Alimony in RI: Financial Support for Dependent Spouses

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By Divorce & Finance

Alimony in ri alimony agreementAlimony in RI is any payment that one spouse may be ordered or agree to pay to their spouse in the event of a divorce or legal separation. In Rhode Island, spousal maintenance can be temporary or may continue indefinitely, depending on the spouses’ situation.

This article highlights the factors that judges consider before awarding alimony and how alimony may be terminated. Also, we provide answers to some of the most asked questions regarding alimony in the state.

How To Calculate Spousal Support Rhode Island

To calculate alimony in RI, a judge will first consider whether the other spouse is able to pay alimony. If they are able to pay, the judge will consider a number of factors that will determine the amount of alimony. Otherwise, the judge may not order the other spouse to pay alimony.

– Amount of Alimony

After determining that one spouse is in need of spousal support and that the other can pay, the judge will go ahead and determine how much alimony to award. There is no predefined formula for calculating maintenance in Rhode Island – the amount to be paid or received depends on your case.

Each divorce case is different, and a judge will consider the following factors in determining how much alimony to award:

  • How long did the marriage last? Generally, Rhode Island courts may be reluctant to award spousal support where a marriage lasted less than ten years (unless the situation dictates otherwise).
  • What was the cause of divorce? RI is a no-fault divorce state, but the fault is considered when determining and calculating alimony. If the requesting spouse was at fault for the divorce due to infidelity, the judge may order that no maintenance should be paid.
  • What did you contribute to the marriage? If you entered the marriage with plenty of assets and your partner stayed at home to care for the children, you may have to pay a substantial amount of alimony. The court will also consider whether you supported your spouse’s education.
  • How much do you and your spouse earn? If you earn enough to support your spouse, the judge will determine how much is enough for the reasonable needs of your spouse.
  • What was your marital conduct, and what living standard did you establish during your marriage?
  • Has the supporting spouse also been ordered to pay child support? If that is the case, the judge will likely reduce the amount of Rhode Island spousal maintenance to be paid.

– Duration of Alimony

Spouses may agree on the amount and duration of alimony if they settle their divorce or separation through a settlement agreement. If the divorce case goes to court, the judge will consider various factors to determine the duration of alimony. Generally, the factors considered in deciding the amount of alimony are considered when determining the duration of alimony.

If a judge orders rehabilitative alimony, they will likely order it to continue for a duration that is deemed sufficient for the supported spouse to become self-supporting.

When the court awards permanent alimony, the judge doesn’t put an end date to the award. This means that spousal support continues indefinitely or until it is modified or terminated by the court.

How To Pay Alimony in RI

In most cases, courts order payments for alimony to be periodic. This means that the supporting spouse pays a given sum to the recipient after a specified period, say a month or three months.

Rhode Island alimony laws allow courts to issue an income withholding order when giving the alimony order. This order requires the supporting spouse’s employer to withhold a portion of their paycheck and forward it to the receiving spouse.

In some cases, the judge may order a lump sum payment if it is in the best interest of both spouses. This means that the supporting spouse makes one payment that covers the total amount of support the recipient would have received over time.

A lump-sum payment, often referred to as a buyout, prevents the modification of alimony in the future. The recipient spouse does not have to worry about losing alimony if they remarry, get a job, or if the supporting spouse endures financial hardship following an involuntary job loss or sickness.

Rhode Island divorce laws also allow courts to order the supporting spouse to transfer title to the real or personal property instead of issuing an alimony award. However, this method of alimony payment is rare.

How To Avoid Paying Alimony in Rhode Island

The supporting spouse can avoid paying alimony by petitioning the court to modify or terminate the initial order. The court may consider modifying or terminating alimony if the requesting spouse proves that there have been significant changes in circumstance since the last order.

– Modification of Alimony

Either spouse can request the court to modify alimony. However, the requesting spouse must show that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the initial alimony order.

A judge may consider modifying alimony if the paying spouse involuntarily loses a job, suffers a disability, or loses their ability to pay alimony.

The court can also modify the alimony order if the recipient becomes self-supporting sooner than the order requires.

