Many married couples live separately, even across state lines, for reasons which have nothing to do with the health of their marriage. However, when living across state lines from each other, couples may find their marriage at a crossroads and begin considering divorce.

Perhaps distance has created serious problem in the relationship, or laid bare preexisting problems. Perhaps one partner has moved away, even across state lines, as part of a trial separation. Or perhaps a history of domestic violence and a need for safety has compelled one spouse to put considerable distance between his or her person and the other spouse.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life, some people may find themselves stymied by closed courts, recommendations against travel, and derailed moving plans. Many are wondering how to file for divorce in Rhode Island.

Whatever the circumstances that have led to divorce, if one member of a couple lives in Rhode Island and the other does not, there are certain requirements that need to be met before filing for divorce.

Divorce in Rhode Island: An Overview

First, it is helpful to review the types of divorce available in Rhode Island, as these rules can have an impact on whether a spouse is able to file for divorce.

In Rhode Island, divorces are either uncontested or contested:

  • In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree to a divorce and usually work out the terms before filing for divorce. This type of divorce is always uncontested or a “Nominal” divorce (See below for the discussion of fault).
  • An uncontested divorce cites a fundamental incompatibility, or “irreconcilable differences” between spouses as the reason for the divorce. There is no assignment of blame for the dissolution of the marriage on or by either partner.
  • In a contested divorce, spouses do not agree on such matters as alimony, child support, or child custody. These divorce cases must be resolved either in mediation or family court. Contested divorces may be either no-fault or at-fault.
  • A contested  divorce cites the “bad behavior” of one spouse, a breaking of the marriage contract, as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. For instance: adultery, cruel and abusive treatment, desertion and failure to provide support, impotency, intoxication etc.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, one of the parties to the divorce, either Husband or Wife, must have lived in Rhode Island for one year continuously prior to the date of filing of divorce. The person filing the divorce does not need to live in Rhode Island if their spouse satisfies the residency requirement.