If you live in Rhode Island and you want to represent yourself in your divorce, you may not know where to begin. This article provides an overview of the divorce process in Rhode Island.
As long as either spouse has lived in Rhode Island for at least one year before the divorce is started, the divorce can be handled in this state.
The document needed to start the divorce is called the “Complaint." The spouse who starts the divorce is the “plaintiff” and the other spouse is the “defendant.” The court charges a fee to file (submit) the divorce complaint.
With the exception of the child support forms, the Rhode Island Judiciary Branch website does not have on-line instructions or forms. You have to go to the court to obtain the divorce forms.
In Rhode Island, the official divorce forms are available directly from the court. The plaintiff spouse completes the complaint form and a verification form and delivers them to the family court for the plaintiff’s county. There are four family courts in the state, one for each county except for Providence and Bristol counties, which are covered by the same court.
Once the complaint and a "Verification" are filed with the court, the plaintiff will receive a blank "Summons," which is the paper that will be delivered or “served” to the defendant spouse. The plaintiff completes the summons by filling in the same case information that was on the complaint. This means the name of the case, the name of the family court, and the docket number, which will be provided by the court clerk.
If there are children in the family who are under 18 years of age, the plaintiff should also complete the following:
“Service” means how the other spouse is given a copy of the divorce complaint and summons. The law has specific rules on how this is to be done. The plaintiff may:
If you receive a complaint for divorce, you should file a response, which is called an “answer” to show that you want a voice in the divorce. You can use the answer to correct any incorrect statements that appear in the complaint. You can also ask for a final result different that what your spouse requested. You can file a counterclaim if you want to list different reasons for the divorce.
Rhode Island Legal Service, www.helprilaw.org, has a detailed description of the divorce process. Go to the library tab on the website. Click on the family law tab, then go to the divorce link. Click on “The Basic Divorce Process.”