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Rhode Island Divorce - Affairs as a Fault Basis for Divorce

Laypeople and even Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers have argued with me that Rhode Island is a "No Fault" state.  A "No Fault" state essentially means that Rhode Island does not recognize grounds that would cause one party to be more at fault for the breakdown of the marriage than the other spouse.

This is not correct.  Rhode Island does recognize fault based grounds for divorce, including adultery, habitual drunkeness, and conduct repugnant to the marriage covenant.

However, the focus of this article is upon an affair and how it fits into a fault based divorce.  This of course relates to adultery during the marriage.  Yet there is a little more to it when it comes to arguments offered by an attorney on behalf of his or her client.

Examples are best illustrative of the type of cases I refer to.

John and Lizzy are married and can't get along.  John moves out to clear his head and get some individual counseling to help his marriage.  After five months of counseling John comes to the conclusion that Lizzy is not the right woman for him.  John meets with Lizzy to tell her that he will be filing for divorce.  Lizzy is furious.  Unexpectedly John meets a nice young woman and they have intercourse.  John hires an attorney to file for divorce.  Lizzy, however, files first and alleges adultery and that John had an affair.

What is the practical impact of the events between John and Lizzy?

Did John have an affair?  Absolutely!

Did John commit adultery?  Absolutely!

Was John's adulterous affair the cause of the breakdown of the marriage?  Any attorney arguing on behalf of John should be arguing "Absolutely NOT"!

It is possible to affair that is adulterous (i.e. intercourse during a marriage with a woman that is not your wife) and yet it is not properly a basis for the divorce because it was not the cause of the breakdown of the marriage.

In order for an adulterous affair to be properly a basis for fault and the grounds for divorce, it must be the cause of the breakdown of the marriage.

Authored by:

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

Attorney Pearsall's practice is focused almost exclusively in the areas of Divorce and Family law.

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