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Rhode Island Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Rhode Island

Rhode Island couples sometimes pursue a legal separation instead of a divorce, so they can think about their marriage without the finality of a divorce. The process of legal separation is essentially the same as a divorce, with the same timetable as a divorce, however, in the end, the petitioner receives a court order granting the divorce from bed and board, not a final decree of divorce.

A legally separated couple often produces a written contract spelling out the terms and conditions of their separation. In Rhode Island, a spouse generally exits the relationship with the same assets in possession as when entering the marriage. However, separated spouses still bear responsibility for certain financial matters, such as debts and health insurance as a couple. The separating couple with minor children creates a custody agreement and a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. A Rhode Island family court judge decides child support and/or alimony payments.

If a separated couple chooses to reunite, a legal separation eases the process of rebuilding a life together; if the couple decides to permanently end the marriage, they still need to divorce. In a legal separation, Rhode Islanders split their assets and liabilities and live apart while remaining legally married, with all the rights and benefits of marriage.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.


In Rhode Island, a legal separation may be granted on the same grounds used in a divorce, which is no-fault, including 1) irreconcilable differences causing am irremediable breakdown in the marriage or 2) living separate and apart without cohabitation for three years. Fault grounds include impotence, adultery, abandonment, alcoholism, willful desertion for five years, cruel and inhuman treatment, bigamy, and gross neglect.


The spouse seeking the separation must be a resident for a period of time that the court considers proper.

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