Divorce can be an incredibly complicated and emotional endeavor. As your family
is thrust in to the Rhode Island Family Court system, it can be confusing
to know what to expect during the associated legal processes. To help
you make sense of what is to come, our firm has broken down the Rhode
Island divorce process into a simple to use guide that identifies the
main issues at hand and addresses your concerns.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
In most cases, yes. While you may choose to represent yourself “pro
se,” this is highly inadvisable. The divorce process involves a
myriad of different applicable laws, deadlines, and procedures that can
expose you to a large potential for error. While some minor clerical mistakes
can result in delays, other errors can potentially affect your divorce
settlement and subject you to penalties. An attorney can handle the associated
paperwork and legalese on your behalf, as well as ensure your interests
are protected at all times throughout your case.
What are Acceptable Grounds for Divorce in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that couples do not need
to cite any sort of misconduct by either spouse in order to pursue a divorce.
Most divorces within the state are granted due to “irreconcilable
differences,” or simply because spouses do not get along. Divorces
that are filed on grounds of fault such as adultery or abuse are typically
more contested matters.
The only requirement for divorce is that you or your spouse must have lived
in Rhode Island for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. Certain
exceptions to this rule apply, such as instances in which a spouse is
serving active duty in the military but lived in Rhode Island before enlisting.
What Issues Must Be Addressed in My Divorce Arrangement?
Once you and your spouse have retained legal representation and have filed
for divorce, you must negotiate the terms of your divorce settlement.
The following issues must be addressed:
Asset & debt division: Unless wrongdoing is alleged, all assets and debts acquired during the
course of your marriage are to be divided equally. This includes real
estate, property, vehicles, cash assets, personal belongings, retirement
accounts, pension plans, securities, stocks and bonds, and jointly owned
businesses. Assets and debts that were acquired or accrued prior to your
marriage or after the date of your separation are generally considered
separate and are not subject to equitable distribution. The
division of marital assets is frequently one of the most contentious issues during the divorce process.
Alimony: The higher-earning spouse may be required to make alimony or
spousal support payments to the lower earning spouse on a temporary or permanent basis,
depending on the length of the marriage, the lifestyle experienced during
the marriage, and the earning capacity of both spouses. Alimony is generally
rehabilitative in Rhode Island, meaning that it is granted only for a
short period of time to help a spouse get the education or training they
need to find gainful employment. Indefinite spousal support payments may
be granted if a dependent spouse is of considerable age or poor health,
or if the paying spouse is found to have subjected the dependent spouse
to some form of malevolent behavior during the marriage.
Custody & visitation: If you and your spouse have minor children,
custody and visitation schedules will need to be established. It is not uncommon
for couples in Rhode Island to receive joint custody of their children,
allowing each parent to maintain a say in their children’s upbringing.
Sole custody may be awarded to one parent if the other parent is deemed
unfit to care for their child, though this will depend on the unique circumstances
of your case.
Child support: The parent that receives physical placement of the child or children must receive
child support payments from the non-custodial parent to help offset the cost of raising
the child. Child support is calculated by a formula based on the income
of the parents and may not be waived by the custodial parent.
These issues may either be negotiated by you and your spouse in an out-of-court
uncontested divorce or through
contested litigation, though divorces rarely end up going to trial in Rhode Island. Collaborating
with your spouse towards an uncontested divorce settlement is greatly
preferred over a contested legal battle since it can save you a considerable
amount of time, money, and stress.
When Will My Divorce Be Finalized?
Whether you and your spouse have negotiated the terms of your divorce or
are looking to pursue litigation, there must be a court hearing of some
kind in order to finalize your divorce. All divorce cases are initially
scheduled for an uncontested hearing within 90 days of filing for divorce.
Once a hearing or trial has been held, judge will file a temporary decree
with the court that lists the court’s findings and decision. After
90 days, the Final Decree will be entered. You will remain married to
your spouse until the Final Decree is entered.
Divorcing? Call (401) 216-4414 Today
If you and your spouse have decided to dissolve your marriage, the Rhode
Island divorce attorneys at TJC ESQ. are here to help. Backed by
numerous positive client testimonials and more than 30 years of
family law experience, our firm can help you and your spouse pursue an amicable separation
and ensure your rights are protected during this difficult time.
We proudly offer free case reviews
to all who approach us for help. Schedule yours today.