What if my spouse does not show up to divorce court?

If you and your spouse are seeking an uncontested divorce, you may not need your spouse to appear in court. As long as you agree on how to resolve all issues related to the marriage (such as custody arrangements, alimony, and division of property) and meet the requirements of a Rhode Island no-fault divorce, the court does not require both spouses to be present in order to grant a divorce. When a spouse doesn't appear for divorce court

Proceeding With a Divorce If a Spouse Refuses to Appear in Court

Once paperwork is filed, a court hearing date will be set. If only one spouses appears at the hearing, the divorce may proceed as a “default divorce,” meaning the judge may grant the divorce based on the testimony of the spouse that is present.

In order to proceed with a default divorce, you must ensure that:

  • Your spouse was properly notified. If you are the person who requested the divorce, the burden is on you to ensure that filing deadlines are met and your spouse has had every opportunity to participate in the process. This includes filing divorce papers with the family court clerk, serving the divorce papers on your spouse through the sheriff’s office, and filing a copy of the delivery form with the clerk's office to prove that your spouse received a notice of the proceeding. If you have proof that your spouse received the papers, you can proceed with the divorce even if your spouse did not submit a reply.
  • You have witnesses to testify on your behalf. You will need to bring at least two witnesses to your hearing who can testify that you have lived in Rhode Island for at least one year and can offer insight as to the reason for the dissolution of the marriage. In particular, the judge may want to know how long you and your spouse have been separated and if you’re still living together.
  • All marital property and financial issues have been resolved. Once a divorce order is granted, neither spouse can bring property distribution or alimony cases in the future. For this reason, it is best to consult with a divorce attorney to ensure that you will receive a fair portion of shared assets, debts, and property.

The legal team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can carefully examine your situation and ask the judge for a divorce settlement that is fair to you. If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island, please get in touch with us today via our online contact form.