Jurisdictions across the United States have different laws and traditions concerning how property is divided during a divorce. Generally, judges are not required to follow any strict formula for property division; however, the guidelines and laws offer factors for courts to consider in awarding property to each spouse. Rhode Island courts divide marital property using the doctrine equitable distribution, meaning a court divides marital property in a fair and equitable manner between the spouses, taking several factors into account to determine the equitable distribution for each spouse.
The division of marital property in Rhode Island is governed by state law, codified under R.I. GEN. LAWS § 15-5-16.1, which lists several factors for judges to consider in property division. These factors include the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, contributions from each party to the marital estate, the contributions of each party as a homemaker, the occupation and employability of each party, and the best interests of any children shared by the parties, among others factors.
In evaluating the conduct of the parties during the marriage, courts are allowed to consider any infidelity or abuse in making an equitable distribution of the marital assets. Additionally, financial misconduct by either party (wasteful dissipation of assets or hiding or encumbering assets in anticipation of divorce without equitable consideration) can be grounds for awarding more property to the other spouse.