Equitable distribution in Rhode Island: Marital property laws explained
Need answers about Rhode Island divorce laws
or need to know if Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state
? Relax. Paul Ferns is here for you.
When a couple decides to divorce, the most heated debate usually takes place around child custody and visitation. Coming in at a close second are decisions involving how you’ll divide your property. Hashing out who gets what can be an immense source of stress. You worked hard for everything obtained during your marriage. And you want to make sure you’re getting your fair share.
If you have questions about property division in Rhode Island, don’t worry. Here’s everything you need to know about RI divorce law
on marital property.
What is marital property?
When it comes to divorce, there are two basic kinds of property – marital property (sometimes called community property) and separate property.
includes any income, purchases, or debts that you or your spouse obtained during your marriage. Marital property is considered to belong to both spouses and is subject to Rhode Island’s property distribution laws.
Common examples of community property include:
- Income or financial gains acquired during the marriage. This can include wages, pension plans, 401k and retirement funds, bonuses, commissions, brokerage accounts, tax refunds, and more
- Real estate, such as your marital home, rental properties, and any mortgages
- Any items purchased during the marriage such as cars, boats, artwork, antiques, or other valuables
What is separate property?
includes any assets that each spouse had before getting married. Separate property includes:
- Real estate that you acquired before the marriage
- Major purchases that you acquired before the marriage, such as a car
- Any gifts your spouse gave you during the marriage, or vice versa
- Gifts given to you from a third party (not your spouse)
Is inheritance marital property in Rhode Island?
No. In general, Rhode Island considers inheritance to be separate property. That’s true even if it was acquired during the marriage. However, there can be nuances depending on your particular situation. A Rhode Island divorce attorney can help explain how the laws surrounding inheritance and property division apply to you.
Is RI a community property state?
No. Rhode Island is a “common law” state. This means that any assets you acquired individually (not using shared funds) are considered yours, even if you acquired them during the marriage.
This doesn’t apply to items that are only superficially in your name. If you purchased the item with shared funds, it will still be considered marital property - even if your name is the only one on the deed.
Is Rhode Island an equal distribution state?
No. Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state
. Although these terms may seem like the same thing, there’s a key difference between them.
What does equitable distribution mean? What’s the difference between equal distribution and equitable distribution?
An equal distribution method divides property 50/50 between both parties. Whereas equitable distribution provides each spouse with a “fair share” of marital assets. That fair share isn’t always a 50/50 split.
There is a lot of nuance and distinction around what an equitable share looks like. It’s rarely straightforward. The RI family court judge
has a lot of leeway with interpretation.
What affects property division?
When it comes to dividing marital property, there are multiple factors that can affect a judge’s decision. Some of the key factors the Rhode Island court will consider include:
- Marital Fault - If you filed for an at-fault divorce, the spouse considered “at fault” may receive a lower percentage of marital assets. Learn more about grounds for divorce in RI
- Infidelity - If one spouse used marital property to finance an affair, such as purchasing hotel reservations with a shared bank account, that spouse is likely to receive a lower share of the estate. This is true for both at-fault and no-fault divorces
- Economic Misconduct - In Rhode Island, spouses who irresponsibly spend marital assets typically receive a lower share of the estate. Irresponsible spending can include gambling, fraud, or wasteful and excessive purchases.
- Income and Potential Income- The court will consider the income and earning capacity of each spouse. If one spouse has a lower income or earning potential, the court may award them a higher share of the marital assets. Alimony may also have a role to play if one spouse needs extra help to become financially independent.
- Education - In Rhode Island, spouses who directly improve their partner’s earning potential or education can receive a higher percentage of marital property. This can include paying for school or classes.
- Custody of Children - If one spouse has full custody of the children, this can lead to obtaining a higher percentage of marital assets. This can also affect the distribution of major pieces of marital property, like the family house.
Don’t forget debt distribution
In addition to financial gains acquired during the marriage, the court will also distribute any debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This typically excludes debts obtained before the marriage or debts obtained by one spouse through reckless means.
The court will typically divide the debt between both spouses based on the same principle of equitable distribution. The same factors will affect the judge’s decision.
Can a pre-nuptial agreement affect property division in Rhode Island?
Yes. If you or your spouse signed a pre-nuptial agreement
or prenup, this can affect property division during the Rhode Island divorce process
A prenup can affect what is considered marital and separate property, as well as dictate how your finances should be treated during a divorce. The terms laid out in a prenup typically take precedence over Rhode Island's property division laws.
If you’re unsure of how your prenup affects your situation, contact a Rhode Island divorce attorney
for more information.
Settling things outside of court
It’s important to note that the courtroom isn't the only way to settle property distribution in a divorce. In general, a judge will honor any arrangement that you and your spouse can agree on, so long as it doesn’t harm any minor children.
If you can come to an agreement with your spouse through negotiation, you can file for an uncontested divorce in Rhode Island
. An uncontested divorce is typically the simplest, most straightforward way to settle divorce in RI
. However, coming to an agreement can be difficult when tensions are high and you have an emotional investment in your marital property.
If you need an uncontested divorce, you could beenfit from divorce mediation with an expert Rhode Island divorce lawyer
Who’s the best lawyer in RI?
If you need a divorce attorney in Rhode Island
, call Paul Ferns. Through his careful, measured approach, attorney Ferns can stand up for your rights both inside and outside the courtroom. His clients always appreciate the rational, respectful presence he brings to the table.
He can help you negotiate for an equitable share of your marital property, and provide a calming presence through a difficult time. Contact one of the best divorce lawyers in RI
today for a free consultation.
It’s ok, you’re in good hands.