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Rhode Island Divorce Law FAQS
How long does it take to get a Rhode Island divorce?

If all issues concerning divorce, child support, child custody, equitable division of assets, alimony, visitation and other issues are resolved between the parties, the earliest possible date for a nominal divorce in Rhode Island (a nominal divorce is a uncontested divorce in which everything is agreed to) is approximately sixty five to seventy days after the plaintiff files a complaint for divorce. If the matter is set down as uncontested, then an automatic court date, "the Nominal Divorce Hearing", will be set by the clerk approximately sixty five to seventy days after filing.

In the event that one party does not want to go forward on that seventy day nominal divorce hearing date or if all issues are not resolved between the parties, then the case will not go forward on the nominal date and will be set for additional conferences and potentially the discovery process. The case may eventually culminate with a trial. Contested divorces typically resolve in 6 - 10 months but may take up to a year.

A divorce cannot become final until, at a minimum, ninety days after the parties attend the nominal court hearing. In other words final judgment of divorce in Rhode Island cannot enter until at least 90 days after the nominal divorce hearing. In the event that the parties do not resolve the matter at the nominal court date, then the divorce could take up to one year or potentially more. It is extremely rare for a divorce to take more than a year.

What does a "no fault" divorce mean in Rhode Island?

In some states it is necessary to prove fault grounds in order to obtain a divorce. In Rhode Island, it is not necessary to prove fault grounds in order to obtain an absolute divorce. All you need to do is prove irreconcilable differences in order to get a divorce. Irreconcilable differences can be anything from lack of communication, different goals and aspirations, affairs, domestic violence, arguing, fell out of love or actually anything. In other words, if either party wants to terminate the marriage, then that party can get a divorce in Rhode island so long as the other jurisdictional requirements in Rhode Island are met.

"No fault divorce" does not mean that fault is not significant! Fault can be extremely significant in Rhode Island. If a party can prove that the other party is at fault for the breakup of the marriage, then they can seek a disproportionate share of the marital assets. Fault can also be a factor to determine whether or not a party is entitled to alimony. The following types of behavior could be grounds to obtain more than fifty percent of the marital assets: alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, extramarital affairs (cheating), abusive behavior, gambling, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial mismanagement, criminal activity, abandonment, etc.

What is the residency requirement to obtain a Rhode Island divorce?

In order to file for divorce in Rhode Island you need to have been a domiciled inhabitant and resident of Rhode Island for one year prior to your filing of the complaint for divorce. If you have not been a domiciled inhabitant and resident of Rhode Island for one year prior to filing your complaint for divorce, you can file based on your husband's/wife's residency in Rhode Island for one year prior to the filing. It does not matter if you change your residency or move out of town the next day so long as you were a resident on the date of the divorce filing and for one year prior!

There are exceptions for people stationed in the military who maintain a residency in Rhode Island. Even if you move the day after filing, you still meet the residency requirements in Rhode Island. If you do not qualify to file for divorce in Rhode Island you should look for an attorney in other states that you might qualify to file a divorce. If you live in Rhode Island, but don't meet the residency requirements to file for divorce, there are other types of actions such as a complaint for separate maintenance without filing for divorce that you may be able to file which would allow you to deal with issues concerning property rights and child custody and support issues.

What are the residency requirements at the nominal divorce hearings in order to obtain a Rhode Island divorce.

It is sufficient, if both parties appear at the nominal court date and testify that at least one of the parties was a domiciled inhabitant and resident of Rhode Island for one year prior to the filing of the complaint for divorce. The Family Court will typically waive the requirement for additional witness if both husband and wife attend the nominal court date and testify that at least one party had the requisite residency as set forth above.

If only one party attends the nominal court date then you need one of the following in order to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island (a) two additional witnesses in court to testify to the one year residency of the Plaintiff or Defendant (b) one witness in court to testify to the one year residency of the Plaintiff and an affidavit from a different witness attesting to the person's residency. (This affidavit form can be easily obtained by the clerk of the Rhode Island Family Court.)

If you do not meet these requirements to prove residency in Rhode Island your divorce case may be dismissed or you may be given additional time to obtain the necessary witnesses or affidavit.

In Rhode Island family law, does it make a difference who files the divorce first?

It should make no difference which spouse files the divorce when the Family Court determines equitable division of the assets, child support, child custody, visitation, child custody, alimony, etc. However, in the event that a no contact order, restraining order or emergency motion is needed or filed, which party files first can be extremely significant! This is especially true if there is an emergency motion concerning child custody and/or child visitation concerning a child.


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Rhode Island is an equitable division state; courts divide property equitably. This does not mean equally but fairly. The court considers several factors if the parties have not agreed beforehand on distribution, including the duration of the marriage, each spouse's contribution to acquiring and maintaining the property, the best interests of the children if applicable, contribution of one spouse to the earning capacity of the other, and income, among other things.
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