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Rhode Island Divorce vs. Rhode Island Separation

Though it is rare, sometimes Rhode Islanders or those people who have an issue relating to the Rhode Island Family Courts will want a solution other than just getting a divorce.  One option you may consider is to become "legally separated".

Yet what is it though?  Essentially.... it's a divorce..... without the divorce!  Strange...but true.

You deal with the  issues in family court the same way you do a divorce but rather than dissolving the marriage, the legal marriage between you and your spouse remains.  The assets and debts are usually split and apportioned.

If there are children then placement and legal custody are determined by the Rhode Island Divorce judge.  Sometimes spousal support becomes a factor for consideration.  Visitation is usually established  for the non-placement parent and an order issues indicating that you are legally separated.

However, you remain married with all the legal benefits of marriage and the detriments as well.  For instance, you can still file your taxes as "Married filing Jointly" . . . but since you remain married you may not remarry.

Legal Separation is an avenue that I have seen very few people take because usually the marital breakdown does not lead to reconciliation or, if it does, a divorce proceeding usually brings the seriousness of the matter to a head more quickly than a legal separation.

The parties most seriously consider the ramifications of their actions in a divorce proceeding during the statutory cooling off period before the divorce is granted.  If there is any doubt about their decision
on both of their parts, they can decide to withdraw their Rhode Island Divorce from the court's consideration before the final judgment enters.

If, during the course of a legal separation proceeding a party knows that he or she wants a divorce, then the party can move to have the separation matter converted to one for a Rhode Island divorce.

The question as to whether to file for a Rhode Island Divorce or a Rhode Island Separation is one that is a matter of choice.  However, in my humble opinion, absent a compelling reason to opt for a legal separation and the end result that it provides, it is best to seriously considering filing a divorce proceeding.  This suggestion is not intended to advocate divorce, but rather is a suggestion of practicality. 

If a party has opted for a legal separation, in my opinion they may need to do so for the legal protections it affords while trying to sort out the marriage.  If this is the case then there is a loss of trust with the other spouse such that he or she needs to be compelled to continue to provide for the other or for the children.  In the absence of this trust and the need for court intervention to insure the protection of one party or the children, the result of a legal separation order, carries much less weight than that of a divorce decree.

There is something to be said for the idea that in a marriage, we are as spouses are bound to one another.  Neither of us may remarry and infidelity is most assuredly frowned upon.  We have obligations to our debts with our spouse and with our children, if there are any.  There is typically a reliance there and hopefully at some time in the relationship a bond of trust.

Yet the finality of a final judgment of a divorce is like the resounding tone of the thud of a tree as it falls in the forest.  Once cut from the ground it is separate and apart from the stump which has been a part of it and enabled it to get nourishment and the stump is now exposed and widened with a more difficult path of any type of growth a head.  It is the finality of the divorce decree that makes people think and
it is this factor that helps parties determine in the "cooling off period" between their hearing date and the date when the final judgment may enter that reconciliation is most likely.

So what happens if you get a Rhode Island Separation Decree and subsequently want to divorce your spouse?

You must file for divorce and go through the proceeding all over again.

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369