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Rhode Island and Same Sex Divorce

It’s a great question. Does divorce follow the same proceedings for same sex couples as it does for heterosexual relationships?  I covered this topic a few years ago following the legalization of same sex marriage here in Rhode Island.

 When same-sex marriage became legal in Rhode Island on August 1, 2013, so did same-sex divorce. Although same-sex couples have the same legal protections now as heterosexual couples, they do confront special concerns during divorce.

Same-sex couples who are considering flying into Rhode Island now for a “quickie” wedding should realize that there is no “quickie” divorce option. Rhode Island also has a one-year residency requirement for divorces.

Following are some of the same-sex divorce issues that couples could face:

  • Property division. Sorting out what is “mine, yours or ours” gets very complicated. Same-sex couples who marry after having been together for many years often bring significant assets into their marriage. Property acquired during marriage is divided equitably in a Rhode Island divorce but property acquired before the marriage is not. Property used for the benefit of the marriage or shared with the other spouse, even if it started out as separate property, may be considered marital property. Non-marital property that was not jointly held or commingled with other marital assets does not get divided.
  • Child custody. In heterosexual marriage, both parents tend to be the child’s biological parents. For same-sex couples, only one spouse is the biological parent. Therefore, to establish parental rights, the non-biological parent must adopt the child. Non-biological parents who did not legally adopt their children risk losing custody through divorce. If it is true that courts favor the mother, what happens in situations with two mothers?
  • Debt Obligations. Under Rhode Island law, spouses are responsible for their spouse’s debts such as medical bills, rent and the purchases of items that support the family or benefit the couple.


Every relationship presents situations unique to those individuals. The knowledgeable and experienced family law attorneys at Kirshenbaum Law Associates guide same-sex couples through the complications of divorce, helping them to protect their personal interests. Contact us today to discuss your individual situation.