How do I start a Rhode Island divorce proceeding?

Divorce_womanQUESTION:  How do I start a Rhode Island Divorce?

ANSWER: First, let me say that personally and professionally that with I've learned in my almost 20 years practicing divorce in Rhode Island I do not recommend filing your own divorce. In the very least you should get legal coaching/advice from a lawyer who regularly practices Rhode Island divorce before you fill out and file the paperwork.  Every divorce is not the same, no matter how simple you may think it is.  The court clerk's office will provide you fill in the blank forms and they may give you samples of how other family court litigants might fill them out.  They may even give you general questions to give you an idea of what a judge might be interested in knowing at the time of your divorce hearing.  However, every (and I do mean "every") divorce is different and no form is a substitute for legal advice. The forms provided by the courts are intended to follow the minimal guidelines provided by law.  They are not intended to protect your rights nor should you expect to receive instructions on what to fill in to make sure your rights are protected.  It is the obligation of each person or their attorney to protect your rights by filling in the form or even by modifying the form if necessary with the correct legal terms so that your rights are properly protected.

To start a divorce proceeding you need to get what I call a "divorce filing packet" from the Rhode Island family court.  You can get the documents that comprise this packet at the domestic clerk's office. This packet consists of the following documents.

1.  Civil Case Cover Sheet;

2.  Complaint for Divorce/Complaint for Divorce from Bed and Board;

3.  Statement Listing Children;

4.  DR-6 Financial Statement of Assets, Liabilities, Income, and Expenses; and

5.  Four (4) Language Notices - English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Cambodian

To start your divorce, you fill out the foregoing documents and file them with the Domestic Relations Clerk's Office in the Rhode Island family court in the county where the Defendant resides within the state. If the Defendant does not reside in Rhode Island, then you file in the family court in the county where you reside, provided you have been a resident and continuously domiciled inhabitant of the State of Rhode Island for at least one year before you file.

When these documents are filed correctly with the family court you will pay a mandatory court filing fee which may include a technology surcharge which currently amounts to $145.32 as of March 11, 2019.

Upon filing, you must check back with the court to find out if your filing has been accepted.  Once accepted, the court generates a Summons with Proof of Service and Notice of Automatic Orders.  You then must arrange to make proper due process service on the Defendant pursuant to Rhode Island law and the Rhode Island Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure. Service requirements vary depending upon whether the defendant is within Rhode Island, in another state, in another country or in the military.

Generally speaking, this is how a divorce proceeding or a legal separation proceeding is started in Rhode Island as of March 11, 2019.


What factors does a Rhode Island family court judge consider when a parent wants to relocate with a minor child?

RelocationA relocation case in the Rhode Island family court typically occurs when one parent who either has primary physical placement or joint physical placement of one or more minor children wants to relocate with that minor child outside the state.

Relocation cases are very often opposed and a fair number of them go to trial unless you can reach an agreement or accommodation with the non-relocating parent as to how and when they will have visitation or parenting time with the minor child or children and how transportation might be arranged, etc..  In joint physical placement cases where each parent has the minor child or children 50% of the time, if the relocation is a significant distance such that their can no longer be joint physical placement, then often times a trial is inevitable.

During a trial both sides present evidence regarding the children, the family, schooling, relationships, etc.. that typically fall into the factors set forth by the RI Supreme Court in Dupre v. Dupre, 857 A.2d 242, 257-60 (R.I. 2004) that judges must consider in relocation cases.

The relocation factors judges must consider are as follows:

1.  The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with the parent proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating parent.

2.  The reasonable likelihood that the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the child and the parent seeking the relocation, including, but not limited to, economic and emotional benefits, and educational opportunities.

3.  The probable impact that the relocation will have on the child's physical, educational and emotional development. Any special needs of the child should also be taken into account in considering this factor.

4.  The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.

5.  The existence of extended family or other support systems available to the child in both locations.

6.  Each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation.

7.  In cases of international relocation, the question of whether the country to which the child is to be relocated is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction will be an important consideration.

8.  To the extent that they may be relevant to the relocation inquiry, the Pettinato factors [1] will also be significant. 

Typically relocation cannot be for a frivolous purpose or to deprive the other parent of their placement or visitation rights.  Ultimately the court will look so see where, how and why the relocation is taking place and what its anticipated affect is on the child and parents as well as extended family relationships and support systems.

Since relocation almost invariably relates to the best interests of the minor child, the parent seeking to relocate and the non-relocating parent should also consider and present evidence to the court how the relocation will affect the best interests of the child as set forth in Pettinato to the extent that the Dupre relocation factors do not already address those best interests.

[1] Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909 (R.I. 1990) (Sets forth for the seven (7) though non-exhaustive list of factors that must be weighed when determining the best interests of the minor child.)

 

 

 


My spouse died during our Rhode Island divorce, what happens to the divorce proceeding?

Death_during_divorceQUESTION: I filed for divorce from my spouse. We each had lawyers.  We settled the case.  Our attorneys wrote the agreement up in a Property Settlement Agreement that we signed and submitted to the court at our divorce hearing.   Just before the three (3) month waiting period ended for the Final Judgment of Divorce to enter, my spouse died.  What happens to my divorce proceeding?

ANSWER:  The currently governing case in Rhode Island is Centazzo v. Centazzo, 556 A.2d 560 (RI 1989).  In Centazzo the RI Supreme Court ruled that divorce is a personal cause of action and therefore it terminates on the death of one of the parties. "Thus if an action for divorce is commenced and one of the spouses dies before the entry of the final judgment, the divorce action abates." Id. at 562.

In Centazzo the court ruled that the divorce action abated on June 25, 1986, the date Alice Centazzo died.

Therefore, upon the death of your spouse, the divorce proceeding ends on the date of death and you become a widow/widower.  Unless issues remain to be addressed by the court in order to properly close the case, the case will usually closed by the court upon notice of the death of the spouse along with the death certificate.

It is always best to sit down for an advice session with a competent and experienced family law attorney in the state in which you have your issue before taking any kind of action.

For people within the State of Rhode Island, feel free to call me to set up your comprehensive low-cost flat fee legal advice session. Know what your options are before you act.

Call today and be on your way to getting the answer you need!  (401) 632-6976