Rhode Island Divorce Laws

Family, Divorce and Criminal Defense Lawyer Susan T. Perkins

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Rhode Island Divorce Laws

Rhode Island Divorce Laws

Divorce isn’t only an emotional and stressful time, it can also be confusing. This is because most couples don’t anticipate going through a divorce, so they’re not well-versed in Rhode Island divorce laws and legal proceedings when it happens. That’s why working with a skilled divorce attorney with experience is so critical. At this difficult time, it’s important to seek legal representation from someone who has a strong background in Rhode Island divorce laws, mediation, child support, child custody, litigation, and all areas of family law.

The Law Offices of Susan T. Perkins Esq. is a Rhode Island divorce attorney that can help guide you through this process and provide you with all of the information you need to feel confident moving forward with your divorce. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your circumstances. 

Everything You Need to Know About Rhode Island Divorce Laws

If you have questions, we have answers. We want our clients to always feel fully informed when it comes to the ins and outs of their divorce. If you have concerns about any of the details of your divorce, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm to speak with divorce attorney Susan T. Perkins. In the meantime, here are frequently asked questions and expert answers that involve Rhode Island divorce laws. This information can help you gain a general understanding of laws regarding divorce in Rhode Island. 

What are the grounds for filing a divorce in Rhode Island?

One of the most common grounds for filing for a divorce in Rhode Island is irreconcilable differences. This is because Rhode Island is a no-fault state, which simply means that to file for a divorce in Rhode Island, you don’t have to prove grounds of fault. Irreconcilable differences is a way of saying that the marriage can’t be repaired and it’s nobody’s fault. Here are the Rhode Island laws regarding irreconcilable differences: 

§ 15-5-3.1. Divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences.

(a) A divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall be decreed, irrespective of the fault of either party, on the ground of irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.

(b) In any pleading or hearing for divorce under this section, allegations or evidence of specific acts of misconduct shall be improper and inadmissible, except for the purpose of making a determination pursuant to §§ 15-5-16 and 15-5-16.1, or where child custody is in issue and the evidence is relevant to establish that parental custody would be detrimental to the child, or at a hearing where it is determined by the court to be necessary to establish the existence of irreconcilable differences.

(c) Upon hearing of an action for divorce under this section, the acts of one party shall not negate the acts of the other nor bar the divorce decree.

What are additional grounds for divorce in Rhode Island? 

According to Rhode Island divorce laws, § 15-5-2. Additional grounds for divorce include: 

  • Impotency
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Willful desertion for five years of either of the parties or willful desertion for a shorter period of time in the discretion of the courts
  • Continued drunkenness
  • The habitual excessive, and intemperate use of opium, morphine, or chloral
  • 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
  • Any other gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant

To learn more about grounds for divorce in Rhode Island, contact our law firm today to speak with a divorce attorney. 

Does Rhode Island have residency requirements for divorce? 

Yes, Rhode Island does have residency requirements. In order to file for divorce you must meet these guidelines: 

§ 15-5-12. Domicile and residence requirements.

(a) 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; provided, that if the defendant has been a domiciled inhabitant of this state and has resided in this state for the period of one year next before the filing of the complaint, and is actually served with process, the requirement of this subsection as to domicile and residence on the part of the plaintiff is deemed satisfied and fulfilled. The residence and domicile of any person immediately prior to the commencement of his or her active service as a member of the armed forces or of the merchant marine of the United States, or immediately prior to his or her absence from the state in the performance of services in connection with military operations as defined in subsection (c) of this section, shall, for the purposes of this section, continue to be his or her residence and domicile during the time of his or her service and for a period of thirty (30) days after this. Testimony to prove domicile and residence may be received through the ex parte affidavit of one witness.

(b) Every word importing the masculine gender only shall be construed in this section to extend to and include females as well as males.

(c) The term “services in connection with military operations” shall be construed in this section to include persons serving with the American Red Cross, the Society of Friends, the Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots, and the United Service Organizations.

Do I need a lawyer in order to file for divorce in Rhode Island?

It is possible to file for divorce yourself. You can find the necessary forms online here. However, we highly recommend working with an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney rather than filing for divorce on your own. The process can be time-consuming, complex, and stressful, especially if you’re dealing with a contested divorce or if you’re unfamiliar with Rhode Island divorce laws. 

