Random Rhode Island family and divorce law FAQS

Rhode Island divorce attorney, David Slepkow answers some important questions concerning divorce law in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. David is an experienced RI Family law and child custody lawyer with 19 years of experience in Providence Family Court. These RI divorce FAQS should be very informative to litigants going through the divorce process.

RI divorce faqs

Health insurance after divorce

Why is there a 90 day waiting period in RI Family Law?

The intent of the law in Rhode Island is that parties may reconcile during the 3 months and decide to remain married.

Is a court hearing required or can I just sign papers to get a divorce?

In order to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a divorce hearing in open court called a “nominal trial” is required.  The legal mandate for a nominal trial in RI is RI law 15-5-22. A “nominal” is a short perfunctory hearing in which all agreements and all necessary elements that need to be established are put on the record. Both parties are required to testify.

If there is a default, then at least one party must testify at the nominal hearing.  If there is a property settlement agreement, the RI Family Court justice makes certain findings and approves the marital settlement agreement. This is an oversimplification of what occurs at a nominal divorce. It is a wise idea to consult with a Rhode Island divorce attorney about you marriage dissolution proceeding.  A RI divorce lawyer will make sure that everything goes smoothly in your RI divorce and that your legal rights are protected.

§ 15-5-22 Trial required – Collusion.  No divorce from the bond of marriage shall be granted solely upon default nor solely upon admissions by the pleadings, except upon trial before the court in open session; nor shall the divorce be granted where the court is satisfied that there has been any collusion or corrupt conduct by the parties, or either of them, in regard to the proceedings to obtain the divorce.  History of Section. (G.L. 1896, ch. 195, § 18; P.L. 1902, ch. 971, § 6; G.L. 1909, ch. 247, § 18; G.L. 1923, ch. 291, § 18; G.L. 1938, ch. 416, § 18; G.L. 1956, § 15-5-22; P.L. 2004, ch. 6, § 25.)

Question: Is there any way to shorten the 3 month waiting period after the nominal RI Divorce hearing?

The 90 day waiting period is mandated by Rhode Island Law. A Final Judgment of Divorce cannot be granted by a Family Court Judge until 3 months after the nominal divorce hearing. There is one exception to this rule.  Divorce complaints granted based on the grounds of living separate and apart for a space of 3 years, have a substantially lesser waiting period.

§ 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

RI divorce laws

Rhode Island divorce lawyers

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. (b) After entry of the final judgment for a divorce from the bond of marriage, either party may marry again.  History of Section. (G.L. 1896, ch. 195, § 19; P.L. 1902, ch. 971, § 6; G.L. 1909, ch. 247, § 19; G.L. 1923, ch. 291, § 19; G.L. 1938, ch. 416, § 19; P.L. 1939, ch. 707, § 3; P.L. 1940, ch. 945, § 1; G.L. 1956, § 15-5-23; P.L. 1976, ch. 338, § 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 13, § 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 14, § 1.)

 I am in a hurry to dissolve my marriage, do I have wait until the nominal divorce hearing which is typically 65 – 70 days after filing?

Pursuant to Rhode Island law 15-5-4,  the Rhode Island Family Court cannot do a nominal until 60 days after the divorce is filed. This 60 day waiting period can be waived by a justice of the Providence Family Court upon good cause.

RI law 15-5-4 states in pertinent part: “…(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, 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 § 15-5-14 Return day of petitions – Notice – Issuance of process – Time of hearing.

In cases designated on the “nominal track”, the clerk of the Rhode Island Family Court typically schedules the nominal 65- 70 days after the filing of the complaint for divorce. The husband and wife may waive the initial waiting period. The nominal hearing could be substantially earlier than 65 days. Typically, this something agreed to and requested by the divorce lawyers. The judge must approve an earlier date.

Can I file for  an absolute divorce in RI if we do not satisfy the 1 year residency requirement?

No. Until either party satisfies the one year residency requirement, the only option is a divorce from bed and board, complaint for separate maintenance or a miscellaneous petition for custody, placement or child support.

Do mothers automatically get custody of young children in a Child Custody case?

No. Providence Family Court and the other Counties such as Kent County Family Court use the best interest of the child standard in determining custody of a child.

Practical Tip: A mother who is a fit and proper person has a significant advantage in obtaining custody of a young child in RI Family Court.

What is the  Interest for Child Support Arrears in Rhode Island?

Twelve (12) percent

 What is a Divorce from Bed and Board and Future Cohabitation?

It is something that should almost never be filed. In this type of case, the parties go though the entire divorce but in the end they remain legally married and do not obtain an absolute divorce. This is an outdated law that originated because RI is a heavily catholic state.

Why would a husband or wife select a divorce from Bed and Board in Rhode Island?

That’s a very good question. The prime rationale for this would be religious reasons or perhaps health insurance reasons.

Will the State Of RI Child Support Enforcement waive  interest owed to the State  for child support or cash medical contributions?

The State  of Rhode Island will only consider waive the amount of interest owed to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations for child support or cash medical contributions after the principal amount has been paid in full.

Can I get a divorce in Rhode Island by signing papers?

No, absolutely not. A Nominal Hearing / trial is required by statute to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island.