Rhode Island divorce details
Uncontested VS Contested Divorce in Rhode Island
There are two main types of divorce - contested and uncontested.
- If you decided to contest your divorce case you should be ready to the long litigation, numerous court hearings and huge expenses on attorney fees. Contested divorce usually occurs when one of the spouses wants to divorce and the other doesn’t. Such divorces are granted based on one spouse's misconduct which is typically taken into account at the property division.
- Nowadays, Uncontested divorce is much more popular nationwide, and Rhode Island is not an exception. Uncontested divorce implies that the spouses’ desire to divorce is mutual, and they are ready to reach an agreement on all the most important terms of the case out of court. An uncontested divorce includes the only brief court hearing, and the spouses don’t need to hire attorneys if they can’t afford it or just want to represent themselves before the court.
Uncontested Divorce in Rhode Island
The main part of uncontested divorce is a negotiation. You must be sure that you and your spouse are able to discuss your problems honestly and constructively. You should independently make all the decisions which are made by the court in case of contested divorce, so it’s a huge responsibility. All your agreed terms of a divorce must be written in the Marital Settlement Agreement, this document must be signed and notarized.
Grounds for Divorce in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a mixed state, so you can file for divorce based on both no-fault or fault grounds. No-fault grounds are suitable for filing for uncontested divorce, and all the fault grounds must be proved before the court.
No-fault grounds for divorce in RI:
- Irremediable breakdown in the marriage (conflict of interest, or other personal reasons you don’t have to disclose).
- The spouses live separate and apart for at least three years.
Fault grounds for divorce in RI:
- Abandonment and presumed dead.
- Alcoholism and/or drug addiction.
- Willful desertion for five years (or less, at the discretion of the court).
- Cruel and inhuman treatment.
- Gross neglect.
Rhode Island Residency Requirements to File for Divorce
To be eligible to divorce in Rhode Island both spouses or one of them must be a resident of the state for at least one year before filing "the Complaint for Divorce".
You can file for divorce in your county, if your spouse is not a resident of RI.
In addition, if you or your spouse is a military member the dislocation in Rhode Island may be equated to the residency in the state.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Rhode Island?
If you decided to file for uncontested divorce, picked the relevant no-fault ground, and realized that there is no problem with the residency requirement, you’re ready to start your divorce case.
The main steps of the process are common for every couple, though you should notice that there may need some additional efforts, forms, or actions depending on your situation.
- File the Complaint for divorce, the Verification, and the Summons with the family court clerk at your local courthouse.
- Make the copies of the paperwork and serve your spouse with it. After that, your spouse has 20 days to respond the petition.
- Waiting period before the hearing is about 75 days after filing in RI. In certain cases, it may be waived, but you'd better have time in reserve.
- Attend the final hearing. Both spouses must be present. Both of you need to testify with your witnesses.
- Nevertheless, after the decision is issued by the Family Court, the divorce still is not finalized. There is one more waiting period (it may last up to 90 days depending on the case). Only after the waiting period is passed the court processes the "Final Judgment" and the former spouses are allowed to remarry.
Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Rhode Island
DIY divorce, or Pro Se divorce is a divorce without an attorney. In Rhode Island, you may represent yourself before the court.
Surely, it’s not accepted for contested divorce, but if your uncontested case is rather simple you probably can handle it independently.
DIY divorce is a perfect option if you don’t have children or a lot of property to divide, but if you’re well-organized, responsible and able to cooperate with your spouse for the sake of common aim you may try to arrange a do-it-yourself divorce by making a successful Settlement Agreement. Learn information about DIY divorce in Rhode Island online, and don’t ignore online legal support or mediation if there are any difficulties.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
A cost of uncontested divorce starts with a cost of a filing fee - an initial payment for the court service. In Rhode Island it is about $160, and amount may vary by the county. Final cost of uncontested case may also include service of process fees (about $45), mediation fees, and so on. And attorneys’ flat fees for uncontested case are typically between $700 and $1200.
How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in Rhode Island?
Each divorce case is unique, and Rhode Island family law takes it into account.
In general, uncontested divorce in RI is heard in the court 75 days after filing the Petition, but this waiting period may be canceled in some cases. In order to get a divorce as soon as papers are submitted the spouses sign a form that requests an expedited treatment and state before the court that their marriage is irreparably broken.
One more “waiting period” begins after the hearing. Depending on the ground for dissolution, it can be 21 or 90 days (21 - if the spouses lived separate and apart for at least 3 years, and 90 if the ground was claimed as “irreconcilable differences”).
