Rhode Island couples sometimes pursue a legal separation instead of a divorce, so they can think about their marriage without the finality of a divorce. The process of legal separation is essentially the same as a divorce, with the same timetable as a divorce, however, in the end, the petitioner receives a court order granting the divorce from bed and board, not a final decree of divorce.
A legally separated couple often produces a written contract spelling out the terms and conditions of their separation. In Rhode Island, a spouse generally exits the relationship with the same assets in possession as when entering the marriage. However, separated spouses still bear responsibility for certain financial matters, such as debts and health insurance as a couple. The separating couple with minor children creates a custody agreement and a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. A Rhode Island family court judge decides child support and/or alimony payments.
If a separated couple chooses to reunite, a legal separation eases the process of rebuilding a life together; if the couple decides to permanently end the marriage, they still need to divorce. In a legal separation, Rhode Islanders split their assets and liabilities and live apart while remaining legally married, with all the rights and benefits of marriage.