Rhode Island Divorce

You can use this page as your guide to Rhode Island divorce. You'll be able to find relevant RI divorce laws so you know what to expect out of the divorce process. You can contact divorce professionals if you need legal assistance or help in sorting out the financial issues of your divorce. You can also get access to worksheets for determining the child support obligation, DIY divorce forms, as well as listings for local groups offering emotional support and domestic abuse assistance. 

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Rhode Island Divorce Laws

By WomansDivorce

Annulment / void marriages (§15-1) - A person is prohibited from marrying someone else if they are already married or in a relationship that provides substantially the same rights. As such, a bigamous marriage would be considered void. Incestuous marriages are also void, meaning a person shall not marry a sibling or a sibling's child, their parent or child, grandparent/grandchild/grandparent's spouse, stepparent, a spouse's child or spouse's grandchild, or a parent's sibling.

Residency requirements for a divorce (§ 15-5-12) - You or your spouse need to have lived in Rhode Island for at least a year before the petition is filed.

Where to file (§ 15-5-13) - Petitions for divorce, separation, and related issues are to be filed in the county where either the plaintiff or defendant resides.

Grounds for a divorce - Rhode Island recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Fault ground include impotency, adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, extreme cruelty, willful desertion, gross misbehavior in violation of the marriage covenant, and neglect and refusal by the husband to provide necessities for the subsistence of his wife (§ 15-5-2). No fault ground for divorce include living separate and apart for at least 3 years (§ 15-5-3) or irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage (§ 15-5-3.1).

Legal separation / divorce from bed and board (§ 15-5-9) - A divorce from bed and board may be granted for the same grounds as a divorce. Separate maintenance may be awarded if the court thinks it is necessary or proper, and issues concerning the children may be determined.

Equitable distribution of property (§ 15-5-16.1) - If an agreement can't be reached by the spouses regarding the division of assets and debts, the court will generally distribute the marital estate equally, unless a more equitable distribution is called for due to spousal abuse, adultery, or the wasting of marital assets. Assets which were owned prior to marriage, gifts from a third party, inheritances, and settlements are not considered part of the marital estate. The assignment of assets shall precede the award of alimony, since the needs of each party will be affected by the assignment of property.

Alimony / spousal support (§ 15-5-16) - Either party may be ordered to pay alimony, generally for a reasonable length of time to enable the other spouse to become self-sufficient. In some situations, the court can award support for an indefinite period of time. Some of the factors that may be considered by the court when awarding alimony are:

  • The length of the marriage and the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Each spouse's conduct during the marriage;
  • Each spouse's contribution during the marriage to increase the value of the marital estate, as well as their contributions as a homemaker and parent.
  • A spouse's contribution to the education, business or earning power of the other spouse;
  • The health, age, employability, sources of income, and liabilities of both spouses;
  • The relative ability of both spouses to acquire assets and earnings in the future;
  • The time and expense needed for a dependent spouse to receive training or education in order to find appropriate employment and become self-supporting;
  • The need of the custodial parent to own or occupy the family home for the best interests of the children of the marriage;
  • Whether a spouse has attempted to sell or give away marital property without the other spouse’s knowledge;
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony based on his or her earning capacity, assets, debts, and standard or living.

Alimony is automatically terminated when a spouse who is receiving support remarries.

Name change of wife (§ 15-5-17) - A woman can request that the divorce decree include a provision to change her name after the divorce.

Waiting period before a degree is finalized and a party can remarry (§ 15-5-23) - A divorce doesn't become final in Rhode Island until 3 months after the court's initial decision, at which time either party may get married again.

Mediation for cases involving custody or visitation (§ 15-5-29) - In cases involving custody and visitation, the court may direct the spouse's to undergo mediation to resolve their differences. All communication occurring during mediation is privileged information.

Child custody (§ 15-5-16) - If the parents can't agree on custody and visitation, a judge will make the decision considering:

  • The preference of the child;
  • The home environments offered by each parent;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • The interaction of the child with his or her parents and siblings;
  • The child’s adjustment to home, community, and school;
  • The “moral fitness” of the parents;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to support a close and continuous relationship between their child and the other parent;
  • Any history of family violence or sexual abuse by the natural parent.

A custody arrangement may be modified if it can be proven that there has been a considerable change in circumstances since the last custody order.

Child support (§ 15-5-16.2) - The child support obligation will be based on the incomes of both parents using the Rhode Island child support formula and guidelines. All child support orders are to include provisions for providing health insurance coverage if such coverage is available at a reasonable cost.

Generally, child support continues until a child's 18th birthday and for 90 days after their graduation, but not beyond their 19th birthday. If a child has severe mental or physical impairments and is living with a parent, support may extend beyond the age of 19 if the impairment occurred prior the age of emancipation, with periodic review by the court for the continuation of child support.

Retroactive modification of child support (§ 15-5-16.2.4) - If the court find that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, it may modify a child support order retroactively to the filing date of the petition for support modification.

Wage withholding provisions for child support (§ 15-5-24) - All child support orders are subject to income withholding, unless the court finds good cause not to require withholding or if both parties enter into a written agreement providing for the timely support payment using alternative means. 

TITLE 15 - Domestic Relations - Index of Chapters

Parenting Classes

Co-Parenting Classes for Divorce - Parents may be required to take a co-parenting class when getting divorced in Rhode Island, but it's strictly at the judge's discretion. These classes can help teach parents learn how to ease their child's adjustment to their parents' separation or divorce. Parents will also learn communication skills that will make co-parenting after separation or divorce easier and more productive. 

Financial Professionals

SK Wealth Management, L.L.C.
Cheryl A. Dugas Ethier
50 Holden Street  
Providence, RI  02908
Serving: Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence & Washington counties
Phone: 401-331-1575

Working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) at SK Wealth provides guidance and clarity during the difficult divorce process. The CDFA's role is to help the client and attorney recognize how the financial decisions made during the divorce will impact the client's future. We develop a plan for your financial future that still has your integrity intact. We off a complimentary meeting to determine if this service is right for you.

Online DIY Divorce

Does this sound familiar? You are facing a divorce and need some help getting it done, but can't afford a huge retainer. If you choose to file your own divorce, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by using 3stepDivorce. By answering the various questions throughout the process, you'll be able to customize you divorce forms so they address everything specific to your divorce situation. And they offer reference materials that provide the information you need about various divorce issues. After all, the more you know, the better your chances of being content with the outcome of your divorce. If you need to save money on lawyer fees, online divorce is an option to consider.

Rhode Island Domestic Abuse Info

RI Coalition Against Domestic Abuse

You can click the "Get Help" tab or contact the 24-hour helpline at 1-800-494-8100 for more information on individual shelters and services.