Can my divorce lawyer file forms for me? 

Yes, your Rhode Island divorce lawyer will be able to file several of the forms for you. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can remove all of the stress and pressure that’s placed upon divorcing couples. Your divorce lawyer will be able to walk you through each stage of the divorce process and address any of your questions or concerns along the way. 

What do Rhode Island divorce laws say about separation prior to filing for divorce? 

§ 15-5-3. Separation of parties as ground for dissolution – Appeal.

(a) Whenever, in the trial of any complaint for divorce from the bond of marriage or any complaint for dissolution of a marriage, it shall be alleged in the complaint that the parties have lived separate and apart from each other for the space of at least three (3) years, whether voluntarily or involuntary, the court shall, upon a finding that the allegation is true, enter a decision pending entry of final judgment of divorce, which may include provisions for alimony.

(b) Final judgment shall not be entered until the expiration of twenty (20) days after entry of the decision pending entry of final judgment or, if the time for taking an appeal has been extended pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure, Article I, Rule 4 of the Supreme Court Rules, until the expiration of the extended period.

(c) Final judgment may be entered ex parte and in chamber on the suggestion of the prevailing party.

(d) If no final judgment is presented to the court for entry within one hundred eighty (180) days next after the expiration of twenty (20) days from the date of decision, a final judgment may be entered only in open court and on motion or written consent of the attorneys or parties.

(e) Notice of the filing of the motion shall not be required in cases in which the original complaint is unanswered.

(f) The taking of an appeal shall operate as a stay of the judgment during the pendency of the appeal. Upon motion and for good cause shown:

(1) The family court may, prior to the filing of a notice of appeal, order that the judgment become final and operative immediately; and

(2) The supreme court may, in the event an appeal is taken, vacate the automatic stay provided under this section.

Is there a difference between a divorce and an annulment in Rhode Island?

Those with religious affiliations will often ask about the possibility of getting an annulment, since you’re also dissolving the marriage in the eyes of the church. An annulment is like a divorce, but the marriage is dissolved as if it never happened. In order to legally qualify for an annulment, you have to provide evidence that the marriage shouldn’t have ever existed. For instance, in cases of fraud, incest, bigamy, or marriage by force, you may qualify to have your marriage annulled. To learn more about annulments and how they’re obtained, contact our law office to speak with a family lawyer. 

What do Rhode Island divorce laws say about automatic divorce orders? 

Chapter 15-5 Section 15-5-14.1 states the following regarding automatic divorce order cases: 

§ 15-5-14.1. Automatic orders in divorce cases.

(a) Upon the filing of a complaint for divorce, divorce from bed and board, legal separation, annulment, custody or visitation by the plaintiff and upon service of the petition and summons of the defendant or upon waiver and acceptance of service by the parties, the automatic orders shall be effective with regard to the plaintiff upon the signing of the complaint and with regard to the defendant upon service. A copy of the automatic order shall be served with the summons and complaint.

(b) Neither party shall sell, transfer, encumber, conceal, assign, remove or in any way dispose of, without the consent of the other party in writing, or without an order of the court, any property, individually or jointly held by the parties, except in the usual course of business or for customary and usual household expenses or for reasonable attorneys’ fees in connection with this action. Nothing in this section shall be construed to create liability against or affect the validity of the title to real estate of any purchaser of real estate for value when the purchaser acts in good faith and without actual knowledge of the court’s order.

(c) Neither party shall incur any unreasonable debts including, but not limited to, further borrowing against any credit line secured by the family residence, further encumbrance of any assets, or unreasonably using credit cards or cash advances against credit or bank cards. Nothing in this section shall be construed to create liability against the creditor under the terms of the original agreement when the creditor acts in good faith and without actual knowledge of the court’s order.

(d) Neither party shall permanently remove the minor child or children from the state of Rhode Island without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court.

(e) Neither party shall cause the other party or the children of the marriage to be removed from any medical, hospital and/or dental insurance coverage, and each party shall maintain the existing medical, hospital, and dental insurance coverage in full force and effect.

(f) Neither party shall change the beneficiaries of any existing life insurance policies, and each party shall maintain the existing life insurance, automobile insurance, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies in full force and effect.

