A divorce is more than just the legal severing of marital ties. In cases where you have substantial assets, debts, minor children, a business and other valuable property, a marital dissolution determines what your obligations and duties are toward your ex-spouse and children and also how your property will be divided. These principles and laws also apply to same sex marriages, which are allowed in Rhode Island.
Do You Need an Attorney?
If your marriage was of short duration, has few or little assets, and you have no disputes over support or the division of property, many people can file for a summary divorce or similar procedure by filing the necessary documents without legal representation.
In most other cases, however, a divorce involves complex issues regarding spousal support, child custody and visitation, tax consequences, and the division of retirement accounts and other property. You and your spouse may disagree about what is separate or marital property.
Types of Divorce
Rhode Island is a no-fault state, meaning that the petitioning party merely has to allege irreconcilable differences that caused the marital disintegration. You can, however, allege fault grounds, such as physical or emotional abuse, alcoholism or drug problems, adultery, or criminal conduct.
If you allege and prove fault grounds that are particularly egregious, a Rhode Island court may be disposed to award a larger share of the marital assets. The Rhode Island courts will look to a variety of other factors in determining the division of marital property.
The Divorce Agreement
Once the marital issues involved in your case are mutually settled or litigated, you will sign a divorce agreement that establishes your rights and obligations.
The marital settlement agreement directs who will receive spousal or child support, custody, and how the marital property and debts will be distributed. If you have pension or retirement accounts, you may have to give a portion of those to your spouse. Your house may be transferred to your spouse, or the court may order it to be sold.
Regarding the distribution of the marital property—those assets and debts acquired during the marriage or for the benefit of the marriage even if bought by separate assets—Rhode Island assigns property by equitable distribution. The courts will look to a number of factors in applying this principle:
- Duration of the marriage
- Conduct of the parties during the marriage
- The contribution each made toward the value of property
- Your occupation and employability
- Your financial status
- Health and ages of the parties
- Opportunity for future acquisition of assets
There are other factors involved, but do not assume your marital assets will be distributed equally if one of you is not self-sufficient or needs considerable financial support.
In disputed custody matters, the court looks to what it believes is in the best interests of the child; the noncustodial parent has the reasonable right of visitation. Custody can be granted as sole or joint. You can also share child support expenses if you want shared physical custody on a roughly equal basis, although calculating the support amounts may be difficult to ascertain or to monitor. The use of mediation and its concept of cooperation can make shared parenting a workable solution.
After the Divorce
Circumstances often change after a divorce is finalized. You may obtain new employment, remarry, inherit substantial property, have more children, or suffer a catastrophic injury or loss. You can petition the court if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that can affect child support, visitation, spousal support, and even custody.
Speak to a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer
State laws and court rules regarding divorce are often complicated and can change frequently. Ensure that your rights are protected and your obligations are fairly determined by speaking to a Rhode Island divorce attorney today.