Yesterday, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo signed a new bill into law extending the time during which a final judgment can be entered in a Rhode Island divorce. In Rhode Island, there is a mandatory three-month waiting period from the date of the nominal divorce hearing to the date that the final judgment of divorce can be entered. (This waiting period is shortened to 20 days when the court finds the parties have lived separate and apart for at least three years prior to the filing of the divorce).
Parties are not divorced until final judgment has been entered. Under the old law, litigants had up to 30 days after the mandatory waiting period to enter their final judgment. Under the new law, litigants have up to 180 days to enter the final judgment. If 180 days pass and final judgment still has not entered, the final judgment can be entered “out of time” by agreement, in the form of a stipulation filed with the court. Under the previous law, parties would have to file a motion and be heard in open court before a final judgment could be entered “out of time.”
This extended time gives parties more time to complete Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) and tie up other loose ends before the divorce is final, for example completing the sale of real estate or the division of accounts. There are also tax implications. Parties are still legally married up until final judgment is entered. Accordingly, up until the entry of final judgment parties have the option of filing taxes jointly. The extended time in which these judgments can now be entered give parties more flexibility around tax planning.
The bill can be viewed online at:webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText16/SenateText16/S2661.pdf