RI Family Lawyers' Tip: RI Family Law and Grounds for Divorce to Discuss with Your Lawyer!
Apology to All for Recent Article of Interest on R.I. General Laws 15-5-2(8)

Does the Husband's Conduct constitute Gross Behavior or Wicked Conduct Repugnant to the Marital Covenant?

The more unusual RI grounds used as a basis for a divorce action are found in Rhode Island General Laws 15-5-2 et. seq.

Consider this rather unique hypothetical Rhode Island Divorce case that could be filed under Rhode Island General Laws 15-5-2(8) which is a seldom used grounds for divorce.

This hypothetical and its questions demonstrate how factual changes and/or allegations by a party might affect a RI Divorce proceeding for the parties, their minor children, the attorneys involved, and what the Rhode Island Family Court Judges sometimes have to consider in cases that diverge from the typical "irreconcilable differences" divorce cases.


In this hypothetical case, the husband is the primary wage earner of the family.   The parties have been married for eight years and have a couple children. Imagine that the the wife discovers that the husband was engaging in relationships with men and possibly other women.

After the wife discovers this about the husband she files for divorce under RI General Laws 15-5-2(8).

It should be noted that Rhode Island General Laws 15-5-2(8) is a grounds for divorce that is very seldom used in Rhode Island Family Court.

Section (8) states that a RI divorce may be granted for gross misbehavior and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant.

Hypothetically, a divorce case in Rhode Island such as this is one of considerable interest since it raises more questions than it actually answers for the parties, the lawyers and particularly for the Rhode Island Family Court.

Assume purely for this hypothetical that the husband may be a person of bi-sexual and/or homosexual orientation but has been unable to come to terms with his own sexuality.  What issues or questions might this type of situation raise?

Would it make any difference if the husband concealed bi-sexual and/or homosexual relationships from his wife and continued to have intimate relations with her without her knowledge?

Might a RI Judge consider that the husband's conduct constitutes "misbehavior and/or conduct or wickedness repugnant to and in violation of the marital covenant" as set forth in Rhode Island General Laws 15-5-2(8)?

However, let's change the hypothetical momentarily.  What if the husband continued bi-sexual and/or homosexual relations while also engaging in intercourse with his wife and recklessly caused her to get infections, disease and/or AIDS/HIV?  Might that affect a Rhode Island Judge's thought process on the subject?  

Let's twist our hypothetical marriage and divorce for a minute and arbitrarily consider a few questions.

Would it be possible if the husband were only having relationships with men to reasonably argue that he had not cheated on his wife because he had not committed a sexual act with the opposite sex?  Does RI law even say anything about this?

If one were just to consider the wife's burden of proof before the court, might the husband's extramarital conduct with men be considered gross misbehavior or wickedness as stated in Section 8 of the statute?

What affect if any might the fact that Massachusetts had approved same sex marriages for a time have on a Rhode Island Court's findings and rulings?

What kind of conduct is considered "repugnant to the marriage covenant" under Rhode Island law?

By the same token, what conduct would be considered "wickedness" as envisioned by the Rhode Island Statute?

Under any of these hypothetical scenarios, might there be any conduct by the husband which causes his conduct to reach the level of "gross misbehavior" and/or "wickedness"?

Please keep in mind that this article is not an attack, nor even a criticism of a bi-sexual, homosexual or lesbian lifestyle.  Rather, this is merely the application of a hypothetical with possible scenarios and questions that may or may not affect these seldom used grounds for divorce under Rhode Island law.  Specifically this is a preliminary consideration about whether actions under this hypothetical scenario and the various questions posed herein might fall within the divorce grounds provided by R.I. General Laws 15-5-2(8) as noted above.

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law

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