Filing for Divorce in Rhode Island

Filing for Divorce in Rhode Island

Getting a Divorce in Rhode Island? Divorce Law Cheat Sheet for the State of Rhode Island

1. What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Rhode Island?

You or your spouse must have been domiciled (kept a legal, permanent home) and resided (lived) in Rhode Island for at least a year before filing. If you are stationed outside of the state in the armed services but maintained a domicile and residence in Rhode Island before you were sent, then Rhode Island still is considered your residence and domicile while you are gone. You must file in the county in which you or your spouse lives.

2. Does Rhode Island have a waiting period?

The court will not hold a hearing in your case until at least 60 days after you file. During this time, you may be required to undergo counseling.

3. Does the state have grounds for divorce?

Yes. In Rhode Island, you may file for divorce on these grounds:

  • Impotency.
  • Adultery, meaning your spouse had an affair.
  • Extreme cruelty.
  • Willful desertion, meaning your spouse left without good reason and has been gone for at least five years (or less, if the court allows).
  • Continued drunkenness.
  • Habitual drug use.
  • Neglect and refusal, meaning your spouse refuses to contribute toward basic necessities.
  • Gross misbehavior and wickedness, meaning actions that totally go against the idea and spirit of marriage.

You also may file for divorce if you and your spouse have lived apart for at least three years, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. And you may file based on the ground of irreconcilable differences, if they’re so severe that your marriage can’t be saved.

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The court will not grant a divorce when there is evidence of collusion, meaning it appears that the absence, adultery, cruelty, desertion or other ground for divorce was committed with the intention of getting a divorce.

4. How does Rhode Island determine the division of property?

You and your spouse are encouraged to come up with a settlement on your own and present it to the court. If you can’t agree, the court will divide your property for you. The court will divvy your property in whatever way it finds fair. In determining what is fair, the court will take into consideration:

  • How long you were married.
  • You and your spouse’s behavior during your marriage.
  • You and your spouse’s contributions to the acquisition, preservation or appreciation of your property, including as a homemaker.
  • You and your spouse’s ages and health.
  • You and your spouse’s amounts and sources of income.
  • You and your spouse’s occupations and employability.
  • You and your spouse’s future opportunities to acquire assets and income.
  • Any contributions one of you made to the other’s education, training, business or increased earning power.
  • Whether the custodial parent needs to live in or own your family home for the best interest of your child.
  • Whether you or your spouse wasted or hid your assets in anticipation of your divorce.
  • Any other factor the court considers relevant.

Any property that you owned before you were married or that you received via gift or inheritance remains your own separate property. But any income earned from that property during your marriage may be divided, as well as any appreciation or interest in that property if you or your spouse expended any effort during your marriage to earn it.Your property will be divided before the court considers alimony, because your needs may change based on what property is awarded to each of you.

5. Does Rhode Island require mediation before a divorce is granted?

Mediation is not always required, but the court may order it if you and your spouse disagree over child custody or visitation. There are three scenarios:

  • The court may postpone your case until you’ve completed mediation; it will decide custody and visitation if you and your spouse fail to reach an agreement.
  • The court may handle other parts of your case while you and your spouse are in mediation for custody and visitation; it will handle those issues separately if you fail to reach an agreement.
  • The court may complete the trial of all issues in your case and order mediation at the end, postponing your decree until you’ve completed mediation.

6. How does the state determine child custody? 

Legal custody and physical custody are two different things. Legal custody outlines how involved each parent is in the major decisions of a child’s life where a child goes to school, what faith he or she is raised in and other biggies. Physical custody addresses where a child will live and with whom. Visitation is then negotiated based your physical custody arrangement.

The court will seek an arrangement that allows the non-custodial parent visitation unless there is evidence that it would not be in your child’s best interest, such as situations involving physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence. Whether a parent is receiving public assistance is not a factor in awarding custody.

The court also may grant visitation to your child’s grandparents or siblings, if it seems in your child’s best interest. The court must find that the person seeking visitation:

  • Is a proper person to have visitation with your child.
  • Has not been permitted to visit your child in the 90 days before filing a petition.
  • Has no other way to visit your child without the court’s involvement.
  • Has shown that there is no reasonable cause for being denied visitation with your child by you or your spouse.

7. How does the state calculate child support?

Rhode Island figures child support based on a statewide formula and guidelines. You and your spouse’s incomes are combined, and then your support is shared based on the percentage of the total that each of you earns.

There are several factors built into the guidelines:

The custodial parent receives the tax exemption each year; if not, an adjustment is made in the worksheet. Adjustments are made if you or your spouse has other children to support or you are responsible for a previous child support order. The amount will be adjusted if you and your spouse have split custody, meaning you each have one or more of your children living in your households. Significant extended visitation and shared physical custody also may be cause for an adjustment.

The parent paying support will be required to pay for health insurance for your child. If the cost of that health insurance is not reasonable (it’s more than five percent of his or her gross income), the parent paying support will be required to contribute five percent on top of the basic child support order.

If you and your spouse’s gross monthly income is greater than $240,000, the court will determine child support on a case-by-case basis.The court also will take into account these factors in ensuring that your child support amount is fair and in your child’s best interest:

  • Your child’s financial resources, if any.
  • The custodial parent’s financial resources.
  • The non-custodial parent’s financial resources.
  • The standard of living your child would have enjoyed had you stayed married.
  • Your child’s physical and emotional condition and his or her educational needs.

The court may order child support for your child beyond his or her 18th birthday if still in high school. Additionally, the court could order support until your child is 21 if he or she is severely physically or mentally impaired.

8. How does the state determine and calculate alimony?

Alimony is not a routine part of divorce cases, but you or your spouse may request it. If you decide to seek alimony, the court will weigh:

  • How long you were married.
  • You and your spouse’s behavior while you were married.
  • You and your spouse’s health and ages.
  • You and your spouse’s amounts and sources of income, skills and employability.
  • You and your spouse’s assets and debts.
  • Whether you are unable to support yourself because you are the primary physical custodian of your child.
  • Whether you were out of the workforce because you were contributing to the marriage as a homemaker and how that affected your earning capacity.
  • How long it would take you to get the education or training needed to find a job.
  • How likely you are to complete education or training and become self-supporting, taking into consideration your age and skills.
  • You and your spouse’s standard of living while you were married.
  • You and your spouse’s future opportunities for assets and income.
  • Your spouse’s ability to pay alimony, given his or her earning capacity, income, assets, debts and standard of living.
  • Any other factor the court considers relevant.

Alimony ends if the one receiving it remarries.

9. Is there a waiting period before remarriage in Rhode Island?

Yes, your divorce will not become final until three months after the trial and decision.


Rhode Island’s state statutes are online here.

The state’s Office of Child Services offers forms and information online here.

Please note: Local and state laws change constantly, therefore this information is for educational purposes only. We do our best to keep state-specific information up-to-date, but please contact us to discuss your unique situation.

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