Legal Question in Family Law in Rhode Island

I have been served with a summons from a law firm representing my wife. She is seeking a divorce from bed and board. It seems to me that this would solve nothing and increase the time since there is no time limit on the papers. Our court date is April 2.

What are my alternatives?

Asked on 2/16/18, 1:34 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Staff General Counsel LawyersCollaborative

"The practice of granting divorces from bed and board originated in the English ecclesiastical courts, where it was known by the Latin term mensa et thoro. See Hamel v. Hamel, 426 A.2d 259, 260 (R.I.1981). This limited divorce was effectively a legal separation--it "authorized husband and wife to live apart but did not free them from the marital bond." The divorce from bed and board, while existing at common law in this state, was not enacted in statutory form in Rhode Island until 1896 (G.L.1896, ch. 195, ยง 8). See Hamel, 426 A.2d at 261." The above is from a Supreme Court opinion in Henderson v Henderson, 818 A.2d 669 (R.I. 2003).

Suggest you see an experienced family court lawyer.

Good luck,


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Answered on 2/16/18, 2:00 pm
Christopher Pearsall Law Office of Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire

Your wife has filed the equivalent of what is commonly referred to as a legal separation in Rhode Island. The process is virtually identical to an absolute divorce. However, in a Divorce from Bed and Board you remain married at the end of the proceeding. Typically a divorce from Bed and Board is used to preserve a benefit for your spouse such as a tax benefit or a health insurance benefit or another benefit that only exists by being married.

You asked your options. You can enter the proceeding (recommended with an attorney) and go forward with the legal separation. Or you can file a counterclaim for Divorce and the proceeding will essentially convert to one of an absolute divorce.

Legal annulments still exist under RI law but they are extremely rare and you can proceed only under certain circumstances that are beyond the scope of this question.

Another alternative is to ignore the divorce proceeding but that would be unwise as you would not have the ability to protect your legal rights regarding assets, debts, or children, etc..

You could possibly delay either proceeding but you could not stop it. Eventually absent a reconciliation between the parties, the legal matter will come to a conclusion either by agreement or by the decision of the court.

It is best to see the advice of an experienced family court lawyer in Rhode Island.

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Answered on 2/16/18, 7:04 pm

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