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Rhode Island Court Records

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How are Divorce Records Generated in Rhode Island?

Divorce records are court documents that comprise details of divorce proceedings and the final order for a divorce case. Divorce records include information such as; the date the divorce was filed, child custody, financial responsibilities, and division of assets and debts. They may also be classified as vital records like birth, marriage and death records. There are 4.9 divorces per 1,000 women above the age of 15 in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island is a no-fault divorce state that allows divorce to be granted without a fault ground. However, there must be irreconcilable differences that have caused the marriage to deteriorate beyond repair. Fault based divorce grounds according to the Rhode Island Divorce law include;

  • Extreme cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Impotence
  • Continued drunkenness
  • Intentional abandonment for five years of either of the parties, or intentional abandonment for a shorter period of time in the discretion of the court
  • The habitual, excessive, and intemperate use of morphine, opium, or choral
  • Neglect and refusal, for the period of at least one year on the part of the husband to provide necessaries for the subsistence of his wife, the husband being of sufficient ability.
  • Any other gross misconduct and wickedness, in either of the parties, repugnant to and in violation of the marriage covenant.

In Rhode Island, a marriage may end in any of these ways;

  • Divorce (Dissolution of marriage)
  • Legal separation
  • Annulment

A Legal separation and divorce follow the same process in Rhode Island. However, in a legal separation, both parties receive a court order that legalises their separation but a final decree of divorce is not obtained. A final decree of divorce is only obtained in a divorce case and it implies that the bond of marriage is broken and each party may remarry or start dating other people after a specified period. In both legal separation and divorce proceedings, the court decides child custody (if there are any children) and also divides marital property and debts.

In annulment, the court declares the marriage null and void as though it never happened. Usually, annulment is permitted if marriage consent was not willfully given or one of the parties is not yet an adult.

A divorce is finalized when the judge signs the final order for judgment establishing the date the marriage ends. The couple will also be required to submit certain documents which will be processed by the court, they include; “Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment” and a “Final Judgment.” Divorce records are documented in the court’s records management office or the office of the Clerk of Family Court.

Typically, a divorce takes 30 to 90 days to be finalized, depending on the caseload of the court and the availability of the judge to sign the final Judgement of Divorce.

Are Divorce Records Public in Rhode Island?

Divorce records are only available to eligible in Rhode Island, they are classified as court records and this makes them accessible. The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA) authorizes eligible persons to obtain divorce records, although certain confidential information may not be disclosed.

The details of the divorce proceedings of all divorce cases are documented and maintained at the court’s management office by the Clerk of Family Court. The divorce case information as with other court case information may be obtained by eligible persons at the county where the divorce was finalized. However, sealed divorce records are not accessible.

What are the types of Divorce Records available in Rhode Island?

The divorce records available in Rhode Island include divorce certificates and divorce decrees. Divorce court case files are also available in Rhode Island, they include information on the divorce case.

Generally, a divorce record may either be in the form of an informational copy or a certified copy. Informational copies of divorce records are available to the general public, but it does not carry detailed information on the divorce. Certified copies contain comprehensive information on divorce proceedings but can only be obtained by the actual parties involved in the divorce and other authorized individuals. It can also be used as a legal document.

A divorce decree is a certified court document that contains the final Judgement of Divorce which is signed by a judge, thereby authorizing a divorce. It provides a comprehensive summary of the verdict of the judge, as regards the financial responsibilities, child support, division of assets and debts, child custody, and alimony. Divorce decrees are available to the separated couple and the attorneys involved in the divorce process. They are preserved by the Clerk of Family Court in the county where the divorce was filed.

A divorce certificate is a face sheet document showing limited information on the divorce action. It is an informational copy because it does not carry details of divorce proceedings and information on how the divorce was finalized. The information found on a divorce certificate includes; the names of each divorced party, filing date, the county where the divorce was filed, and the court case number.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in Rhode Island?

Divorce records in Rhode Island are available at the family court where divorce was granted. To obtain a divorce certificate, interested persons are to visit the county where divorce was filed. For divorce records prior to 1962, contact the Providence College Archives. The contact address of the family courts in the five counties in Rhode Island include;

Washington County

Washington County Courthouse 4800 Tower Hill Road Wakefield, RI 02879–2239

Phone: 401–841–835

Providence County

Providence County Courthouse 250 Benefit Street Providence, RI 02903

Phone: 401–277–671

Newport County

Newport County Courthouse 8 Washington Square Newport, RI 02840–7199

Phone: 401–841–835

Kent County

Kent County Courthouse 222 Quaker Lane; West Warwick, RI 02893

Phone: 401–841–835

Bristol County

Bristol County Courthouse 1 Dorrance Plaza; Warren, RI 02885–4369

Phone: 508–823–6588

Request for divorce records may be made with all required information and fees through any of these means;

  • By mail-in request to the Clerk of Family Court where the divorce was granted
  • In-person request at the Clerk of Family Court where the divorce was granted

Eligible persons are required to provide the following information when requesting divorce records;

  • Names of both parties involved in the divorce
  • Place of decree
  • Date of decree
  • Requestor’s phone number
  • Requestor’s name and address
  • The relationship of the requestor to the registrant
  • Purpose for certificate request
  • Requestor’s signature
  • Photocopy of Government Issued ID

Divorce records are provided at $3.00 per copy. The fees are payable by check or money order and are nonrefundable.

Note that sending cash via mail is not acceptable.

While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored therefore record availability may vary further. Also note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, the law permits that only eligible persons may obtain divorce records. Eligible persons are those who have a “direct and tangible interest” in the divorce records. They include;

  • The person whose name is written on the divorce certificate, an immediate family member, or a legal agent of these individuals.
  • Individuals that require the information on the record for the determination or protection of a personal or property right.
  • Members of legally incorporated genealogical societies, title examiners, or Attorneys-at-law, in the course of their official duties.
  • An individual who has been granted a court order instructing the registrar to provide the record.

Are Rhode Island Divorce Records Available Online?

Rhode Island does not have a central portal where eligible persons may access divorce records online. Rather, divorce records are available at the office of the Clerk of Family Court in each county. Requests can only be made at the family court where divorce proceedings took place, either in person or by mail.

How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in Rhode Island?

To seal divorce records in Rhode Island it is necessary to petition the court where proceedings took place, and provide convincing reasons for the court to approve of the sealing of the divorce record. In most cases, people appeal for the sealing of their divorce records because their reputation may be at stake if the records are released to the public. Others may wish to have the records sealed as a result of certain sensitive information that are included in the divorce records.

Examples of sensitive information included in divorce records that may warrant it to be sealed include; information on the total net-worth of the persons involved, information on minors that may jeopardize their safety, intellectual property ownership, etc. The service of a legal solicit may be required in order to make the process seamless.

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