The Nuts and Bolts of RI Family Court

RI lawyer, David Slepkow explains the fundamentals of RI Family Court.

The RI Family Court system is a creature of statute.

§ 8-10-3. Establishment of court – Jurisdiction – Seal – Oaths

  • Chief Justice Forte ( Justice Forte’s boss is Chief Justice Suttell of The RI Supreme Court. Suttell is in charge of the entire State of Rhode Island Judicial System)
  • Eleven Associate Justices of the  RI Family Court
  • One General Magistrate
  • Eight Magistrates

The Rhode Island Family Court has jurisdiction over the following types of domestic matters:

  • RI divorce
  • Divorce from Bed and Board and future cohabitation
  • alimony
  • modification, enforcement and termination  of child support
  • child custody
  • Complaints for Separate Maintenance
  • Orders for child support, alimony and or custody from another state
  • prenuptial agreements
  • enforcement of marital settlement agreements
  • abuse complaints over present and former family members or when the parties have a minor child together
  • adoptions
  • dcyf neglect, dependency and abuse
  • delinquent children
  • truancy court proceedings
  • select criminal proceedings involving adults with charges related to children
  • Certain abuse complaints when at least one of the parties is a minor

The Governor of the State of RI appoints the Chief of the RI Family Court for a lifetime appointment. Of course, this appointment is subject to the advice and consent of the senate.

Providence Family Court:

J. Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex,
One Dorrance Plaza,
Providence, RI 02903 (401) 458-5310

Kent County Family Court

Noel Judicial Complex
222 Quaker Lane
Warwick, Rhode Island 02886
(Superior, Family, and District Courts)

Washington County Family Court

McGrath Judicial Complex
4800 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, Rhode Island 02879

Newport County Family Court

Murray Judicial Complex
45 Washington Square
Newport, Rhode Island 02840

What are the chief Judge of the RI Family Court’s responsibilities:

  • Issuing administrative orders
  • Controls and organizes Court calendars
  • Controls and assigns Magistrates and General Magistrates to claneders
  • In charge  in  a supervisory capacity of secretaries, stenographers and masters
  • Hires administrative employees and clerks
  • Makes and enforces rules of the Court
  • Running the business of the Family Court
  • Only the Chief Justice can change the venue of a particular RI Family Court matter
  • Approving Court excusals from RI divorce lawyers and other lawyers who appear before the  RI Family Court.
  • Selects Magistrates (advice and consent of senate)
  • Appoints the general Magistrate (advice and consent)
  • Determine appeals from a Magistrate or General Magistrate or selects a designee to determine the appeals

Associate Justices

  • Lifetime appointments
  • No required retirement age
  • ban from practicing law
  • Chief Judge can recall after retirement

Chief Judge Michael B. Forte Associate Justice Stephen J. Capineri Associate Justice Laureen D’Ambra Associate Justice Debra E. DiSegna Associate Justice John E. McCann III Associate Justice Karen Lynch Bernard Associate Justice Patricia K. Asquith Associate Justice Sandra Lanni Associate Justice Lia N. Stuhlsatz Associate Justice Rossie L. Harris, Jr. Associate Justice Felix E. Gill Associate Justice Richard A. Merola General Magistrate (Vacant) Magistrate George N. DiMuro Magistrate Jeanne L. Shepard Magistrate Angela M. Paulhus Magistrate Edward H. Newman Magistrate Armando O. Monaco II Magistrate Charles Levesque Magistrate Paul T. Jones, Jr. Magistrate Andrea M. Iannazzi

§ 8-10-3. Establishment of court – Jurisdiction – Seal – Oaths.

