R.I. Divorce - What To Know

R.I. Divorce - What To Know

R.I. Divorce - What To Know

Even when you and your spouse can agree that separating is what’s best, divorce is never an easy process. There are a lot of things to think about, such as how you’ll divide up your property and how you’ll share custody of your children. With so many stressful decisions to make and mountains of paperwork to file, it may feel like you have nowhere to turn. But don’t worry. Warwick divorce lawyer Paul Ferns is here for you in this stressful time.

Attorney Ferns can walk you through the complex process of obtaining a divorce in Rhode Island and help you negotiate for your fair share of the assets. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on basic Rhode Island divorce laws for you.

How do you file for divorce in RI?

Anyone can file for divorce in Rhode Island as long as you or your spouse have lived in the state for at least one year. There isn’t currently a way to file for divorce online, so this must be done in-person. You can fill out the Rhode Island divorce forms at your county’s family court.

If you and your spouse are already separated and your spouse lives outside the state, you can file for divorce at the Providence county Courthouse. From here, you’ll have the opportunity to choose your grounds for divorce.

How much does a divorce cost in RI?

Filing the necessary paperwork at your county courthouse costs around $250. If you can’t afford this, the court may waive the filing fee depending on your income level. You can see if you qualify by filling out the necessary forms at your district court.

Is RI a no-fault state? The basics of no-fault divorce

Although some states require that one party be “at fault” in order to obtain a divorce, Rhode Island is a no-fault state. This means that anyone can file for divorce at any time without having to provide evidence of how their spouse violated their marriage agreement.

To qualify for a no-fault divorce, you must either cite “irreconcilable differences” as your reason for filing the divorce, or you and your spouse must have been separated for three years with no cohabitation.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce means that you and your ex-spouse have all the particulars of your no-fault divorce settled beforehand, such as how you’ll divide your assets and how you’ll share custody of your children. This type of divorce is the quickest and easiest kind to settle in Rhode Island, which is why so many people choose this method every year.

However, an uncontested divorce depends on you and your spouse agreeing on all the conditions. That’s not always easy to do when tensions are high and patience is low. That’s where the help of an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney comes in. Through a calm and respectful approach, Warwick Rhode Island family lawyer Paul Ferns can help you negotiate with your ex-spouse outside the courtroom, saving you the stress and money of having to fight things out in court.

Can I still file for an at-fault divorce in RI?

Yes. Although Rhode Island allows for no-fault divorce, both husbands and wives can still file for at-fault divorce when it applies to their situation. Grounds that constitute an at-fault divorce in RI include:
  • Impotency
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Willful desertion
  • Alcoholism or substance abuse
  • Neglect and refusal
  • Any other “gross misbehavior or wickedness” in violation of the marriage contract

You’ll need to provide proper evidence of your spouse’s misconduct to obtain an at-fault divorce, which can sometimes be difficult to obtain. Because of all the extra work involved in obtaining an at-fault divorce, many people choose to file for a no-fault divorce in Rhode Island instead, to save themselves time and energy. But, bear in mind that, fault can still come into play even in a no-fault divorce, as we’ll talk about in a moment.

A Warwick RI divorce lawyer like Paul Ferns can help you determine what type of divorce is best for your situation before you go any further in the process.

How is property divided in a divorce?

In general, you and your ex-spouse will both take possession of your “non-marital assets”, which include anything you owned before getting married. Belongings that you purchased after the marriage, such as a house or car, are considered marital assets, and you can decide how you want to divide them during the negotiation process.

If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement yourselves, the court will decide how to fairly split the assets between the two of you. While it may seem logical that property will be divided 50/50 in a no-fault divorce, that’s not always the case. The court may choose to award one spouse a higher share of the assets for several reasons, such as having primary custody of the children or being disabled and unable to work.

The court may also choose to award one spouse a higher share if the other spouse had an extramarital affair or was physically or emotionally abusive. That’s how fault can still come into play in a no-fault divorce.

How are alimony and child support determined in a divorce?

Although alimony and child support often go together in people’s minds, they’re two very different things that serve separate purposes.

The purpose of child support is to ensure that any children involved in a divorce will always be financially taken care of. In a typical divorce settlement, the non-custodial parent is obliged to pay child support to the custodial parent, which is calculated based on a dual-income model. For more information on how child support payments work in Rhode Island, check out our detailed guide on Rhode Island Child Support

Alimony is a little trickier. Spousal support is considered to be a rehabilitative tool, and it isn’t always awarded automatically to an unemployed or lower-earning spouse. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to obtain, however. You can learn how to obtain the alimony you need to get back on your feet in our Rhode Island Alimony guide.

What about custody arrangements?

There are a few different options for how you and your ex-spouse can divide custody of your children. One parent could have sole custody while the other has visitation rights, or both parents could share custody in a joint arrangement. Like everything else, you can either decide this outside the courtroom, or a judge can settle matters for you.

The court will look at several different factors when determining where your children should live, such as:
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The child’s relationship with their siblings or other family members in the household
  • The child’s adjustment to a new school or community
  • The mental health of both parents
  • The stability of the home environment
  • The child’s wishes provided that they’re old enough to have an opinion

Again, the court will usually honor any custody arrangements you and your spouse can agree on yourselves, provided that it won’t harm your children in any way.

How long does a divorce take in RI?

In Rhode Island, a divorce hearing typically takes place 75 days after filing the divorce petition. If the divorce is uncontested, you’ll be granted a "nominal" divorce, after which you’ll go through a three-month waiting period. Once you’ve completed this waiting period, the divorce will be finalized. You can skip this waiting period if you and your spouse have already been separated for 2 years or more.

This 75-day waiting period is the ideal time to iron out the details of your divorce through negotiations with your ex-spouse. Having everything settled outside the courtroom streamlines the divorce process and saves you the stress of multiple court-hearings. That’s why we can’t understate the importance of having a lawyer on your side if you want a quick and simple divorce.

Who’s the best lawyer to contact for Rhode Island divorce mediation?

If you need a calm, rational presence throughout all the chaos and turmoil, Warwick RI divorce attorney Paul Ferns is here for you and has been voted as one of the top Rhode Island divorce lawyers in the state. As an expert negotiator, Attorney Ferns can help you and your ex-spouse negotiate the terms of your divorce settlement outside of the courtroom.

And if you can’t come to an agreement through negotiations, he’ll fight for your rights in the courtroom. No matter what you need him to do, Paul Ferns will be there for you throughout this stressful time, and he can help you hold onto the things that matter most to you. Contact his office today for a free consultation.