Divorce Basics 2017-10-13T10:08:08+00:00

In Rhode Island, divorce and separation are governed by the General Laws of Rhode Island–Title 15, Domestic Relations, Chapter 5, Divorce and Separation (§15-5-1 through §15-5-29). The spouse filing for divorce is known as the plaintiff and the spouse not filing is known as the defendant. Within any divorce, issues that must be considered in such an action are as follows:

  • Custody of children,
  • Support of children,
  • Visitation of children,
  • Division of property and debt,
  • Alimony, and
  • Temporary issues, such as temporary child support, while the divorce case is pending.

Rhode Island recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons for divorcing. Traditionally, all states had only “fault” grounds for divorce (adultery, impotency, abuse, etc.). However, many states have abolished fault grounds altogether and only utilize “no-fault” grounds. No fault grounds are typically synonymous with “irreconcilable differences.” It is important to know your state laws because each state differs as to what they consider grounds for fault and no-fault. In Rhode Island, see the following list of grounds for divorces:

Fault Grounds in Rhode Island

  • Impotency,
  • Adultery,
  • Habitual drunkenness,
  • Drug abuse,
  • Extreme cruelty,
  • Willful desertion for five years,
  • Gross misbehavior in violation of the marriage covenant, and
  • Neglect and refusal by the husband to provide necessities for the subsistence of his wife.
  • See 15-5-2 for full text of the law.

No Fault Grounds in Rhode Island

  • Living separate and apart for at least three years (15-5-3), or
  • Irreconcilable differences have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage (15-5-3.1).

To file for a divorce in any state, you need to meet the state’s residency requirement. In Rhode Island, you or your spouse need to have lived in Rhode Island for at least one year before the complaint for divorce is filed. See §15-5-12 for full text of the law.

Complaints for divorce, separation, and related issues are to be filed in the family court of the county where either the plaintiff or defendant resides. See §15-5-13 for full text of the law.

Here is the list of family courts in Rhode Island:

  • Murray Judicial Complex, Newport County
    45 Washington Square
    Newport, Rhode Island 02840-2913
    (401)-841-8340
  • McGrath Judicial Complex, Washington County
    4800 Tower Hill Road
    Wakefield, Rhode Island 02879-2239
    (401)-781-4111
  • Noel Judicial Complex, Kent County
    222 Quaker Lane
    Warwick, Rhode Island 02886-0107
    (401)-822-6725
  • Garrahy Judicial Complex, Providence/Bristol County
    One Dorrance Plaza
    Providence, Rhode Island 02903-2719
    (401)-458-3200