(a) There is hereby established a family court, consisting of a chief judge and eleven (11) associate justices, to hear and determine all petitions for divorce from the bond of marriage and from bed and board; all motions for allowance, alimony, support and custody of children, allowance of counsel and witness fees, and other matters arising out of petitions and motions relative to real and personal property in aid thereof, including, but not limited to, partitions, accountings, receiverships, sequestration of assets, resulting and constructive trust, impressions of trust, and such other equitable matters arising out of the family relationship, wherein jurisdiction is acquired by the court by the filing of petitions for divorce, bed and board and separate maintenance; all motions for allowance for support and educational costs of children attending high school at the time of their eighteenth (18th) birthday and up to ninety (90) days after high school graduation, but in no case beyond their nineteenth (19th) birthday; enforcement of any order or decree granting alimony and/or child support, and/or custody and/or visitation of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state; modification of any order or decree granting alimony and/or custody and/or visitation of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state on the ground that there has been a change of circumstances; modification of any order or decree granting child support of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state provided: (1) the order has been registered in Rhode Island for the purposes of modification pursuant to § 15-23.1-611, or (2) Rhode Island issued the order and has continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the parties; antenuptial agreements, property settlement agreements and all other contracts between persons, who at the time of execution of the contracts, were husband and wife or planned to enter into that relationship; complaints for support of parents and children; those matters relating to delinquent, wayward, dependent, neglected, or children with disabilities who by reason of any disability requires special education or treatment and other related services; to hear and determine all petitions for guardianship of any child who has been placed in the care, custody, and control of the department for children, youth, and families pursuant to the provisions of chapter 1 of title 14 and chapter 11 of title 40; adoption of children under eighteen (18) years of age; change of names of children under the age of eighteen (18) years; paternity of children born out of wedlock and provision for the support and disposition of such children or their mothers; child marriages; those matters referred to the court in accordance with the provisions of § 14-1-28; those matters relating to adults who shall be involved with paternity of children born out of wedlock; responsibility for or contributing to the delinquency, waywardness, or neglect of children under sixteen (16) years of age; desertion, abandonment, or failure to provide subsistence for any children dependent upon such adults for support; neglect to send any child to school as required by law; bastardy proceedings and custody to children in proceedings, whether or not supported by petitions for divorce or separate maintenance or for relief without commencement of divorce proceedings; and appeals of administrative decisions concerning setoff of income tax refunds for past due child support in accordance with §§ 44-30.1-5 and 40-6-21. The holding of real estate as tenants by the entirety shall not in and of itself preclude the family court from partitioning real estate so held for a period of six (6) months after the entry of final decree of divorce.
(b) The family court shall be a court of record and shall have a seal which shall contain such words and devices as the court shall adopt.
(c) The judges and clerk of the family court shall have power to administer oaths and affirmations.
(d) The family court shall have exclusive initial jurisdiction of all appeals from any administrative agency or board affecting or concerning children under the age of eighteen (18) years and appeals of administrative decisions concerning setoff of income tax refunds, lottery set offs, insurance intercept, and lien enforcement provisions for past due child support, in accordance with §§ 44-30.1-5 and 40-6-21, and appeals of administrative agency orders of the department of human services to withhold income under chapter 16 of title 15.
(e) The family court shall have jurisdiction over those civil matters relating to the enforcement of laws regulating child care providers and child placing agencies.
(f) The family court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of matters relating to the revocation or nonrenewal of a license of an obligor due to noncompliance with a court order of support, in accordance with chapter 11.1 of title 15.
[See § 12-1-15 of the General Laws.]
(g) Notwithstanding any general or public law to the contrary, the family court shall have jurisdiction over all protective orders provided pursuant to the Rhode Island general laws, when either party is a juvenile.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1961, ch. 73, § 1; P.L. 1972, ch. 30, § 1; P.L. 1973, ch. 125, § 1; P.L. 1974, ch. 85, § 1; P.L. 1975, ch. 3, § 1; P.L. 1976, ch. 252, § 1; P.L. 1977, ch. 89, § 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 54, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 319, § 1; P.L. 1984, ch. 167, § 3; P.L. 1984, ch. 281, § 1; P.L. 1987, ch. 163, § 2; P.L. 1988, ch. 84, § 7; P.L. 1992, ch. 326, § 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 158, § 2, P.L. 1994, ch. 195, § 3; P.L. 1994, ch. 244, § 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 263, § 3; P.L. 1995, ch. 370, art. 29, § 10; P.L. 1995, ch. 374, § 10; P.L. 1996, ch. 129, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 131, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 132, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 133, § 1; P.L. 1997, ch. 170, § 23; P.L. 1999, ch. 83, § 6; P.L. 1999, ch. 130, § 6; P.L. 2007, ch. 73, art. 3, § 9; P.L. 2010, ch. 216, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 236, § 1.)