How to File for Divorce in Rhode Island

How to file divorce in Rhode Island

Here are some of the important steps and processes you’ll need to know about when filing for a divorce in Rhode Island.

What Information Should I Gather to Prep for Divorce in Rhode Island?

important information

One of the best ways to ensure your divorce goes smoothly is to gather the information you need and keep it organized as you work through the process.

This is a time-consuming task, so it’s best to start early.  In fact, it may be smart to start compiling some information before you even make your intentions known.  Some spouses may make things more difficult on you by hiding information or being disagreeable when you make your requests.

The best way to save time and aggravation in a divorce is to be organized and thorough.  Pulling together the information you’ll need to make your best case can take quite a while, so it’s best to start early.

To see what information you’ll need, we’ve prepared a Divorce Information Checklist that you can access as part of our article, The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.

Determining Which Divorce Procedure to Use

What are my options

You have several options for getting a divorce in Rhode Island.  If you and your spouse can agree on all the issues, you can get an uncontested divorce and perhaps handle the whole matter on your own.

When you can’t agree, you still have options that will be driven in large part by how much cooperation there is between you and your spouse.

Learn More: Types of Divorce: A Complete Guide.

What Forms Do I Need?

Necessary Forms to Prepare

The forms you need will vary by the circumstances of your divorce.  When you file the forms, you are the plaintiff and your spouse is the defendant.

At a minimum, you’ll file a complaint, a DR6, two statements listing the children of the divorce and a family services counseling report form (if you have minor children, a report of divorce, a copy of the marriage certificate, and the summons.

These forms are available at the county clerk’s office.

If you don’t have an attorney, you’ll need to complete the forms on your own.  The clerk can’t help you.

A defendant usually answers the case and files a counterclaim. This means the defendant responds in a written legal document to the statements made in the complaint and then asks for relief in the counterclaim.

The defendant must file the answer, counterclaim, DR6, and entry of appearance with the clerk. Copies of these documents must also be sent to the plaintiff’s attorney, or to the plaintiff directly if he or she is representing themselves.

Read:  How Should I Prepare for Divorce

How Do I File My Forms?

How Do You File Your Forms for a Divorce

Once your forms are complete, you will file them in person at the family court in your county.  You’ll need to pay a filing fee of about $150, plus another fee to complete service of the paperwork on your spouse.

If you can’t afford to pay, you can request a waiver of the fees.   You will need to fill out a form available from the clerk and submit it for consideration.

How Do I Serve My Forms on My Spouse?

After your forms have been filed with the court, you must notify your spouse of your intention to divorce them.

To do this in Rhode Island, you can accomplish service by using the sheriff where the defendant lives or works.  You can retain the services of a private constable as well.

If you can’t find your spouse to serve papers, you may be able to complete service by publication.  This involves running a legal notice in a local newspaper to complete this task.

When service by any of these methods is complete, you’ll be given a signed document to prove this step has been completed. You’ll need to submit this document to the court.

Once I’ve Filed, What are the Steps for Getting a Divorce?

After filing, you will need to have paperwork served on your spouse.  When this is complete, you must submit a signed affidavit that will be completed by the person who actually served the papers.

Your spouse will have 20 days to file a response to the complaint.  If they don’t respond, you can seek a default judgment.

If you agree on all the issues and are seeking an uncontested divorce, there will be a 60 to 75-day waiting period before your case comes before a judge.  If the judge approves the settlement you have both agreed to, then your divorce can become final that day.

In a contested divorce, you will need to try and resolve your differences in several possible ways, perhaps through mediation or collaboration.  If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll need to litigate your case.  This may involve arbitration or a trial, although most cases never make it this far.

FAQs About Getting a Divorce in Rhode Island

How much does it cost to file for a divorce?

cost to file for a divorce

The filing fee for a divorce in Rhode Island is approximately $150.  You may have to pay an additional $40-$50 to retain the services of a sheriff or a constable to have your papers served.

Can divorce fees be waived?

You may be able to have fees waived by filing for In Forma Pauperis status.  A clerk will have the form you need to fill out and make the request to the court.

If a judge agrees with your request you won’t have to pay court filing fees for your case.

Can I file for divorce online?

divorce online

No.  You must file your paperwork in person.

Can I file for divorce without a lawyer?

divorce without a lawyer

Yes.  You do not need an attorney in Rhode Island to get a divorce.  Many people who choose uncontested divorces handle the entire case themselves.  However, if you run into problems or disagreements, you should consider seeking out an attorney to protect your interests.

What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce?

Either you or your spouse must have lived in Rhode Island for one year immediately preceding when you file for divorce.

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

How long does it take

With an uncontested divorce, after you file paperwork with the court, your spouse has 20 days to file an answer.  If both of you agree on terms for a settlement, then there is a 60 to 75-day waiting period.  At the end of this period, you’ll appear at a hearing in front of a judge who will review the terms of your settlement and grant your divorce.

A contested divorce will take considerably longer.  When you go through mediation or a collaborative divorce, the process can easily take 4-6 months or more, depending on your issues and how quickly you can resolve them.

Litigated divorces, especially those that go to trial, can take as long as one to two years (or longer), depending on how much animosity there is and how complex the issues are.

Can I file for divorce while I’m pregnant?

divorce while I am pregnant

You can file for divorce, but some judges will want to wait until the baby is born before finalizing your case.

Paternity will need to be established, and child support will need to be determined as well.

It’s often best to get help from an attorney in this type of situation since complications and disagreements can arise at any time.

If I’m in the military, how does that affect filing for divorce?


You or your spouse must either live or be stationed in Rhode Island for the state to have jurisdiction over your case.

The grounds for a Rhode Island military divorce are exactly the same as they are for a civilian case.  You can either file a fault-based or no-fault action.

The active-duty spouse must personally be served with the summons.  However, a spouse can waive service if he or she files a waiver affidavit to acknowledge the divorce action.

Child custody and visitation issues can be more complicated due to relocation or deployment orders.  Child support is determined the same way as it is for civilian cases, using the Income Shares method.  Combined child support and alimony awards may not exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances.

Also, under the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act, and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982, active-duty members are afforded certain protections.

For example, a military spouse can request a delay in divorce proceedings so that his or her military duties are not impacted. Legal action can be delayed when he or she is on active duty plus 60 days beyond the end of his or her enlistment.

The USFSPA also governs how military pensions are disbursed and whether or not a former military spouse has full medical and commissary privileges.

A court will not divide and distribute any of the military member’s retirement to the spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.

Looking for more essential information about divorce?  Read some of our most popular articles.

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