Rhode Island Divorce

Residency Requirements

To file for divorce in Rhode Island, the one of the parties to the divorce action must have been lived in the state for one full year before filing the complaint. Active military servicemembers who lived in Rhode Island immediately prior to the commencement of active service are considered residents of Rhode Island during the time of service and for 30 days following.


Grounds for Divorce

A divorce in Rhode Island shall be decreed irrespective of the fault of either party on the ground of irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. Divorces can also be decreed for the following fault-based causes:

a) Impotency;
b) Adultery;
c) Extreme cruelty;
d) Willful desertion for five years of either of the parties, or for willful desertion for a shorter period of time in the discretion of the court;
e) Continued drunkenness;
f) The habitual, excessive, and intemperate use of opium, morphine, or chloral;
g) Neglect and refusal, for the period of at least one year next before the filing of the petition, on the part of the husband to provide necessaries for the subsistence of his wife, the husband being of sufficient ability; and
h) Any other gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant.


Division of Property

The Rhode Island divorce court may assign to either the husband or wife a portion of the estate of the other. The court may not assign property or an interest in property held in the name of one of the parties if the property was held by the party prior to the marriage. Also, any property that has been transferred to one of the parties by inheritance before, during, or after the term of the marriage is not subject to distribution.

However, the court may assign income which has been derived from the property during the term of the marriage, and the court may assign the appreciation of value from the date of the marriage of property or an interest in property which was held in the name of one party prior to the marriage which increased in value as a result of the efforts of either spouse during the marriage.

In determining the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the court shall consider the following:

a) The length of the marriage;
b) The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
c) The contribution of each of the parties during the marriage in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates;
d) The contribution and services of either party as a homemaker;
e) The health and age of the parties;
f) The amount and sources of income of each of the parties;
g) The occupation and employability of each of the parties;
h) The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
i) The contribution by one party to the education, training, licensure, business, or increased earning power of the other;
j) The need of the custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects taking into account the best interests of the children of the marriage;
k) Either party’s wasteful dissipation of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce without fair consideration; and
l) Any factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.


Spousal Support

In determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be paid, the court shall consider:

a) The length of the marriage;
b) The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
c) The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
d) The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties;
e) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately because that party is the primary physical custodian of a child whose age, condition, or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not seek employment outside the home, or seek only part-time or flexible-hour employment outside the home;
f) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately;
g) The extent to which a party was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities, and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience of that party have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished;
h) The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment;
i) The probability, given a party’s age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting;
j) The standard of living during the marriage;
k) The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
l) The ability to pay of the supporting spouse, taking into account the supporting spouse’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living; and
m) Any other factor which the court expressly finds to be just and proper.


Child Custody

A child custody determination in Rhode Island is based on the best interests of the child standard. In regulating the custody of the children, the court shall provide for the reasonable right of visitation by the natural parent not having custody of the children, except upon the showing of cause why the right should not be granted. The court shall mandate compliance with its order by both the custodial parent and the children.

In the event of noncompliance, the noncustodial parent may file a motion for contempt in family court. Upon a finding by the court that its order for visitation has not been complied with, the court shall exercise its discretion in providing a remedy, and define the noncustodial parent’s visitation in detail. However, if a second finding of noncompliance by the court is made, the court shall consider this to be grounds for a change of custody to the noncustodial parent.


Child Support

Child support payments in Rhode Island are based upon a formula and guidelines adopted by an administrative order of the family court. If, after calculating support based upon the court-established formula and guidelines, the court finds the order would be inequitable to the child or either parent, the court shall order either or both parents owing a duty of support to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the child’s support after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

a) The financial resources of the child;
b) The financial resources of the custodial parent;
c) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
d) The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs; and
e) The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

Child support may be ordered for children attending high school at the time of their 18th birthday and for 90 days after graduation, but in no case beyond their 19th birthday.


Rhode Island Resources


Laws & Courts:

Rhode Island Law – state statutes: TITLE 15 – Domestic Relations.
Rhode Island Family Court – overview including an organizational chart, background, divorce mediation information, and much more. This is a very informative and helpful site.
Rhode Island Judiciary – parent to the above mentioned site, this contains information on all the levels of the Rhode Island judicial system.

Additional Resources:

Rhode Island Bar Association – full text search of RI Supreme Court decisions since September 30, 1997, news and information from the RIBA..
Rhode Island Office of the Child Advocate – office that advocates for particular children whose legal, civil, and special rights in the Family Court proceedings are not being met.
Children’s Rights Council – national nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that works to assure children meaningful and continuing contact with both their parents and extended family regardless of the parents’ marital status.

Report broken links or send suggestions by contacting us.

Additional Links

The State Resource pages are provided for informational purposes only. Do not take any actions based upon the information contained within the State Resource pages without first consulting an attorney licensed in your state. We at DadsDivorce.com strive to keep our information up-to-date; however state laws are not static and subject to change without notice.