This RI family law article explains the different types of uncontested divorce in Rhode Island Family Court (RI divorce Court). This legal article explains the process of obtaining and finalizing an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces and no contest divorce in Providence family Court are less expensive then contested divorce in Rhode Island. The term “uncontested divorce” may mean differing things to different people. Rhode Island divorce lawyer, David Slepkow has 23 years of experience representing litigants in RI divorce. RI divorce lawyer, Slepkow, has seen numerous different types of uncontested divorce cases. David Slepkow has represented clients in hundreds of simple, no contest and no fault divorces in RI.
Many Rhode Island residents are asking the following questions:
- How long does it take for a divorce to be final in Rhode Island?
- How much does divorce mediation cost in RI?
- Is Rhode Island a no fault state for divorce?
- How do I get a divorce in Rhode Island?
There are four different RI uncontested divorce paradigms that I have seen:
1) No assets and no children
This is a true uncontested divorce in Rhode Island! The parties have no assets, no real estate, no children and no joint debt. No property settlement agreement is needed. However, a significant amount of work is still required by the Rhode Island divorce lawyer. The parties still must go to court one time for a nominal divorce hearing. However, this type of RI divorce takes the least amount of time for a divorce attorney in RI. Therefore, this type of uncontested divorce, should be less expensive. I believe that RI divorce attorneys should offer a flat a fee divorce when there are no assets and little to no issues to resolve.
2) Property division and / or children involved
In an uncontested divorce, the husband and wife agree to all or substantially all of the issues between the parties including, if applicable, property division, child support, child custody, child visitation, alimony, automobile issues, real estate issues, debt issues etc. However, despite the agreements, there may still be details to iron out! The parties may need a property settlement agreement memorializing their agreements. If there are assets that need to be divided then the family law lawyer may need to prepare a property settlement agreement, deeds, mortgages, promissory notes, qualified domestic relation orders (QDRO) etc. For example, if the parties need to divide a retirement account, the lawyer must prepare a qualified domestic relations order. Therefore, the cost of the divorce could vary depending on the circumstances. For example if a Providence divorce lawyer has to draft a property settlement agreement then he will devote more time to the case.
What extra work is needed to divide a retirement account in a Rhode Island divorce?
In order to split a retirement account, Individual Retirement Account (IRA), pension, 401k, 403b, defined benefit plan, defined contribution plan or stock options, the lawyer must prepare a qualified domestic relations order (otherwise known as a QDRO) so that there are no tax implications for the parties. That QDRO must be approved by the plan administrator for the retirement plan. THE QDRO or DRO also must be entered as an order of the Family Court as well as sent to the plan administrator for implementation.
3) “Uncontested” divorce which is really “minimally” contested
Some people claim that the divorce is “uncontested” but it is actually minimally contested. In this scenario, the parties agree to most major issues but have some minor issues to work out. For example, the parties may agree that there will be reasonable visitation but not agree as to the actual dates and times. The parties may agree to child support or child custody but not agree to all the particulars. The parties may agree that the marital domicile is to be sold as soon as possible by a Licensed realtor but have not agreed on the listing price of the home or have not agreed how the proceeds from the sale will be divided.
This type of case is usually more expensive than a true uncontested divorce because the lawyers will have to get more involved in negotiation and attempting to work out the points of contention. Furthermore, the Lawyer may need to draft a property settlement agreement setting forth in writing issue concerning the marital domicile, equitable division of property, child custody, child support and visitation issues.
4) “Uncontested” divorce which really is contested
There are countless times when a client says that the divorce is uncontested. The divorce lawyer in RI then ask them to explain the agreement. The response is sometimes: ‘we agree that we will agree’. As we all know, the devil can be in the details! An “agreement to agree” is not necessarily an agreement because nothing has been agreed to, except that the parties think that they will agree. Often people claim that the actual divorce is not being contested. Whether or not a person will dispute the obtaining of the actual divorce is immaterial because Rhode Island is a “no fault” state. If one party wants to terminate the marriage and meets the residency requirements he or she can obtain a divorce whether or not the other party agrees to it or not.
The intake process that your Rhode Island divorce lawyer may require
There is typically an intake process in which the Rhode Island divorce lawyer gets the basic information so that he or she can properly represent you. The Providence divorce attorney typically drafts the documents and the client sign them in front of him/her or another notary. These documents include a complaint, DR(6) financial statement, civil face sheet, statement of children of the marriage. The summons and automatic court order is generated by the RI judiciary e-filing system
It is important that the DR6 form, otherwise known as financial statement, is accurately filled out. After the documents have been signed and notarized, the case must be filed. A Court date of approximately 65 days will be set by the Court. The Defendant must be served by the constable. If the Defendant lives out of state, he or she can be served by certified mail return receipt. All RI divorce forms can now be found online.
