How to File for Divorce in Rhode Island

How to File for Divorce in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is perhaps best known for being “neither a road nor an island.”  If your marriage seems to be nearing the end of its road, there are a few things you need to know about how to file for divorce in Rhode Island.  

You need to live there

Rhode Island will only consider divorce if at least one of the spouses has been domiciled in the state for at least one year.  Domicile just means a permanent home, meaning where the person lives and intends to remain to live.

Grounds for divorce

Rhode Island still had some antiquated “fault” grounds for divorce.  These include impotency, adultery, extreme cruelty, willful desertion, continued drunkenness, habitual drug use, neglect, and any other “gross misbehavior and wickedness.”  

In the old days, the only way to get divorced was to prove that your spouse committed one of these acts.  Sometimes spouses that simply wanted to go their separate ways would fake an affair to prove adultery.

Today, Rhode Island, like all other states, has also adopted “no-fault” grounds for divorce.  In Rhode Island, it is called a divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”  

The law actually says that allegations or evidence of specific acts of misconduct are improper or inadmissible, for the most part.  A couple just needs to tell the court that they want to split up, and that is actually all they can say. There is no throwing stones in a no-fault divorce.  

Splitting property

Rhode Island gives judges the tremendous authority to split property in a way the judge thinks is fair taking into account a number of factors.  This includes things like the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the contribution of each spouse to the assets of the couple, age and health of the parties, and the employability of each spouse.  

The goal here is most often to protect a homemaker who has sacrificed her career for the marriage.  This uncertainty in the final split is part of the reason most divorces end in a settlement.

Splitting property

Child Support made easy

Joint custody is usually ordered for children in a divorce.  This means that each spouse has the right to engage in decisions like where a child will go to school or what religion they will study.  It also means that physical time spent living with each parent will usually be split about equally.

Rhode Island has provided child support guidelines so that a formula that takes into account each parent’s income and living situation will usually govern how much child support is awarded.  Usually, the parent that makes more will have to pay some support to the other parent so that the kids enjoy a similar lifestyle in either house.  

Another option

Rhode Island also has an option called a “divorce from bed and board.”  That is a situation where the couple is split up and living separate lives, but they are still technically married.  

This is what many states would call a legal separation.  Rhode Island courts can address issues of money and children in the context of this option.  It is sometimes used as a first step towards a full divorce.

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