Frequently Asked Questions

PLEASE NOTE: The Answers contained herein are by way of general example, based upon non-specific cases. Attorney DiMonte is not to be held responsible for application of these answers to any particular case. It is urged that a full review in person be made with a competent Attorney such as Attorney DiMonte so as to be aware how particular answers to these questions, or to other questions, apply in your case.

How long does it take to obtain a divorce in Rhode Island?

The absolute minimum amount of time, without waivers from the Court, is approximately six months. This presumes a complete agreement and a hearing granting the divorce 75 days after filing.

What starts the process to obtain a divorce?

The process and the timeline starts with the filing in Family Court of a Complaint for Divorce, and other necessary papers required by the Family Court, together with a present filing fee of $100.00.

How does my spouse learn about the divorce?

When the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the Family Court, a “Summons” is issued by the Court, which must be given or “served” upon the spouse by a “disinterested” party, which is usually a Constable or Sheriff. There are fees to be paid in advance to the Constable or Sheriff.

Can my spouse “avoid” or “evade” service of the Divorce Complaint?

There are methods which can be utilized by a competent attorney and Sheriff to ensure proper “service.”

What happens if I cannot locate my spouse or I don’t have an address, because we have been separated for so long? Can I still file the Complaint?

There would need to be some efforts for six months to locate the spouse based upon the “last known address.” If no location can be discovered, it is necessary to “publish” the Complaint, which requires additional fees.

Is Rhode Island a “no-fault” state?

Rhode Island law provides that a divorce can be granted based upon a finding that “irreconcilable differences have arisen which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”

Once my divorce is granted, does that mean the case is Final, and I can remarry?

Under every ground except “living separate and apart for at least three years,” there is a “waiting period” of ninety days before the Final Judgment can be entered, and no remarriage can take place without entry of the “Final Judgment.” This is filed by the person granted the divorce, or their attorney, and must be signed by a Judge of the Family Court, and no new hearing is required. A certified copy of the Final Judgment is sufficient proof of the ending of the prior marriage, when parties seek to remarry.

Why do divorces take so long before they are granted?

It is necessary to have complete agreement by both parties on all the issues involved. When there is a lack of agreement in complex cases involving custody, visitation, and evaluation of assets, and how the assets are to be divided, this delays the ability of the parties to have a hearing granting the divorce.

Why can’t I just have the divorce granted and “fight” about the other issues another time?

The Rhode Island Supreme Court requires that the custody, visitation, child support issues, and division of property, and all other issues be agreed upon at the same time as when the divorce is granted. This prevents the Family Court from constantly hearing the same case. The Supreme Court requires “finality,” so that the decisions on all issues are included in the Final Judgment Order.

What if my spouse won’t agree to reasonable proposals for settlement and “stalls” the case “out of spite?”

This frequently happens, especially when the spouse doesn’t “want” the divorce, or acts to “punish” the spouse seeking the divorce. After a period of approximately 75-90 days after filing, the Court will assign the case to a “Contested” Track, where the case is assigned to a Judge who will become more involved in “what is reasonable.” If necessary, the case is “tried” before the Judge, where witnesses are presented by each party on all issues, and the witnesses are cross-examined by each attorney, and the Judge makes the final decision on each issue. There is always a question of either party seeking to have the Supreme Court review the Judge’s decision.

Why does it cost so much money in legal fees to obtain a divorce?

Most attorneys require an initial advance which they believe will reasonably cover the amount of "legal time" to get to Final Judgment. This is why the "initial advance" can be so much. When the case becomes more "contested," (see above answer) because either party "refuses" to agree to "reasonable" proposals, or when there are experts required for complicated issues on evaluating assets or custody or visitation matters, more time is required to prepare the case for "trial" before the Court, or to continue to negotiate. This is when attorney fees mount, and it is often necessary for attorneys to request further legal fees when the initial advance is spent.

Why can’t my spouse be ordered to pay counsel fees if they are the ones so “unreasonable” as to prolong the case?

As good business people, most attorneys would rather operate to get paid for their work as they proceed in the case. There is no “guarantee” that the Court will grant “attorney fees” in any particular case, and it is normally not wise to ask the attorney to operate as a creditor, “hoping” to get paid when the case is finished.