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Rhode Island Articles
Rhode Island Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Rhode Island, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements 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)
Grounds for Filing:The Complaint for Divorce must declare the appropriate Rhode Island grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:
A divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall be decreed on the following grounds. irrespective of the fault of either party:
(1) Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage. (2) Living separate and apart without cohabitation for 3 years.
(1) Impotency; (2) Adultery; (3) Extreme cruelty; (4) Willful desertion for five (5) years of either of the parties, or for willful desertion for a shorter period of time in the discretion of the court; (5) Continued drunkenness; (6) The habitual, excessive, and intemperate use of opium, morphine, or chloral; (7) Neglect and refusal, for the period of at least one year next before the filing of the petition, on the part of the husband to provide necessaries for the subsistence of his wife, the husband being of sufficient ability; and (8) Any other gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapters 15-5-2 15-5-3, 15-5-3.1 1505-5)
Filing Spouse Title:Plaintiff. The Plaintiffis the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Defendant. The Defendant is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:State of Rhode Island, Family Court, __________ Division. This is the Rhode Island court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Complaint for Divorce and Final Judgment of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Rhode Island law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process.
Court Clerk's Title:County Clerk's Office of the Family Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Rhode Island is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
If the parties have not stipulated to a property settlement, the court will determine the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the court after hearing the witnesses, if any, of each party shall consider the following: (1) The length of the marriage; (2) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; (3) The contribution of each of the parties during the marriage in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates; (4) The contribution and services of either party as a homemaker; (5) The health and age of the parties; (6) The amount and sources of income of each of the parties; (7) The occupation and employability of each of the parties; (8) The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income; (9) The contribution by one party to the education, training, licensure, business, or increased earning power of the other; (10) 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; (11) Either party's wasteful dissipation of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce without fair consideration; and (12) 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)
Restoration or Name Change: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:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
In determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be paid, the court, after hearing the witnesses, if any, of each party, shall consider: (i) The length of the marriage; (ii) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; (iii) The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and (iv) The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties. (v) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately; (vi) 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; (vii The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment; (viii) The probability, given a party's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting; (ix) The standard of living during the marriage; (x) The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income; (xi) 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; (xii) Any other factor which the court expressly finds to be just and proper. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-16)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:Where, in any petition for divorce, divorce from bed and board, or relief without the commencement of divorce proceedings, the family court may, as to issues of custody and visitation, direct the parties to participate in mediation in an effort to resolve their differences, the court may order the participation in mediation in a program established by the court. (General Laws of Rhode Island - Title 15 , Chapter 15-5-29)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Rhode Island courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
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.
Child Support:Rhode Island child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent’s income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
If, after calculating support based upon court established formula and guidelines, the court, in its discretion, finds the order would be inequitable to the child or either parent, the court shall make findings of fact and shall order either or both parents owing a duty of support to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the child's support after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to: (1) The financial resources of the child; (2) The financial resources of the custodial parent; (3) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved; (4) 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: The above synopsis of Rhode Island divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
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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