Petitioners, husband, and wife filed cross-petitions for legal separation rather than an absolute divorce where the matrimonial bonds are completely broken. The Family Court dismissed both petitions because the husband’s stated reason for seeking legal separation was “irreconcilable differences.” The text of the statute ordaining legal separation seemed to require that it be an interim measure pending the reconciliation of the parties. Legal separation because of irreconcilable differences therefore, on its face, seemed to be an inconsistent proposition. The issue on appeal was whether irreconcilable differences could be grounds for a merely legal separation rather than an absolute divorce. The Supreme Court of Rhode Island ruled that based on the history of legal separation and legislative intent, a party can seek legal separation based on irreconcilable differences without needing to show that there is a possibility of reconciliation. Statutory text that seemed to contradict this ruling by requiring a show of a possibility for reconciliation was precatory but not mandatory.
Hamel v. Hamel