Rhode Island Divorce Laws

When you make the decision to file for divorce in Rhode Island, you likely approach the process with many questions. Learning more about the state’s divorce laws can help you understand what to expect through the process.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds?

In order to file for divorce in Rhode Island, the individual initiating the proceedings, known as the Plaintiff, must be a resident of the state for at least one year prior to filing. The divorce can be filed in the county either individual lives in as long as the primary residency requirement is met.

Rhode Island allows for a no-fault divorce if the couple claims irreconcilable differences or has been living separate and apart without cohabitation for three years.

Fault divorce is allowed on several grounds, including:

  • Impotence
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Willful desertion by either party for five years or less at the court’s discretion
  • Drunkenness
  • Habitual use of opium, morphine, or chloral
  • Neglect and refusal by the husband to provide for his wife, provided he has ability to do so, for a period of one year
  • Other gross misbehavior or wickedness in violation of the marriage covenant

Anyone who is in the military and living in Rhode Island who meets the residency requirement can file for divorce in the state. However, they may want to use a military family law attorney to ensure that they follow all of the stipulations in the military family law.

Division of Property

Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state, which means property of a marital estate is divided based on what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. If the parties cannot agree on this, then the following factors will be considered:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Conduct of each party during the marriage
  • Any contribution to the acquisition, preservation, and appreciation of the property
  • Contribution of the homemaker
  • Health and age
  • Sources of income and amount of income
  • Occupation and employability
  • Opportunity for future acquisition of assets or income
  • Any contribution made by one party to the training, education, business, licensure, or career advancement of the other
  • Need for the custodial parent to stay in the home and use its contents
  • Any wasteful dissipation of assets made when contemplating divorce
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary

Child Custody

When the courts look at child custody decisions, they will rule based on what is in the child’s best interests. In all instances, the courts will grant at least the right of visitation to a natural parent, unless there is just cause why this right should not be given.


In some cases, the courts will require one spouse to provide financial support to the other. Factors considered when making this decision include:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Conduct of the parties while married
  • Age, health, station, occupation, income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties
  • State and liabilities of each party
  • Whether a party was absent from work for homemaking, and what education or training is required to help that individual find employment
  • Probability of one party becoming self-supporting
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Marketable skills
  • Ability of the supporting spouse to pay

Child support is determined based on the Income Shares Model. This divides the support between the two parents based on their incomes, with the non-custodial parent paying his or her share to the custodial parent. Sometimes, more support is needed, and this can be awarded at the court’s discretion, considering the following factors:

  • Financial resources the child has
  • Financial resources the custodial parent has
  • Standard of living the child would have without the divorce
  • The physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child
  • Financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent