According to the State of Rhode Island General Laws, “alimony” is described as monthly installments that are designed to provide financial support for a spouse for a reasonable amount of time and which would enable the recipient spouse to become financially independent. The state law also includes payment of counsel fees as a form of relief under this section.

Alimony, also referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support, can be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis in the state of Rhode Island. In particular, Rhode Island views alimony as a rehabilitative tool. This means that its courts tend to issue awards for a specific length of time and only in so much as a petitioning spouse needs to become self-sufficient.

To determine whether a spouse is eligible to receive alimony and how much alimony they should receive, a court will analyze a variety of monetary and circumstantial factors. Unlike some states, Rhode Island law provides a set list of factors that a court must consider before it awards a spouse alimony. These factors will be discussed in further detail throughout the sections below.

One other important feature that you should bear in mind about alimony in Rhode Island is that adultery and extramarital affairs will be taken into account when awarding alimony. This means that a spouse who engages in acts of marital misconduct will most likely not be eligible to receive spousal support.

In addition, if the spouse who committed adultery also spent money on a third party during an extramarital affair, then the court may include such expenses when divvying up the couple’s property and assets in a divorce.

How Do You Qualify for Alimony?

As is the case in other states, either spouse may be eligible to file a petition for alimony. In determining whether a spouse should receive alimony and how much alimony that spouse should receive each month, the court will consider a number of different factors.

These factors may include:

  • The length of the divorcing couple’s marriage;
  • The contributions of each spouse during the marriage;
  • The couple’s lifestyle or standard of living during the marriage;
  • The age and overall well-being of each spouse; and
  • The financial standing of each spouse (e.g., is one spouse earning more than the other, does one spouse have more degrees that would allow them to get a better-paying job, etc.).

In addition, a court may also take into account the financial condition of the spouse who gains custody of the divorcing couple’s children and how difficult caring for those children will make it for that spouse to find full-time employment. Another factor that a court will typically evaluate is how employable each spouse is based on their education, training, and/or marketable job skills.

A court may also look at whether a spouse’s ability to earn income was impacted due to marital duties, such as having to take care of the couple’s family or household, having to support the other spouse while they received job training or obtained a professional degree (e.g., J.D., M.D., PhD, etc.), and/or any other sacrifice a spouse had to make that impacted their career aspirations or caused them to leave the workforce (e.g., raising kids).

In calculating the amount of spousal support that a petitioning spouse will receive each month, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The amount of time it will take for the petitioning spouse to acquire the necessary job training, skills, or degree;
  • Whether the petitioning spouse’s age and overall well-being will prevent them from obtaining those items that would enable them to become self-supporting; and
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony while at the same time still being able to financially support themselves.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive?

Similar to the rules applied in many other states, the laws in Rhode Island do not place a limit on the amount of alimony that an eligible spouse can collect. Instead, the amount of alimony that a petitioning spouse can receive in a Rhode Island divorce case will depend on a number of specific factors, such as:

  • The contributions that each spouse made to the marriage;
  • Whether adultery or other marital misconduct led to the divorce;
  • The length of the couple’s marriage;
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony and support themselves;
  • The monetary needs of both parties;
  • Which spouse has custody of the children and whether that will impact their earning capacity; and/or
  • The couple’s standard of living or lifestyle during the marriage.

The above list addresses some of the most common factors that a Rhode Island court will consider when determining alimony. However, there are other factors that may apply to each individual case.

Also, since there is no set formula for calculating alimony under state laws, the amount of an alimony award will usually be issued on a case-by-case basis and will be left up to the discretion of the judge presiding over the divorce case.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

An award for alimony in Rhode Island can last for an indefinite amount of time. Specifically, the Rhode Island statute for spousal support provides that the duration of alimony must last for as long as what would be considered a reasonable length of time to enable a receiving spouse to become financially independent. However, there are some instances where alimony may terminate earlier than this event.

For example, alimony may only last for as long as it takes to issue a final divorce decree and settle any outstanding marital disputes. This can happen when a spouse files a petition for temporary spousal support. In general, temporary spousal support serves as a means of financial support before and/or during the divorce proceeding. Once the divorce proceeding has ended, so will the payments for temporary spousal support.

Alimony can also be modified or terminated in the event that either of the spouses dies, the receiving spouse remarries, or when the receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient.

Finally, in some instances, alimony may last for an indefinite or permanent amount of time, such as if the receiving spouse is unable to work due to becoming incapacitated or developing a medical condition that prevents them from working and had occurred during the marriage.

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

The general rule that applies to all courts when requesting alimony is that a court will not know that a party in a divorce case needs spousal support unless they submit a petition asking for it. If the spouse that requires alimony does not file a petition for alimony within the prescribed deadline, then they may inadvertently waive their right to receive spousal support.

There are three ways that a spouse can petition for alimony. First, the divorcing spouses can draft an agreement on how alimony will be paid outside of court and then submit it to the court for approval. Second, a petitioning spouse may file a form for temporary spousal support before or while their divorce case is pending. Lastly, a requesting spouse can file a petition for alimony to be paid after the divorce is finalized.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

Alimony is one of the most contentious issues that can arise in a divorce case. To make matters even more complicated, alimony awards may be highly subjective since they primarily depend on the facts of a specific case and may be determined at the discretion of the presiding court. Thus, in order to ensure that your right to receive alimony is preserved and protected, you may want to hire a local Rhode Island family lawyer for further legal guidance.

A family lawyer who has experience in handling divorce matters in Rhode Island will already be familiar with the applicable state laws and procedures for requesting alimony in your jurisdiction. Your lawyer can also answer any questions you may have about collecting alimony and can advise you of your rights under the relevant laws in the state of Rhode Island. Additionally, your lawyer will be able to assist you in gathering evidence to support your petition for alimony and can provide legal representation in family court.

As for how you can discover the right Rhode Island family lawyer to take on your case, you should begin your search by using one of the following resources:

  • By performing a basic online search and reading client reviews;
  • By enlisting a private or public attorney referral service;
  • By asking a non-profit organization or legal aid service for recommendations; and/or
  • By visiting the website for either the Rhode Island Bar Association (RIBA) or a local division of the RIBA for your particular county (e.g., Kent or Newport).

Finally, there is one other way to search for the right lawyer and that is by using LegalMatch’s software. Simply register for a free account on LegalMatch’s website and provide a brief summary of your alimony issue. LegalMatch will then send you a list of lawyers who not only practice in your area, but also have the right kind of legal experience, would be willing to accept your case, and are immediately available to schedule a free consultation.