THE DIVORCE PROCESS IN RHODE ISLAND
Two of the most common questions we get at the law office of Hoopis & Hoopis are “How much does a divorce cost in Rhode Island?” and “How long with it take to get divorced?” The answers to those questions are the same: “It depends.” It depends largely on you and your partner. The Family Court has put a two-part system in place to focus the divorce process in Rhode Island toward helping couples reach agreement outside of court whenever possible.
At Hoopis & Hoopis, that is also our goal. Talk to Warwick divorce attorney Jennifer Hoopis D’Ambra to learn more about how we can support you in arriving at a prompt and fair divorce agreement. Call 401-823-6266 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Part 1: Early Agreement & Nominal Divorce Hearing
Filing: When you file a petition for divorce, you are immediately assigned a hearing date that is exactly 11 weeks out (77 days). If during the period of separation, you feel you need the judge to issue a temporary court order specifying who lives in the house, who pays what bills, where children will live, etc., you should file a motion for that at this time.
Temporary Order Hearing: A hearing on the temporary order will usually occur within 5 weeks. The conditions of the temporary order will be in place for the duration of separation, until the divorce is final.
Nominal Divorce Hearing: When you attend this hearing, a “nominal divorce” could be granted if you and your spouse are in agreement on all of the issues to be decided in your divorce. You must then complete the mandatory 3-month waiting period before your divorce becomes final. So the soonest you could receive a divorce is 6 months.
Part 2: Moving Toward a Divorce Trial
Case Status Conference: If you have not reached an agreement on the issues at the time of your first (nominal) hearing date, you do not need to go to court that day. You will be assigned a new date for a “status conference.”
At a status conference the family court judge has an opportunity to offer input on what should happen next. For example, if you and your partner are arguing over the value of your home and this is blocking your progress toward reaching a property settlement agreement, the judge could order you to obtain an appraisal.
Pre-trial Conferences: If the parties still can’t overcome their differences, the case status conference will lead to one or more pre-trial conferences. A judge who wants to determine if the case is likely to be headed to a trial conducts these conferences.
Discovery: In between the various conferences, a process called “discovery” will take place outside of court. It includes requests for documents, the exchange of written questions (Interrogatories) and Depositions (interviews conducted under oath). The discovery process can be time consuming and costly. It typically occurs over the course of weeks or months.
The parties can – and are encouraged to – resolve their differences at any time up to when the judge makes a final decision after a trial. The sooner this is done, the less costly the divorce will be.
Trial: This is the last step in a contested divorce case. The judge will hear all the evidence and then issue a decision.