The forms that you must file will differ depending on your situation (e.g. if you have minor children or no children, the forms you file will be different). However, in almost any type of divorce case, you will need to file the following forms with the family court clerk: a complaint for divorce, summons, verification of complaint, and DR-6 (a.k.a. financial statement). If you have children, you will need to also fill out statements listing the children of the divorce. Remember, every case is different, and the forms that you are required to file may vary. That is why it is important to speak with an attorney before filing for divorce.
Additionally, the plaintiff (i.e. the person filing) must pay the filing fees. If you cannot afford the fees, you may apply for forma pauperis status to establish your indigence. If the status is approved by the court, the filing fees will be waived.
After you file the appropriate paperwork with the family court clerk’s office, you will need to serve your spouse. In Rhode Island, you must serve your spouse by going to the local sheriff’s office. After your spouse has been properly served, the sheriff will give you a form affirming the service to your spouse. This form is called return of service and you will need to return to the clerk’s office to file a copy of it. This form shows the court that your spouse has proper notice of the divorce case. If the sheriff is not able to serve your spouse for whatever reason, you can ask the court to appoint a different method of service, such as publication by newspaper or certified mail.
First Court Hearing
Next, the court will schedule a hearing, which will be scheduled no earlier than 60 days after the date that you filed the divorce petition. If your spouse does not show up or fails to respond at all, your case will be considered a “default divorce.” This means the judge will enter a divorce decree based only on your side of the case. This kind of judgment will usually favor the filing party.
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.
Discovery is the stage in which each party of the case exchanges information. The methods of exchanging information are through interrogatories, request for documents, request for admission, etc. Discovery is imperative because many spouses do not know the extent of the marital assets and estate. Through discovery, you can find out that information and more, by obtaining tangible evidence, such as financial documents to help support your side of the case at settlement or trial.