Adultery in Rhode Island: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

Learn whether an extramarital affair can impact spousal support in Rhode Island.

Most married couples that experience adultery end up pursuing a divorce. If your spouse has been unfaithful, you may wonder how that infidelity affects your rights during a divorce. In a number of states, infidelity can impact a court's decision about property division, and it may even prevent the cheating spouse from receiving alimony.

This article will explain whether and to what extent Rhode Island courts consider adultery during a divorce. If you still have questions about adultery and divorce after reading this article, contact a family law attorney in your area for advice.

What Role Does Adultery Play in a Rhode Island Divorce?

Rhode Island allows "fault-based" divorces, which means the spouse seeking the divorce must allege and prove that the other spouse's misconduct caused the divorce. Adultery is one of the fault-based legal grounds (reasons) for a divorce. As opposed to states that only have “no-fault” divorces, Rhode Island courts will grant a divorce based on a spouse having an affair.

In Rhode Island, adultery can affect both whether a spouse is eligible for alimony as well as what the court gives each spouse in the marital property division. If you're getting divorced because your spouse had an affair, you should speak with a local family law attorney for advice.

Overview of Alimony in Rhode Island

Rhode Island courts order "alimony" (financial support paid by one spouse to the other) in cases when one spouse has become financially dependent on the other (the higher-earning spouse) during the marriage.

Alimony can be awarded both during and after a divorce and can include money to pay a dependent spouse’s attorney's fees. Alimony can come in the form of money or cash payments, or it can be a transfer of property from one spouse to another.

In Rhode Island, alimony is generally awarded to allow a financially dependent spouse to pay reasonable expenses until that spouse can become self-supporting. In those cases, the court may award temporary alimony for a specific period of time, such as a number of years, or until that spouse graduates school or becomes employed.

Other times, the court may award permanent alimony, which lasts until either spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries. For example, permanent alimony may be appropriate for a spouse who has been married and out of work for 30 years and is unlikely to be able to reenter the job market.

Rhode Island courts consider the following factors when deciding whether to award alimony:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the conduct of the spouses during the marriage
  • age and health of each spouse
  • job skills and earning potential of each spouse
  • assets and liabilities of each spouse
  • childcare responsibilities
  • whether a spouse passed over job or education responsibilities to take care of the household and/or children
  • time needed by the supported spouse to get job training and find employment
  • standard of living during the marriage
  • future income, such as inheritance, social security, or other benefits, and
  • any other factor the court believes is relevant.

Rhode Island courts always reserve the right to change or end alimony if a spouse’s financial circumstances change. For more information about alimony in Rhode Island, read  Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Rhode Island.

How Does Adultery Impact Alimony in Rhode Island?

In comparison to most states, Rhode Island law takes adultery very seriously. Adultery is still a criminal offense in Rhode Island, subject to a $500 fine, although it's rarely prosecuted.

Rhode Island courts can consider any misconduct by either spouse, including infidelity, when deciding whether or not to award alimony in a divorce. If a spouse's infidelity caused the couple to get divorced, it's unlikely the cheating spouse will receive alimony.

If you believe your spouse’s affair should make him or her ineligible to receive alimony, you should contact a Rhode Island family law attorney for advice.

What Else Does Adultery Impact?

Rhode Island courts may also take adultery into account when deciding how to divide a couple’s property during a divorce. An unfaithful spouse may receive a smaller portion of the couple’s estate as a result of an affair.

If a spouse spent money on an affair, such as paying for hotels, vacations or meals, the court will consider those expenses when dividing the couple’s property.

Rhode Island courts do not, however, consider adultery when deciding child custody and visitation during a divorce, unless something is revealed by the affair that negatively affects that spouse’s parenting abilities.


If you have additional questions about alimony and adultery in Rhode Island, contact a local family law attorney.

To read the full text of the law on alimony in Rhode Island, see the  Rhode Island General Laws, § 15-5-16.

To read the full text of the law on adultery in Rhode Island, see the  Rhode Island General Laws, § 11-6-2.

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