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Rhode Island Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers

Most of the forms are available from the family court clerk in the county of filing.

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Filing the Paperwork with the Court

To begin, one spouse, the plaintiff, files divorce papers with the family court clerk at his or her local courthouse. The other spouse, the defendant, submits a reply to the papers.

The plaintiff pays a filing fee when filing the divorce papers, but if his or her income is below a certain level, the court may waive the fee. If a party believes he or she may qualify for this, the party must file a form called an In Forma Pauperis petition, which is available in the clerk’s office.

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Serving the Documents

The divorce papers must be delivered by the sheriff’s office. After a sheriff’s deputy delivers the papers, he or she completes a form affirming that the papers were properly delivered to the defendant. The defendant files a copy of that form with the clerk's office in order to prove that the other spouse received the necessary paperwork and notice of the proceeding.

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Disclosing Financial Information

The Financial Statement for Divorce Proceedings is used in conjunction with a marital settlement agreement and records the disclosures that the spouses have made to each about their joint and individual economic situations. The statement makes certain both spouses are fully aware of each other’s economic circumstances and that each makes decisions and agreements based the facts relating to assets and liabilities. The information recorded on each party’s statement becomes a permanent part of the marital settlement agreement and the final divorce papers.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, the parties must resolve all financial issues before the court grants a final divorce, which means all property and alimony claims must be either settled or filed with the court. A party cannot bring property distribution or alimony issues to court after the final divorce is granted; after the divorce is final, the parties lose the right to make any financial claims.

Finalizing the Divorce

After the paperwork is filed, the spouses wait 60 days, after the court conducts a hearing.

After the hearing, additional forms must be submitted to the court, including a Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment and a Final Judgment. After these papers are submitted and processed by the court, the parties are divorced.

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