Rhode Island Divorce laws

 

Rhode Island divorce attorney, David Slepkow answers several basic yet important questions concerning Rhode Island divorce law and procedure. These  Rhode island divorce law questions will help Divorce litigants and those thinking about filing for divorce in Rhode Island navigate through the complex, and confusing minefield that is RI Family Court.

What are the grounds to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island?

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Pursuant to RI divorce law the grounds to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island are: “irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage (SECTION 15-5-3.1), the parties have lived separate and apart from each other for the space of at least three years (SECTION 15-5-3), Impotency;  Adultery;  Extreme cruelty; Willful desertion for five  years of either of the parties, or for willful desertion for a shorter period of time in the discretion of the court;  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; and  Any other gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant.” § 15-5-2 Additional grounds for divorce.  TITLE 15 Domestic Relations CHAPTER 15-5 Divorce and Separation

Is Rhode Island a no fault state?

Yes. Rhode Island is a “no fault” divorce state. However, this no-fault designation is a misnomer since it means that fault grounds are not necessary to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island. This does NOT mean that fault is irrelevant in a Rhode Island divorce.  This means that all that is required TO OBTAIN A DIVOIRCE is irreconcilable differences that lead to the irremediable breakdown of the marriage (15-5-3.1). The vast majority of divorces in Rhode Island are filed based on irreconcilable differences grounds. Of the divorces that are filed based on fault grounds, the vast majority are not granted based on fault grounds. This is because the alleged at fault spouse refuses to agree to settle the divorce case with a fault designation. I have seen some divorces in which fault grounds are the basis for the divorce when there was a full divorce trial on the merits or when the other spouse was defaulted for not attending court or answering the RI divorce case.

Here is an article authored by Rhode Island divorce lawyer, David Slepkow concerning no fault divorce in Rhode Island. Why Fault Matters in a NO Fault Divorce in Rhode Island

Fault still could play a role in the equitable distribution of assets and debts pursuant to the Rhode Island equitable distribution statute (SECTION 15-5-16.1) The equitable

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distribution statute sets forth 12 factors to determine equitable distribution. Factors #2  and #11 directly pertain to fault as a grounds to distribute debt and assets. Element #12 is a catch-all which could include fault.

Here are elements #2, #11 and #12 from the RI equitable distribution statute: “… (2) “The conduct of the parties during the marriage; …. (11) Either party’s wasteful dissipation of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce without fair consideration; and…. (12) Any factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.”  RI General law 15-5-3.1

I would also point out that other factors could be relevant to fault such as the contributions each spouse has made to preservation of assets.

How long does an uncontested divorce take in Rhode Island?

If everything is agreed to and the matter is uncontested, the initial court date is 60 plus days from the date the divorce is filed.  The initial court date approximately 60 days from filing is called the “nominal hearing.” RI general law 15-5-14 sets forth a minimum 60 day waiting period. After the Rhode Island Family Court issues a decision, there is a three month waiting period until final judgment of divorce may enter. Therefore, the minimum time** to get a divorce in Rhode Island is approximately 151 days (5 months). (** unless the 60 day period is shortened by the Court upon motion)

“no petition for divorce or separation shall be in order for hearing until after the expiration of sixty (60) days after the filing of the petition, unless sooner ordered, ex parte, by a justice of the family court. During this period the family counseling service may investigate the circumstances at the discretion of the court, or at the request of either party, counsel the parties, and make recommendations to the court and the parties.”  TITLE 15 Domestic Relations CHAPTER 15-5 Divorce and Separation SECTION 15-5-14

As 15-5-4 indicates the 60 day period can be shortened. This usually occurs if both parties agree to shorten the waiting period for good cause and the judge grants a motion to shorten the waiting period.

A contested divorce could take a year or longer to complete in Rhode Island.

Is there a waiting period in Rhode Island to finalize a divorce?

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After a decision by the justice of the family court at a nominal divorce hearing or contested  divorce trial, the final judgment may not be submitted to the court for entry until after 3 months. This was implemented by the legislature allowing a cooling off period in case the parties reconciled and decided not to go through with the divorce.

“§ 15-5-23 Final judgment – Remarriage.  (a) No judgment for a divorce shall become final and operative until three (3) months after the trial and decision. Final decree from the bond of marriage may be entered ex parte and in chambers on the suggestion of the prevailing party at any time within one hundred eighty (180) days next after the expiration of three (3) months from the date of decision. After the expiration of the one hundred eighty (180) days, final decrees may be entered only in open court and on motion or upon written consent of the attorneys or parties. Notice of the filing of the motion shall not be required in cases in which the original complaint is unanswered.” http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title15/15-5/15-5-23.HTM

When can I get remarried after a divorce in Rhode Island?

“After entry of the final judgment for a divorce from the bond of marriage, either party may marry again.” http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title15/15-5/15-5-23.HTM 

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

No, a RI divorce lawyer is not required in Rhode Island Family court. However, it is usually a bad idea to represent yourself in a divorce, especially if the divorce is contested. Divorce lawyers in Rhode Island will be familiar with the Court system, divorce law in RI, the judges who will decide the case as well as the rules and procedures of the Court

 

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