Rhode Island Divorce Laws

Rhode Island Residency Requirements

To legally file for divorce in the state of Rhode Island individuals must first meet the residency requirements set by the state. These laws require that at least one or both individuals reside in the state boundaries of Rhode Island for a minimum of one year prior to filing for divorce.

Rhode Island divorceDivorce complaints may be filed by either individual. Since divorce cases are handled by the county circuit courts, divorces are to be filed in the county in which the filer resides. If both individuals file for divorce and both individuals reside within the state but in different counties, then the divorce request may be petitioned to either individual’s county of residency.

Divorce Grounds in Rhode Island

In order for a divorce to be legal in the United States, the petition must include the grounds for divorce. Grounds for divorce are the reasons why the individuals involved desire a legal divorce. However, each state has different grounds for divorce, so the grounds from one state may not be legal in the state of Rhode Island.

One individual may petition the court under certain divorce grounds but will need to show evidence for these grounds before the court. Two individuals may petition for divorce and present the divorcing grounds as previously agreed upon.

Rhode Island divides its divorce grounds into two different categories: No-Fault grounds and Fault grounds. No-fault grounds do not name one individual responsible for the divorce petition, instead, both individuals cite that no one is responsible. Marriage counseling often precedes divorce filing in these circumstances.

No-fault grounds include two reasons for divorce: irreconcilable differences and no cohabitation. Irreconcilable differences state that both individuals agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Under no cohabitation grounds the individuals involved must live in separate living spaces for a minimum of three years prior to filing for divorce.

Fault grounds cite one individual responsible for the divorce filing and include eight different grounds under this category. These include committing adultery by either individual, impotency of either individual, extreme cruelty of either individual to the other, continued and extended drunken behavior of either individual, willingly deserting a spouse for a minimum of five years, habitual drug usage by either individual–including morphine, chloral, or opium–the committing of gross behavior by either individual that violates the covenant of marriage, or refusing and neglecting to provide the marital necessities for a minimum of one year, including financially, physically, and emotionally.

Under the grounds where a spouse is deserted by another, the court has the right to grant a divorce after a shorter time period than five years.

Filing with the Court in Rhode Island

You must file your Rhode Island divorce papers in the court located in the County where you presently reside. We will provide the court information in the documents that we send to you, but some of the courts in Rhode Island are listed below:

  • Kent County Family Court:
    222 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886 Phone: 401-822-6725
  • Newport County Family Court:
    45 Washington Square, Newport, RI 02840 Phone: (401) 841-8340
  • Providence County Family Court:
    One Dorrance Plaza, Providence, RI 02903 Phone: (401) 458-3200
  • Washington County Family Court:
    4800 Tower Hill Road, Suite 196, Wakefield, RI 02879 Phone: (401) 782-4111

If your County court is not listed, the information for your court will be included in the divorce papers we send you.

Property Distribution

The state of Rhode Island is considered an equitable distribution state where all property acquired during the marriage is to be distributed in an equitable manner. This means that the property will be awarded in a fair manner rather than an equal manner.

If the individuals involved cannot divide the property themselves, the court will award the property accordingly. The court will consider the financial situations of, the custody awarded to, and the economical situations of the individuals before awarding any property.


Commonly asked questions about divorce laws in Rhode Island often revolve around several key areas. Here are some frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers:

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island allows both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds typically include irreconcilable differences causing an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Fault-based grounds might involve adultery, desertion, cruel treatment, habitual drunkenness, or drug addiction.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Rhode Island?

The time required to finalize a divorce in Rhode Island can vary based on court schedules, the complexity of the case, and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Generally, it can take several months to a year or more.

How Is Property Divided in a Divorce in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island follows the principle of equitable distribution. Marital property and debts are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, based on various factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, and their contributions during the marriage.

Does Rhode Island Have Alimony (Spousal Support)?

Yes, Rhode Island allows for spousal support. The court may award temporary or long-term support based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, and their contributions during the marriage.

How Does Rhode Island Handle Child Custody and Support?

Child custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. Rhode Island courts consider various factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent, the parents’ ability to provide for the child, and the child’s wishes (if they’re of sufficient age). Child support is determined using the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines.

Do We Need to Go to Court for a Divorce in Rhode Island?

If both parties can agree on all terms of the divorce, they might not need to go to court. Uncontested divorces can often be settled through paperwork and negotiation outside of court. However, if disputes persist, a court appearance might be necessary.

Can I Modify a Divorce Decree in Rhode Island?

Modifications to child support, child custody, or spousal support are possible under certain circumstances if there’s a substantial change in circumstances. Legal procedures are typically required for modifications.

These questions cover common concerns individuals have when dealing with divorce in Rhode Island. However, specifics can vary based on each unique situation. Seeking legal counsel is advisable to address individual circumstances and get accurate guidance throughout the divorce process.

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