What are the most common forms of divorce and how you help make the process easier?

The most common form is the divorce complaint and what’s called the DR6. The divorce complaint is rather straight forward but the DR6 is not. The DR6 is an income and expense picture of the individual asking questions like: What’s your income? What are your expenses? What are your assets? This form requires a lot of background information in looking at pay stubs, looking at property evaluation, statements of account and so on.

What I ask the client to do is at the first interview I have them bring me the latest account information that they have, and then, we basically show them how to read their own statements. It’s amazing how many parties don’t even understand how to read say an IRA statement or a mortgage statement or an appraisal, and so I think we have educated a lot of parties along the way in how to do that.

What are the grounds for divorce in Rhode Island?

You’ve got irreconcilable differences, which is basically a ‘no fault’ situation and then you have your ‘fault grounds’ which include infidelity, physical or emotional abuse and abandonment. However, the most common one is irreconcilable differences. Living in apart for more than three years is another one.

What are common obstacles someone might have if their divorce is contested?

There are two ways to contest a divorce. One is just being difficult, not being willing to agree to anything, where you’ve got one spouse who either doesn’t want the divorce or hates the idea that you’ve moved on. Usually this is a controlling spouse who doesn’t like the fact that the other spouse has finally founded in her, or him, to file. This happens a lot; they make it difficult, or contested, by just refusing to do things, or promise to do things and don’t do them. It might be showing up to pick up the kids, not showing up to get them, agreeing to pay a bill and then not pay it, agreeing to pay child support, and then not pay it.

So a common challenge is managing the other party through your own client – which can be very difficult sometimes. Another obstacle is when you have a wealthy marital estate and a lot of experts may be needed to evaluate accounts and properties. Oftentimes you have ‘dueling experts’ and these can create obstacles in a contested divorce.

Is it possible to dissolve a marital status before a final agreement is reached? Such as finances, child custody, property division things like that?

Well you certainly can – you can do whatever it is you want. What I often tell clients is ‘it’s your marriage, it’s your family’. They can control what they want to do in terms of who takes what, titling things over, and, basically, you can part ways and have an agreement without ever having to file for a divorce. It’s not recommended, but theoretically you can do that.

I often tell my clients: either you control your divorce, or you have a judge control your divorce. The judge is meeting you for the first time that day, or maybe they’ve come across you by a couple of motions here or there previously, but they don’t know you, they don’t know your life, they don’t really know what your day to day happenings are.

So to leave it to a judge is always risky, but to get back to your question, is it possible to dissolve a marital status before a final agreement is reached. You could separate but not divorce – you just file the complaint called ‘living separate and apart’. You work out an agreement as to who’s going to pay what bill, and who’s going to own what, and then just live separate and apart without ever getting a final judgment of divorce.

What is divorce mediation and how can it help in this type of situation?

In Rhode Island there are two ways for people to handle divorce mediation. There are a lot of attorneys who market themselves as being divorce mediators. What they do is they attract couples who are contemplating divorce (before they actually file for the divorce), and they sit down with the couple and have the couple themselves come to an agreement as to the division of their assets and liabilities.

Sometimes this is very effective because it goes back to allowing the parties to control their own divorce destiny. They reach an agreement, reduce it to writing, and the mediator prepares what’s called a ‘memorandum of understanding’. Throughout the process the mediator helps the parties get through the emotional side of things by having them focus early on, on what matters – and that is:

  • What are we doing to with the kids?
  • How are we going to divide our assets?
  • Who’s going to live in the house and who is not?
  • Who’s moving out and so on?

The mediator steps out once he or she is successful in getting the clients to reach a ‘memorandum of understanding’. That document then is either submitted to an attorney, who then helps the parties, or one of the parties, file the actual divorce papers, goes to court with them, and asks that the judge approves their mediation statement.

The other divorce mediation comes in the form of the court and any miscellaneous petition that’s filed.

If you’re not married, but you happen to share a child together, you’re usually asking because now you’re broken up as a couple but you seek assistance from the court regarding custody, visitation, or support for that child because now that the other biological parent is not in your life anymore. The court will have a court-appointed mediator sit with the parties to see if they can work through a custody visitation/child support arrangement, or agreement, and then have the court or a judge approve it.

So there are two forms of mediation that are followed in Rhode Island.

What are specific reasons I need an attorney to help me with my divorce?

  • Evaluating a marital estate
  • Contemplating tax consequences
  • Child support guidelines – There is a guideline that the court follows and there are a few intricacies regarding that guideline. There is a worksheet plus a guideline and it’s a floor amount not a ceiling amount and that’s something else to know. When does child support end at what age? Which is not only 18.
  • Experts to Evaluate assets – Helping you find experts to evaluate the assets and liabilities.
  • Business experts and shareholders – Business experts if there is a business a family business or companies involved shareholders of a company how do you evaluate those business evaluations.

Can a divorce be expedited if a spouse is being uncooperative?

No. You can’t stop a divorce. So even if a spouse is being uncooperative you will get divorced, but an uncooperative spouse just makes you go from point A to point B through A1, A2, A3, A4 you just have a lot more steps on the way, but ultimately you do get to divorce. But you cannot expedite it, no.

Can we use one attorney for both parties in a divorce?

  1. An attorney in Rhode Island can only represent one party’s interest. To represent both would create a conflict of interest. Sometimes only one attorney is involved in the divorce, in fact I had one this morning. I was in court representing the wife, and the husband participated without counsel. He was there on what’s called ‘pro se’ meaning he’s representing himself. I certainly had conversations with him, but he understood that I had my client’s best interest in mind, not his, and the court made him understand that as well, on the record, when we put the divorce through. So you cannot represent both parties in the divorce action due to a conflict of interest.

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

A legal separation means the parties are agreed in writing to live separate and apart from each other and, usually, who pays what bill, and how that family unit is managed is reduced to writing. A divorce is also a written agreement on how you know the family unit is going to be managed going forward, but the difference is that you can remarry after divorce – you can’t after legal separation.

Why should one hire your firm for a divorce?

Experience, compassion, attentiveness – for all of our clients. We’re accessible; we return phone calls morning, noon and night and our cell phones are on our business cards. We are very knowledgeable and experienced in matters of divorce and separation and are dedicated to helping any individual through the tedious legal process so they can move on with their lives.

Martineau Davis & Associates is committed to aggressive advocacy for our clients while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards. Contact us at 401-234-0751.

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