Papers & Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in Rhode Island
Although the forms and documents needed for divorce may vary case to case, there are basic papers which should be filled out by all the individuals filing for divorce in RI. Here they are:
- Complaint for Divorce or Divorce From Bed and Board
- Marital Settlement Agreement
- Statement of Assets, Liabilities, Income and Expenses
- Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service
- Notice of Hearing
- Final Judgment of Divorce
...And if you have minor children you probably need:
- Schedule for Visitation for Minor Children
- Child Support Guideline Worksheet
- Income Withholding for Support
- Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA)
How to Serve Your Spouse in Rhode Island
To "serve" means to deliver the initial divorce paperwork, namely, the Complaint for divorce, the Summons, the Verification (copies) to the non-filing spouse (legal term - "Defendant").
You can't do it at your discretion. In Rhode Island, there are two legal ways of notifying your spouse about the divorce:
- You may use the Sheriff's service in the county where your spouse lives or works. The Sheriff hands the papers to your spouse personally and provides you with the evidence the delivery succeed.
- You may use the help of a Private Constable who is authorized in RI to this job. The Constable serves your spouse in the same way as Sheriff does. The fee (typically, $40-45) is charged for both of these services.
Online Divorce in Rhode Island
What people call “online divorce” is essentially the preparation of forms online, and speaking of uncontested divorce, it’s really the most important part of the job. If you decided to represent yourself before the court such online-divorce service like ours may be useful.
The service implies that you receive all the needed forms on demand (they are customized according to your situation, your county’s relevant rules etc). Our specialists provide you with completed divorce forms, and you just have to sign a ready-made paperwork. You can save time and take advantage of online support.
However, that is not all. In the state of Rhode Island, you may also file the Petition online. To be eligible for it you just need to register to use the court’s electronic filing system.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in Rhode Island
Child custody and visitation should be decided by the parents out of court if there is an uncontested divorce. The judge will consider the proposed parenting plan and approve it if it’s in a child’s best interest. If the parents fail to make their own agreement about custody and visitation the court will decide it according to the numerous factors of a particular case.
Generally, in Rhode Island, there are few models of how this significant issue can be solved:
- Physical Placement defines with whom the child lives.
3 types of Physical Placement are physical custody, shared, and split physical placement.
Physical custody means that the one parent is a custodian. Living with the child he/she is responsible for everyday care.
Shared physical placement is rather rare option, which implies that the child has two residencies at the same time or at least spends a significant amount of time with each parent (for example, one parent’s home is a primary residence of the child, but the other parent has alternate weeks or even months).
Split physical placement. If the spouses have more than one child, one (some) of the children may live with one parent, and the second (some) - with another.
- Legal Custody defines who has an authority to make the major decisions of the child’s upbringing including educational, healthcare, ethical and religious issues.
Sole legal custody is appointed to the parent with physical custody. Sole legal custody means that deciding some important changes in the child’s life there is no need to consult with another parent.
Joint legal custody is a quite common option. Even if the child/children live with one parent, they still may have a close and amicable relationship with another. So the non-custodial parent has visitation rights, communicates with children, and has a right to know what’s going on in their lives as well as participate in important decisions.
As for child support, which is usually paid by the non-custodial parent, its amount must be calculated with the "Rhode Island Family Court Child Support Formula and Guidelines". The spouses may agree on a higher amount of a child support if they want to.
Rules for Spousal Support in Rhode Island
Spousal support, or alimony, is a one-time or periodic payment from the one spouse to another who has low income and can’t support themselves for some reason.
Rhode Island is not very “alimony-friendly” state. Spousal support is granted very rarely. Usually, the one-time payment or short-time payments with a “rehabilitative” purpose may be awarded.
Deciding a spousal support the court takes into account length of the marriage, each spouse’s conduct, the age, and health of each spouse, their special needs, earning capacity, contribution to the family welfare (including non-marital), custody arrangement, and other factors.
Division of Property in Rhode Island
As for division of property, the state of Rhode Island follows equitable distribution laws.
This means that unless the spouses divided all their property independently and included their decision into the Settlement Agreement, the court will allocate the property in a fair manner at its own discretion (proportions may vary depending on the situation, this is not necessarily equal division).
Under the equitable division rules only the marital property is subject to division, so you should know exactly what of your property is marital and what is separate.
- Marital property is all the property earned, acquired and collected during the marriage, no matter in whose name it was in.
- Separate (non-marital) property is anything each spouse had before the marriage. Also, personal gifts and inheritances given to one spouse remain to belong to initial owners.
The decision about what would be equitable is made by the court based on a lot of factors:
length of the marriage, the spouses’ conduct, each spouse’s age, health, employability, each spouse’s contribution to the family welfare both as breadwinner or homemaker, the contribution of the one spouse to the other’s education and professional improvement, and so on.
