RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS AND WHERE TO FILE:
To file for a divorce in Rhode Island, the plaintiff must have been a domiciled inhabitant of this state and has resided in this state for a period of one year next before the filing of the complaint.
All complaints for divorce and complaints for relief without commencement of divorce proceedings shall be filed in the county in which the plaintiff is residing, unless the complaint is based upon the residence of the defendant, in which case the complaint shall be filed in Providence County or in the county in which the defendant resides.
LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE:
- Irreconcilable differences: A divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
- Fault Grounds: Divorces from the bond of marriage shall also be decreed for the following causes:
- 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.
- Any other gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant.
Divorces from bed, board, and future cohabitation, until the parties are reconciled, may be granted for the same grounds as divorce, and for other causes which may seem to require a divorce from bed and board; provided, the petitioner is a domiciled inhabitant of this state and has resided in this state for a length of time that, to the court in its discretion, seems to warrant the exercise of the powers in this section conferred. In case of a divorce from bed, board, the court may assign separate maintenance out of the estate or property of the husband or wife, in a manner and of an amount as it may think necessary or proper.
MEDIATION OR COUNSELING REQUIREMENTS:
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.
Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property will be distributed equitably, not necessarily equally. In determining the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the court shall consider the following:
- 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.
- Any factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.
Property held by a party prior to the marriage, or property acquired by gift or inheritance before, during, or after the term of the marriage shall be considered separate property, and not subject to division. Any appreciation of value from the date of the marriage of property or an interest in property which was held in the name of one party prior to the marriage which increased in value as a result of the efforts of either spouse during the marriage may be subject to division.
ALIMONY / MAINTENANCE / SPOUSAL SUPPORT:
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 from the bond of marriage 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, 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 Island bases its 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.
- The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.
The court may, if in its discretion it deems it necessary or advisable, order child support and education costs for children attending high school at the time of their eighteenth birthday and for ninety days after graduation, but in no case beyond their nineteenth birthday. In addition, the court may order child support to continue, in the case of a child with a severe physical or mental impairment, until the twenty-first birthday of the child.
Any order for child support issued by the family court shall contain a provision requiring either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child to obtain health insurance coverage for the child when coverage is available to the parent or parents through their employment without cost or at a reasonable cost.
Parties to a premarital agreement may contract with respect to:
- The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located.
- The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property.
- The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event.
- The modification or elimination of spousal support.
- The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement.
- The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy.
- The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement.
- Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, which are not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.
- The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement.