State Of Rhode Island Divorce Law


Rhode Island Family Law And Divorce Resource

U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the divorce courts in Rhode Island have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.

Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage. You can also visit the GotTrouble Divorce Resource for a more in-depth understanding of related divorce and family law topics.

As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.


On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. It follows, therefore, that the rights and obligations between same-sex divorcing parties are subject to the same dissolution laws of that state. Reference: US Supreme Court Opinion: Obergefell v. Hodges. (For more information visit


To meet the residency requirement in Rhode Island the plaintiff must show one of the parties has been a domiciled inhabitant of the state and has resided in the state for a period of one year before the filing of the complaint.


Legal separation is allowed in Rhode Island, so long as the petitioner is a resident of the state, and both parties have agreed to the separation,


Rhode Island allows divorcing parties to use either fault or no-fault grounds as the basis for seeking divorce.


A no-fault divorce, also referred to as a uncontested divorce, can be obtained by declaring there are irreconcilable differences between the parties or you and your spouse have been separated for three years without reconciliation. All property and alimony issue claims must be resolved before obtaining a final divorce decree.


The fault option is statutory based and is known as contested divorce. It is often used for legal positioning because it makes issues of bad past behavior or good behavior relevant to the case and therefore the litigant hopes it will influence the judge on issues of alimony and property division.

Fault grounds can be pursued under the following causes:

  • Impotency;
  • Adultery;
  • Extreme cruelty;
  • Willful desertion for five (5) 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.


The family court may direct the parties to participate in mediation in an effort to resolve their differences as to issues of custody and visitation.

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Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property will be distributed equitably, not necessarily equally.

In determining the value of the property the court will consider, but not limited to the following factors:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  • The contribution of each of the parties during the marriage in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates;
  • The contribution and services of either party as a homemaker;
  • The health and age of the parties;
  • The amount and sources of income of each of the parties;
  • The occupation and employability of each of the parties;
  • The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training, licensure, business, or increased earning power of the other;
  • The need of the custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects taking into account the best interests of the children of the marriage;
  • Either party’s wasteful dissipation of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce without fair consideration; and
  • Any factor that the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.


Alimony may be awarded to either party. Alimony is designed to provide support for a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable the recipient to become financially independent and self-sufficient. However, the court may award alimony for an indefinite period of time when it is appropriate in the discretion of the court. In determining the amount of alimony, the court shall consider:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  • The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and
  • The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
  • The extent to which a party was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities, and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience of that party have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished;
  • The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment;
  • The probability, given a party’s age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting;
  • The standard of living during the marriage;
  • The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
  • The ability to pay of the supporting spouse, taking into account the supporting spouse’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living;
  • Any other factor, which the court expressly finds to be just, and proper.


Any woman, to whom a divorce is decreed, shall, upon request, be authorized by the decree to change her name, notwithstanding that there may be children born of the marriage, and subject to the same rights and liabilities as if her name had not been changed.


Failing an agreement between the parents as to the custody of the children, a determination will be based on the best interest of the child. In regulating the custody of the children, the court shall provide for the reasonable right of visitation by the natural parent not having custody of the children except upon the showing of cause as to why the right should not be granted.

The court shall mandate compliance with its orders by both the custodial parent and the children. In the event of noncompliance, the non-custodial parent may file a motion for contempt in family court. Upon a finding by the court that its order for visitation has not been complied with, the court shall exercise its discretion in providing a remedy, and define the non-custodial parent’s visitation in detail. However, if a second finding of noncompliance by the court is made, the court shall consider this to be grounds for a change of custody to the non-custodial parent.


Rhode Islands bases it’s child support on the Income Shares Model. If, after calculating support based upon court established guidelines, the court finds the order would be inequitable to the child or either parent, the court shall order either or both parents pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the child’s support after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

  • The financial resources of the child;
  • The financial resources of the custodial parent;
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved,
  • The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs; and the financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.
  • For more information on child support services: Rhode Island Child Support Services 






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