Contested or nominal track?
When a divorce is filed, the case is put onto one of two tracks, the contested track or the nominal track. The Plaintiff in his or her initial filing designates the track they desire. The vast majority of divorces filed are placed on the “nominal track.” An uncontested divorce should be put onto the nominal track. Designation on the “nominal track” does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be uncontested.
If the case is put on the nominal track then the clerk will automatically set a nominal divorce hearing upon the Plaintiff filing. This hearing will typically be scheduled from 65-70 days after the Plaintiff files. In the event that the case is not settled by the nominal divorce date then the case will automatically be changed to the contested track. On the date of the nominal hearing, at the call of the calendar, the case will be either ready nominal or the parties will ask the judge to hold the case so they can try to resolve any remaining issues. If the parties cannot resolve the remaining issues they will inform the Court clerk or the judge that the case cannot be settled and the case track will be changed to the contested divorce track. If the case track is changed there will be no hearing that date and the court will inform the parties of a future conference date.
A hearing is required under RI law!
Pursuant to Rhode Island General Law a divorce cannot be resolved without a nominal hearing. At the nominal hearing certain testimony must be elicited in order for the divorce to be granted. In some circumstances, it is necessary to have witnesses to briefly testify to prove residency. If you don’t have the required witnesses your case could be delayed or even dismissed and you may waste your time attending court.
Proof of Residency in order to obtain a RI Divorce
Is it necessary to prove compliance with the residency requirements at the “nominal hearing” in order to obtain an uncontested divorce? Yes!=In order to file for divorce you need to have been a domiciled inhabitant and resident of Rhode Island for one year prior to your filing of the complaint. If you have not been a domiciled inhabitant and resident of RI for one year prior to filing your complaint for divorce, you can file based on your husband’s / wife’s residency for one year prior to the filing. It does not matter if you change your residency or move out of town the next day so long as you were a resident on the date of the filing and for one year prior!(There are exceptions for people in the armed forces (army, navy, air force, marines, military) who are stationed in other states or countries)
How do I prove Residency in order to obtain a Rhode Island Divorce?
In order to prove residency, it is enough if both parties appear at the nominal court date and testify that at least one of the parties was a domiciled inhabitant and resident of Rhode Island for one year prior to the filing of the complaint for divorce. The Family Court will typically waive the requirement for additional witness if both husband and wife attend the nominal court date and testify that at least one party had the requisite residency as set forth above.
If only one party attends the nominal court hearing, then the litigant needs one of the following in order to obtain a divorce (a) two additional witnesses in court to testify to the one year residency of the Plaintiff (b) one witness in court to testify to the one year residency of the Plaintiff and an affidavit from a different witness attesting to the person’s residency. (This affidavit form can be easily obtained on the RI judiciary website.) If you do not meet these requirements to prove residency your case may be dismissed, or you may be given additional time to obtain the necessary witnesses or affidavit
What County in the family Court should the divorce in RI case be filed in?
Please note that all the counties in Rhode Island (Providence, Kent, Newport and Washington County) follow the same general rules and procedures. Make sure that your divorce case is filed in the appropriate County. In Providence County, the nominal hearing will sometimes be sent to a magistrate. Providence County includes East Providence, Providence, Cranston, Cumberland, Barrington, Bristol and other towns and cities. Kent County includes Warwick, Johnston & East Greenwich as well as other towns. Newport County includes Newport, Tiverton, Middletown & Portsmouth. Washington County includes South Kingstown, North Kingstown, Wakefield etc.
What does “pro se” mean?
Pro-se is a Latin word which means a person represents themselves. Most Rhode Island divorce and family law attorneys have done these nominal hearing hundreds of times. It is a very bad idea for a person to represent himself or herself in a divorce! As the old-adage goes a person who represents themselves has a fool for a lawyer. Since everything you have worked so hard for is on the line it is foolish to go through the divorce process without a family law lawyer.
Documentation to finalize RI divorce process: Final Judgment is needed
After the nominal Court date, a Decision Pending Entry and Final Judgment must be submitted to the Court and signed by the Judge. Without a final judgment signed by the judge and entered as an order of the Court, the divorce will not be final and you will remain married.