When facing divorce, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the legal jargon used throughout the process. Add this frustration to the mounting stress and heightened emotion, and you may be left making poor decisions. While our firm is here to help guide you through the process and answer any questions you have, this guide can help clarify some of the legal jargon you may encounter.

Types of Divorce

Irreconcilable Differences
This cause for divorce stipulates that neither party is at fault and that both spouses agree that their marriage is broken.

No-Fault Divorce vs. Fault
In Rhode Island, a no-fault divorce, commonly referred to locally as a “Nominal Divorce,” is filed when there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage , also known as irreconcilable differences. This type of divorce is generally a more straightforward process  and less expensive.

A fault divorce, on the other hand, can be filed when one party feels the other is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Rhode Island law recognizes several reasons for an at-fault divorce, such as adultery, habitual drunkenness, and cruel and abusive treatment, to name a few.

Common Forms Used in Divorce Proceedings

Complaint for Divorce
The first form filed to begin a civil case through the court is called a complaint. This form indicates the reason for starting a claim, and the person filing is referred to as the plaintiff. It does not matter to the Court who files first.

Following the filing of a complaint, the other spouse becomes the defendant. The defendant-spouse can file a response to the divorce complaint, which is called an answer. This document is used to tell the court the defendant-spouses wishes such as alimony or child support.

The defendant-spouse can file their own request for a divorce, known as the Counterclaim. This is important if the Defendant also wants to divorce because if they fail to file a Counterclaim and the Plaintiff dismisses their complaint, they cannot get divorced as there would not be a proper legal request to divorce pending before the Court..

Separation Agreement
The written document, or contract, stating what will happen following the divorce is called a separation agreement. This document will cover property division, health and life insurance, child custody and child support, and alimony judgments.

Discovery refers to the process of gathering and disclosing evidence for a case. Depositions and the request for documentation are standard tools used to collect evidence for a case. The Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure govern the discovery process. The process is very broad and will include matters you may think are irrelevant. It is designed specifically in this way so all facts and circumstances of the case are uncovered by the parties prior to reaching an agreement, or conducting a trial.

Temporary Order
A spouse may need the court to provide Orders regarding important matters such as child support or custody while the case goes through the legal process. These decisions are granted temporarily until the court resolves the case, finally.


This happens when the parties cannot reach agreement on their own. The Lawyers will produce evidence to the Court about all aspects of the case, including assets, debts and children. If this happens the Court will make all decisions about the parties lives and the outcome of the case. Generally, this is not recommended and can be very expensive. However, trials are necessary form time to time in order to properly deal with a souse who is lying, unreasonable or hiding assets and information.

A judgment is the judge’s final decision in the case. The judgment is a written document regarding the divorce completion and final outcomes on matters such as child custody, alimony, etc.

While filing for divorce can be a difficult decision, understanding the process shouldn’t be. We’re here to represent your interests and walk you through the divorce process. Contact our office today to get your divorce questions answered and begin the process.