In order to obtain an absolute divorce in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Family Court, either the husband or wife must be a domiciled inhabitant and resident of RI for one year next prior to to the filing of the complaint for divorce in RI Family Court. Residency is very important in a RI divorce.
RI residency requirement
If the Plaintiff is not able to meet the required residency and domiciliary requirements then the Plaintiff’s divorce in RI may be premised on their husband’s or wife’s residency for one year next prior to the filing of the divorce complaint. A Plaintiff could move out of town the next day to a different state or country and still obtain a divorce in Rhode Island so long as they met the residency requirements on the date of filing.
Rogers v Rogers
In Rogers v. Rogers the Rhode Island Supreme Court determined that “The Family Court was established by the General Assembly as a court of limited jurisdiction. G.L. 1956 § 8-10-3. Under § 8-10-3(a), the Family Court has the authority to “hear and determine all petitions for divorce[.]” Specifically, subject-matter jurisdiction with respect to petitions for divorce is governed by § 15-5-12(a), which provides in pertinent part: “No complaint for divorce from the bond of marriage shall be granted unless the plaintiff has been a domiciled inhabitant of this state and has resided in this state for a period of one year next before the filing of the complaint * * *. Barbara A. Rogers v. Robert F. Rogers, Rhode Island Supreme Court,https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/OpinionsOrders/pdf-files/10-106.pdf
“Section 15-5-12(a) plainly states that a divorce complaint will not be granted unless a plaintiff “has been a domiciled inhabitant of this state and has resided in this state for the period of one year next before the filing of the complaint * * *.” (Emphases added.) This language does not require that the party remain a domiciled inhabitant or resident of the state for the petition to be granted; rather, the statute refers to the domicile and residence of the plaintiff at the time the divorce complaint is filed” Id.
(There are statutory exceptions pursuant to RI law for people in the armed forces (army, navy, air force, marines, military) who are stationed in other states or countries)
In the event that you do not meet the residency requirements to get divorce in Providence Family Court then you need to consult with a lawyer in a State where you do meet the residency requirements.
In the event that you are actually residing in RI but do not satisfy the residency requirements to obtain an absolute divorce in RI, you still may be able to obtain the benefits and protections of The Rhode Island Family Court. There are other causes of action that do not require 1 year residency. A complaint for separate maintenance without filing for divorce may allow you to deal with issues concerning: temporary alimony, property rights, child custody, child support, child visitation, payment of marital expenses, payment of the mortgage, restraining orders, etc. A Complaint for Separate Maintenance without filing for divorce is the closest thing that RI has to a legal separation. A divorce from bed and board and future cohabitation, which is rarely filed, may be another option of evading residency requirements.
If you do not meet these requirements to prove residency your divorce case may be dismissed or you may be given additional time to obtain the necessary witnesses or affidavit.