(g) If the parties are living together on the date of service of these orders, neither party may deny the other party use of the current primary residence of the parties, whether it be owned or rented property, without court order. This provision shall not apply if there is a prior, contradictory court order.

(h) If the parties share a child or children, a party vacating the family residence shall notify the other party or the other party’s attorney, in writing, within forty-eight (48) hours of such move, of an address where the relocated party can receive communication. This provision shall not apply if there is a prior, contradictory court order.

(i) If the parents of the children live apart during the dissolution proceeding, they shall assist their children in having contact with both parties, which is consistent with the habits of the family, personally, by telephone, and in writing unless there is a prior court order.

Is it possible to receive alimony in Rhode Island?

Yes. Unlike other states that are community property states, or 50/50 states, Rhode Island does allow for alimony payments. Alimony is spousal support and considered a completely different form of payment than child support. It’s important to work with a Rhode Island alimony attorney if you’re considering this path after your divorce. 

How does a judge determine if a spouse qualifies for alimony?

Keep in mind that in some cases when the divorce is uncontested and there is a compromise, alimony may be determined by the divorcing couple. In complicated and contested divorce cases where conflict is high, a judge will step in to determine alimony payments. Regardless if your divorce is considered amicable or messy, it’s crucial to speak with a Rhode Island alimony attorney before making final decisions. Here are some of the factors taken into consideration when alimony is on the table. You can find this list in its entirety here under Rhode Island divorce law Chapter 15-5 Section 15-5-16:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  • The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and
  • The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties.

Does Rhode Island permit a name change as part of the divorce?

If you wish to change your name after a divorce, you may do so without having to file a petition with the probate court in your county. However, you must specifically state in your divorce decree that you wish to change back to your maiden name. You may need to present a birth certificate to prove your previous name. The divorce decree and your birth certificate should be enough documentation to change your name with Social Security and the DMV. 

Does it matter who files first in a divorce? 

If you file for divorce first, you are the plaintiff (or petitioner) in your divorce proceedings. Your spouse is the defendant (or respondent). By filing first, you have the advantage of getting all your ducks in a row before you file. The defendant, on the other hand, has 30 days to respond to the “complaint.”

Is adultery considered a crime in Rhode Island?

Adultery is still indeed considered illegal in Rhode Island. If one spouse engages in a sexual relationship outside of their marriage, fines for adultery are generally set at around $500.00. However, divorcing couples will rarely choose to charge their spouse with adultery. While infidelity is not often prosecuted in a criminal context, it is a factor that is taken into consideration when determining things like alimony or child custody. 

What does the transmutation of property mean?

Property and assets that are obtained throughout the marriage are typically divided after a divorce. However, non-marital property is not. An example of non-marital property is inheritance. Basically, any kind of gift from a family member or a third party that only belongs to one spouse can be considered non-marital property. In most cases, the non-marital property automatically belongs to the predetermined spouse. However, in some divorce cases, non-marital property is divided up. This is referred to as “transmutation of property”. 

If you’re concerned about the division of non-marital property and you’d like to learn more about your options, contact our law firm today to speak with a divorce attorney. 

What’s the difference between divorce and legal separation in Rhode Island?

Legal separation and divorce both involve obtaining legal contracts that define the terms and conditions of separation. However, they are significantly different. In some cases, a legal separation may be a better fit for you. For instance, are you prepared to live apart from your spouse? Are you prepared for the finality and permanence of the dissolution of your marriage? Do you still have feelings for your spouse? Do you believe that reconciliation is possible? 

A Rhode Island divorce attorney might ask these types of questions to make sure that you’re confident and prepared to move forward with your divorce. If you’re feeling hesitant about finalizing your divorce, but you believe you need a temporary period of separation, a legal separation may be the right path for you. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a divorce, it’s still recommended to work with a divorce lawyer through a legal separation. A Rhode Island divorce lawyer can help you protect finances, your assets, and prepare you for moving forward with your divorce if you choose to do so. 

Rhode Island Divorce Attorney Susan T. Perkins

The Law Office of Rhode Island Divorce Attorney Susan T. Perkins is open 24-hours, 7 days a week. If you’re ready to discuss your divorce, it’s recommended to contact the best divorce attorney in Rhode Island as soon as possible. The best results are often achieved when you consult with your divorce attorney earlier rather than later. To get a Free Consultation call (401) 324-2990.