Filing for Divorce in Rhode Island

Making the decision to file for divorce is never easy.  It can be stressful and difficult for everyone, especially if you are unfamiliar with Rhode Island Family Court.  If you are about to file for divorce, you will most likely have some questions about what forms to file and what to expect.  In today’s blog, the Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers at Abilheira Law will explain how to file for divorce in Rhode Island Family Court.

To begin divorce proceedings, one spouse must “file” for divorce.  In Rhode Island, the person who files will be called the “plaintiff”. The other spouse will be named the “defendant”. To initiate the divorce, the Plaintiff will have to file several forms with the Family Court.  These forms include:

  1. Divorce Complaint
  2. Civil Case Cover Sheet
  3. Statement of Assets, Liabilities, Income, and Expenses (DR-6)
  4. Statement Listing Children
  5. Marriage Certificate or affidavit in support of common-law marriage

The Divorce Complaint

This is the most important document you will file with the Family Court.  It is imperative that you fill out this document truthfully and accurately.  Before you complete and file a divorce complaint, there are some things you need to know.

Resident Requirement

The Plaintiff must have been a “domiciled inhabitant” of the State of Rhode Island for a period of at least one (1) year prior to filing for divorce.  This means, you must have lived in Rhode Island for at least one (1) year before your divorce.

Grounds for Divorce

Because Rhode Island is a “no fault” state, the most common ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”

However, you may still list a “fault” based ground, which include:

  • Impotency
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Willful desertion for five (5) years of either of the parties, or for willful desertion for a shorter period of time in the discretion of the court
  • Continued drunkenness
  • The habitual, excessive, and intemperate use of opium, morphine, or chloral
  • Neglect and refusal, for the period of at least one year next before the filing of the petition, on the part of the husband to provide necessaries for the subsistence of his wife, the husband being of sufficient ability
  • Any other gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant.


As part of the divorce process you need to ask the Court for “relief.”  The Court knows you want a divorce, but also needs to know what else you are looking for. These are common forms of relief:

  • Award the Plaintiff an equitable distribution of marital assets
  • Grant the Plaintiff custody and/or visitation of minor children (if applicable)
  • Allow the Plaintiff to resume her maiden name (if applicable)
  • Grant any other relief the Court deems appropriate

It is always best to seek the advice of a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer, who will ensure that you ask for the appropriate relief.

Nominal or Contested Track

The Plaintiff decides if the case will be placed on the nominal or contested track. Generally, you should place your case on the nominal track if you and your spouse have already agreed on all aspects of the divorce, including the division of assets, child custody, visitation, and child support.  Your case should be placed on the contested track if there is a dispute about any of these important issues.

For more information on the differences between nominal and contested divorces in Rhode Island, please see our previous blog “Contested v. Uncontested Divorces.”

Civil Case Cover Sheet

In November 2014, the Rhode Island Family Court transitioned from a paper system to an electronic filing system.  As a result, when a new case is filed with the court, a Civil Cover Sheet must be submitted.

Statement Listing Assets, Liabilities, Income, and Expenses

The Statement Listing Assets, Liabilities, Income, and Expenses is commonly called a DR-6. The Plaintiff is required to submit this form along with the divorce complaint.  The Defendant will also be required to submit this form along with his Answer.

This form should be filled out fully and accurately since its purpose is to give the court and the opposing party a truthful accounting of your finances.  The DR-6 will eventually be used to calculate the marital assets and marital debt, before the equitable distribution of assets.  The parties’ income will also be used to calculate child support, where applicable.

The DR-6 was drafted with the expectation that it would be self-explanatory and easy to complete.  However, this is not always the case.  If you need help filling out a DR-6, call the Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers at Abilheira Law and they will guide you through the process.

Statement Listing Children

This is a relatively simple form.  If you have minor children, you must list their name, address, and date of birth.  The Family Court will have jurisdiction over divorces where minor children are involved. Family Court will also deal with issues involving child custody, visitation, and child support.

The Statement Listing Children must be completed and submitted with every divorce complaint. This is true even if there were no children born into the marriage or all children have reached the age of majority.  Simply write “none” or “not applicable” where necessary.

Marriage Certificate

The Family Court will accept either an original or certified copy of a marriage certificate. A photocopy of either is also acceptable.  If you do not have access to your marriage certificate, you can obtain a certified copy from the town that issued the marriage license.

Filing Fee

With the imposition of a new electronic filing system in 2014, the filing fee for a divorce is now $145.32.  This must be paid at the time you file for divorce.

Filing for Divorce in Rhode Island

All divorces must be filed through Rhode Island’s electronic filing system.  This is often difficult for pro-se litigants (those that represent themselves). If you are unsure of what to do, contact a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer who will complete all necessary forms and file them electronically with the court.  Call the Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers at Abilhera Law today for a free, confidential consultation 401-245-5100.

The Next Steps…

Filing for divorce is only the first step in the divorce process.  For more information on what to expect next, please view our blog entitled “Divorce Process.”