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Alimony Attorneys in Rhode Island

Alimony and Spousal Support Laws in RI

In the State of Rhode Island, alimony is the theoretical right to receive support from your spouse. One of the most common questions we receive from clients is how are alimony claims decided upon? The factors a court must consider when deciding whether to award alimony are outlined in RI General Laws §15-5-16.

How Long Can You Receive Alimony?

As family law practitioners, we find ourselves explaining to clients that alimony is not likely to last forever, and the issues to be determined are, “How much?” and “ For how long?” It is also important for the party seeking support to understand that alimony is not intended to give both parties an equal amount of income. Alimony is only required to be paid until such time as a party becomes self-supporting and self-sufficient. It is thus “rehabilitative” in nature. The trial court has a significant amount of discretion in deciding an alimony claim.

In general, trial Judges in Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Supreme Court have stuck to the proposition that alimony is rehabilitative and have not carved out many exceptions, even where the incomes of the parties are extremely disparate or where one person can not work due to a disability or chronic health issue. In our opinion the alimony statute and the Court’s interpretations of the stature are not equitable and we hope that the right case will come along soon where the “system” can be challenged and the conventional wisdom overturned.

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Rhode Island Alimony Laws

When a client comes in to our office and hires us as their attorney, we provide them with a copy of RI General Laws §15-5-16 in order to educate them on the factors considered by the court, and we encourage them to ask questions. Due to the fact that we will use the factors to present our case to the other side, as well as to the court, we will need to be on the same page as our clients with regard to the things we need to prove, along with evidence that will be required to do so.

A court can consider the spouse’s age and health as these factors relate to the person’s ability to earn, but that is not the end of the analysis. Some of the other factors considered by the court are the distribution of the marital assets, the concerns of the children, the parties’ occupations, the time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire education or find appropriate employment, and the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage. Additionally, when making an alimony determination and considering “the conduct of the parties,” a Family Court judge must also consider the parties good conduct, Tarro v. Tarro 485 A. 2d 558 561 (RI 1984). Based on the case law, it is also important for clients to understand that bad conduct by itself cannot warrant an alimony award.

Alimony can be “fixed” and “non-modifiable” or it can be modifiable in the future. One advantage of negotiating an alimony agreement is to fix it as to both parties so that they do not have to face an attempt to modify the alimony award in the future, up or down, as the case may be.

You should consult a family law attorney if you have questions about whether you would be entitled to alimony, or whether you might be required to pay your spouse alimony if you become divorced.