How do I start a Rhode Island divorce proceeding?
March 11, 2019
QUESTION: How do I start a Rhode Island Divorce?
ANSWER: First, let me say that personally and professionally that with what I have learned in almost two decades practicing divorce in Rhode Island, I do not recommend filing or putting through your own divorce. In the very least, you should get legal coaching/advice from a lawyer who regularly practices Rhode Island divorce before you fill out and file the paperwork. Every divorce is not the same, no matter how simple you may think it is. The court clerk's office will provide you fill in the blank forms and they may give you samples of how other family court litigants might fill them out. They may even give you general questions to give you an idea of what a judge might be interested in knowing at the time of your divorce hearing. However, every (and I do mean "every") divorce is different and no form is a substitute for legal advice. The forms provided by the courts are intended to follow the minimal guidelines provided by law. They are not intended to protect your rights nor should you expect to receive instructions on what to fill in to make sure your rights are protected. It is the obligation of each person or their attorney to protect your rights by filling in the form or even by modifying the form if necessary with the correct legal terms so that your rights are properly protected.
To start a divorce proceeding you need to get what I call a "divorce filing packet" from the Rhode Island family court. You can get the documents that comprise this packet at the domestic clerk's office. This packet consists of the following documents.
1. Civil Case Cover Sheet;
2. Complaint for Divorce/Complaint for Divorce from Bed and Board;
3. Statement Listing Children;
4. DR-6 Financial Statement of Assets, Liabilities, Income, and Expenses; and
5. Four (4) Language Notices - English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Cambodian
To start your divorce, you fill out the foregoing documents and file them with the Domestic Relations Clerk's Office in the Rhode Island family court in the county where the Defendant resides within the state. If the Defendant does not reside in Rhode Island, then you file in the family court in the county where you reside, provided you have been a resident and continuously domiciled inhabitant of the State of Rhode Island for at least one year before you file.
When these documents are filed correctly with the family court you will pay a mandatory court filing fee which may include a technology surcharge which currently amounts to $145.32 as of March 11, 2019.
Upon filing, you must check back with the court to find out if your filing has been accepted. Once accepted, the court generates a Summons with Proof of Service and Notice of Automatic Orders. You then must arrange to make proper due process service on the Defendant pursuant to Rhode Island law and the Rhode Island Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure. Service requirements vary depending upon whether the defendant is within Rhode Island, in another state, in another country or in the military.
Generally speaking, this is how a divorce proceeding or a legal separation proceeding is started in Rhode Island as of March 11, 2019.