by no means all-inclusive and has been adapted from applicable state laws. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these divorce laws, please contact a local Rhode Island divorce lawyer in your area.

This "Rhode Island Divorce Laws" page was last updated July 2009.

Note: Keep in mind that all divorce laws are complex. If you need legal divorce advice or want to fully understand how these laws affect you, please speak with a local divorce attorney.