The reality of a divorce is often that both spouses simply want an end to the process, yet they often find themselves far from resolution. Spouses often have unrealistic expectations, which are made worse by the mental and emotional strain of divorce proceedings. Many divorce cases must be contested through to the end, but those are a minority of cases. Many more cases could be uncontested, but are not for various reasons.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Rhode Island uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Rhode Island Defined
Unlike many states, Rhode Island does not have specific laws that govern a separate uncontested divorce process. Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce must file for a normal divorce. Once the court has received divorce paperwork, however, it will categorize the divorce proceedings as either contested or uncontested.
In Rhode Island, an uncontested divorce is characterized by an agreement of the parties. Once the spouses have agreed on all of the terms for the divorce, the court will make a simple ruling on the validity of the agreement and the grounds for divorce. This quickened process results in reduced procedure, less emotional strain, and a quicker turnaround time for spouses seeking a divorce.
Requirements for Seeking a Rhode Island Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Rhode Island, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement for seeking an uncontested divorce in Rhode Island is the state residency requirement. In Rhode Island, a couple cannot get a divorce unless at least one of the spouses has been living within the state of Rhode Island for at least a year and has no immediate plans to leave the state.1
The second requirement that must be satisfied is the grounds for divorce. Uncontested divorces in Rhode Island are almost always no-fault divorces on the ground of irreconcilable differences.2 Irreconcilable differences simply means that an irremediable breakdown has occurred in the marriage, and that there is no chance for reconciliation between the spouses.
The final requirement of seeking an uncontested divorce in Rhode Island is an agreement on the terms of the divorce. This is most commonly done through the creation of a legal separation agreement (or marital agreement). If no agreement is reached, a judge will have to rule on all of the remaining issues, which could lead to unexpected results for both spouses and also make the divorce more complex.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement (often known as a marital agreement in Rhode Island). A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
A complete separation or marital agreement should include an accord on all of the following issues that arise during a divorce. Failure to agree on any of these issues could result in a judge needing to make a ruling on that issues, which could push your divorce filing into the contested category:
- Asset distribution (distribution of marital property and division of debts);
- Tax consequences;
- Disposition of life insurance policies;
- Alimony (also known as spousal support); and
- If applicable, child custody, visitation, education expenses, and child support.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Rhode Island
Once you have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Next, you and your spouse should acquire the required divorce forms. Fortunately, for spouses seeking an uncontested divorce without the help of an attorney, Rhode Island’s Judiciary website contains sample forms for couples to use.3
- You and your spouse should then sit down together and create a marital agreement that specifies the terms of your divorce and separation. Drafting this agreement will also help you and your spouse fill out the required divorce paperwork, such as the petition for divorce.
- When you file a petition for divorce with the Rhode Island family court, you can either do so in person or electronically. If you choose to file your divorce paperwork electronically, you must register to use the court’s electronic filing system. Most couples not represented by attorneys still file their documents in paper format.
- If you have any questions about which forms you need to file, the Rhode Island family court staff can provide basic assistance to non-represented couples, although they cannot provide legal advice.
- Once the proper paperwork is filed, the filing spouse will need to serve the non-filing spouse with divorce paperwork. The non-filing spouse must then either file an answer or a waiver of service of process.
- After the court has received all of the required paperwork from both spouses (known as the pleadings), you must wait at least sixty days before the court will set a hearing date for your divorce. Once the sixty day period has expired, however, a Rhode Island family court judge can rule on your divorce and grant a final decree of divorce.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-5-12.
- R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-5-3.1.
- AllDocuments, RHODE ISLAND JUDICIARY.