Division of Debt in Rhode Island
The marital debt should be divided under the same justly principles as the other marital property is divided.
The judge allocates the debt taking into account whether one of the spouses wasted the marital property, in other words, who caused and collected the debt, and what was the purpose.
Divorce Mediation in Rhode Island
Mediation is a popular option to resolve the most complicated divorce issues in a dignified way. The spouses who want to reach an agreement about property, assets, support, custody attend a number of meetings with a qualified mediator - the specialist who helps to negotiate constructively and efficiently.
Unlike a judge, a mediator can’t order something, and unlike an attorney, a mediator can’t represent the one spouse’s interests. The mediator’s aim is to encourage and help the couple to cooperate for the sake of a mutually beneficial settlement agreement. The mediator can give some advice, but only if the spouses ask about it. Most people say that divorce mediation is half a therapy, half a legal service.
How to Divorce a Missing Spouse in Rhode Island
Under the Chapter 5 of Rhode Island Divorce law, the divorce proceeding can’t be entered until the Defendant is properly notified about the divorce case. If the Petitioner can’t contact the Defendant, so it’s no opportunity to serve him/her with the divorce paperwork the notice by publication is considered to be a legally acceptable way of serving.
Foremost, you should do your best trying to find the missing spouse. You must describe all your efforts in the special “Affidavit of diligent search” form and submit it to the court. If the court approves an affidavit you may be ordered to use alternate service like publishing the notice in a local newspaper or even tacking notice to the spouse’s door.
These methods are used as a last resort, divorce by publication is rather expensive and time-consuming process. Sometimes, it can take up to 6 months just to complete a diligent search.
Default Divorce in Rhode Island
In general, Default Divorce is what occurs in case of divorce by publication. Divorce is granted without any participation of a second party, and the Petitioner gets whatever he/she requested.
Default judgment also is entered when the Defendant fails to answer the Petition (refuses or ignores it) within 20 days after been served, or doesn't attend the final hearing.
Annulment of the Marriage in Rhode Island
An annulment differs from a divorce so that instead of ending legal marriage it claims the marriage invalid from its very beginning like it never existed at all.
Not every marriage can be terminated by annulment. In every state there is a list of grounds for annulment that determines what circumstances can make the marriage void. In Rhode Island they are:
- Incest (closer in relation than first cousin).
- Mental incompetence (at the time of marriage).
- Refusal to have sexual intercourse.
Legal Separation in Rhode Island
Legal Separation is a procedure which is very similar to divorce, however, it has some peculiarities. Under the Legal Separation the spouses divide their property, rights, and liabilities and take the same steps with the same timetable as in case of divorce, but in the end, they still aren’t officially divorced. They aren’t allowed to marry other people.
Legal Separation may be chosen if the couple is in rush to separate, but they aren’t meet residency requirements for divorce, or the cause is insurance or other benefits for married couples, or there may be some personal reasons.
Same-Sex Divorce in Rhode Island
Same-sex marriages and, therefore, the same-sex-divorces were recognized in the state of Rhode Island in August 2013.
Nowadays, the divorce options, laws, and rules are equally available for every couple at the verge of divorce regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
If the couple lived as a marriage union prior to have an opportunity to legally marry, there may be some difficulties with property division. For example, what part of the property should be considered as marital? In such cases the spouses should try to make their own Settlement Agreement (maybe, with the help of mediator), if they don’t want litigation.
Military Divorce in Rhode Island
In a case of divorce, all the military spouses are protected by the following federal laws - the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. So, all the military members are protected from the default judgment against them - the divorce may be postponed while the military spouse is on active duty. As for uncontested divorce, the military duty spouse may not have to be served as long as he/she files a waiver affidavit.
Another rule refers to the military retirement payments. These pensions can’t be divided, unless the spouses were married at least 10 years while the spouse has been active military member. In addition, an sum of spousal or child support can’t be higher than 60% of military allowances.
How to Divorce a Spouse in Jail in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, there are no special rules on how to divorce an inmate spouse, so you’d better consult the clerk of your county to learn more.
Every case is unique, and you may even try to agree with your spouse on default divorce.The point is that under the RI law both spouses must attend the final hearing, so a lot of depends on the circumstances and conditions of the spouse’s conviction.
Rhode Island Divorce Filing Fee
A divorce filing fee is a mandatory payment that is charged at the moment of filing the petition in order to cover the court services. In Rhode Island, a divorce filing fee is about $160, but it can be a little bit lower/higher in different counties of the state.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
Yes. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee you should file "the Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis". This is a special form that provides the court with information about your financial hardship and proves that the court fee must be waived for you.
How We Can Help
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