Rhode Island Divorce & Separation
UPDATED: March 2, 2020
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Getting a legal separation or divorce is of course a common experience for people in every state. You may not know, however, that divorce laws can vary widely depending on the state in which you file. It’s important to know the details of the laws in your state, so you can be better prepared if you decide to go ahead with the action. What are the requirements for getting a divorce in Rhode Island? Are there any procedures available for a simplified or accelerated divorce in Rhode Island? Is mediation a requirement before you can get a divorce in Rhode Island? Find the answers to your Rhode Island divorce questions here.
Rhode Island Legal Separation:
Legal separations are allowed in Rhode Island. As long as the petitioner is a resident of the state, and both parties have agreed to the separation, the court will not automatically direct the pleadings toward divorce. However, the court has the power to issue orders on the care and custody of any minor children that may be involved, and any judgments made are always open for revision at the court’s discretion. A revision might occur when, for example, the circumstances of one parent change, and the children’s needs change as a result.
Grounds for Divorce/Fault – No Fault:
Rhode Island has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault divorces only require a showing of “irreconcilable differences” between the parties. Fault-based grounds, however, must be considerably more specific. Examples of fault-based grounds might include: adultery, one party’s “extreme cruelty,” willful desertion for five years, the husband’s failure to provide the necessities for the wife’s subsistence (provided the husband is able), and continued drunkenness, among others.
Residency/Where to File for Divorce:
To file for divorce, the plaintiff must have been a Rhode Island resident for at least one year before filing (where the grounds for divorce occurred outside the state), and the petition must be filed in the county court with jurisdiction over the plaintiff. When the complaint is based upon the actions of the defendant, then the complaint must be filed in the defendant’s resident county court.
Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures:
There are no major procedures in Rhode Island that allow for simplified or special divorces. The one exception to this is no-fault divorces filed with 1) a petition signed by both parties, 2) a notarized separation agreement or marital settlement agreement, and 3) an affidavit swearing to the irretrievability of the marriage. These divorce actions are heard by the judge with no summons requirement and with a statutory eye toward a speedy resolution. Note also that some of the required documentation, particularly the separation agreement, is most prudently handled via mediation sessions out of court, and usually with attorney representation to ensure full legal accuracy. See our “Divorce Mediation” section below for more information. Find an experienced Rhode Island Divorce Attorney at AttorneyPages.com
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Divorce Mediation in Rhode Island:
Courts have the authority to order alternative dispute resolution when they see fit. In general, a mediation session may be called if the court determines that there are some matters that ultimately would be better resolved in a mediation setting, rather than a more acrimonious courtroom setting. This is particularly the case when there are children involved, and mediation may be appropriate to help ensure they are properly cared for despite parents’ differences.
Rhode Island Annulment:
An annulment is a court declaration that a marriage is legally invalid. In other words, rather than ending a marriage via divorce, an annulment proclaims that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place. Reasons for a court granting an annulment may include: fraud, duress, one party’s minor status, or consanguinity.
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