– Termination of Alimony

Like in the case of modification of alimony, either spouse may petition the court to terminate alimony. Normally, alimony in RI terminates upon the death of either spouse or remarriage of the recipient spouse.

If the court-ordered temporary spousal support, it would terminate upon the expiry of the set duration or if the recipient spouse attains financial independence. This type of alimony may also terminate upon the final divorce decree unless the court finds a reason to extend the award.

Where rehabilitative spousal support is awarded, alimony may terminate if the court evaluates the recipient spouse’s needs and establishes that they have become self-sufficient.


– How Is Alimony Calculated in RI?

In addition to the factors mentioned above, a judge may consider the following factors to determine the amount of alimony:

  • The age, station, and health of each spouse.
  • Each spouse’s amount and sources of income.
  • Each spouse’s employability and vocational skills.
  • The needs and liabilities of each spouse.
  • Whether the requesting spouse spent time away from work to fulfill responsibilities as a homemaker.
  • The extent to which the skills, education, or experience of such a spouse are outdated and their earning capacity reduced.
  • Whether either spouse may receive assets through property division.
  • The probability of the supported spouse, given their age and skills, to complete education or job training and attain financial independence.
  • Any other factor the court considers reasonable.

– Is It Possible to Enforce Alimony Payments in Rhodes Island?

It is not uncommon for payor spouses to fall behind on support payments. This often happens if the paying spouse involuntarily loses a job or suffers a medical problem that interferes with their ability to work. In some cases, the paying spouse simply gets tired of making alimony payments.

Whatever the case, alimony laws in Rhode Island provide ways to enforce alimony payments. If your ex-spouse isn’t making payments as ordered by the court, try to find out the reason. If they have a genuine reason that makes them incapable of making payments, you could agree to reduce or suspend payments until things get better.

However, if your ex-spouse is simply avoiding their obligation to pay alimony, you can ask the court to intervene. Below are some remedies or ways in which courts may enforce alimony payment.

– Contempt of Court

A paying spouse who willfully disobeys a court order to pay spousal support may be held in contempt of court. An individual who is held in contempt will be ordered to pay overdue alimony and probably an additional fine. If the spouse continues to defy the order, they may be slapped with jail time.

– Income Withholding

If the court didn’t issue an income withholding order in the original alimony order, it could be an option if the paying spouse is no longer making payments as ordered. Income withholding orders work best with employed individuals as employers take a portion of their monthly income and remit it directly to the recipient spouse.

However, this could be challenging if the paying spouse is self-employed or unemployed spouses. Setting up a trust account could be an option if the paying spouse is self-employed, which would ensure that you get funds even if the payor spouse doesn’t make alimony payments on time.

Where the paying spouse is willfully unemployed, you can ask the court to order them to look for a job and set aside some income for alimony based on their earning capacity.

– Writ of Execution

Courts in Rhode Island may award the recipient spouse a portion of the other spouse’s assets, including bank accounts, if they owe a substantial amount of alimony.

– Judgment and Interest

Where a substantial amount of unpaid alimony is involved, the court may issue a money judgment against the paying spouse upon petition. This would be for the amount owed, plus the interest. If your spouse owes you a large amount of support, you can take legal action against them to enforce alimony.


Alimony in RI is awarded to help a dependent spouse become self-supporting. Whether alimony is court-ordered or agreed upon by spouses, there are important aspects of alimony you should always keep in mind if you are contemplating divorce. This article has covered the eligibility for alimony, payment, modification, and termination of alimony in RI. Below is a rundown on this discussion:

  • Alimony in ri tipsCourts in Rhode Island may order temporary, rehabilitative, or permanent alimony.
  • Regardless of the type of alimony, support will almost always terminate upon remarriage of the recipient spouse or death of either spouse.
  • Either spouse can petition the court to modify or terminate alimony if they can demonstrate significant changes in circumstances since the original order.
  • Courts will most likely order periodic payments of alimony – payor spouses will likely make monthly alimony payments.

If your spouse falls behind on alimony payments, try to find out the reason for the delayed payment. If their ability to pay has been diminished by an involuntary job or medical condition, you can come to an agreement to suspend or reduce the amount of alimony. If you are not sure of how to go about the situation, it is advisable that you speak to a RI divorce attorney.

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