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March 2007

Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers: Modifying Rhode Island Child Support!

In Rhode Island, child support is most typically a monetary amount of money that is paid by the parent having visitation with the child or children.  It is an amount that the court deems the child(ren) is entitled to from both parents for the child's support.  The parent having visitation is then generally ordered to pay his or her percentage share of the total support amount that is calculated to be due to the child(ren) based upon that parent's percentage of his or her income to the combined gross income of both parents of the child.

* * * How is Rhode Island Child Support calculated?  * * *

Rhode Island Child Support is set pursuant to the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines with adjustments by the Rhode Island Family Court judge as provided in the guidelines or within the Judge's discretion as allowed by law since the Rhode Island Child support guidelines could never anticipate every factual set of circumstances under which adjustments should be made.

* * * When are Motions to Modify your Child Support typically filed?  * * *

A Motion to Modify a Child Support obligation is typically filed with the Rhode Island Family Court when there is a "substantial change in circumstances".  Generally speaking a substantial change in circumstances occur when the combined gross income of the parents of the child has changed by 10% from the time when the Rhode Island Family Court last entered an order for child support.

* * * What events can cause a 10% "substantial change in circumstances?" * * *

1.  Loss of a job or layoff
2.  Loss of paid medical benefits through your employer
3.  Hospitalizations
4.  New job that pays more money or less money
5.  Birth of a new child to either parent
6.  Discontinued overtime from your employer
7.  Child is working and contributing to the placement household
8.  Unemployment
9.  Out on TDI or are hospitalized
10. Any other circumstance that causes a change of at least 10% in the combined gross income of both parents

Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer: Overtime May Affect Your Rhode Island Child Support!

Who Pays Child Support?

In a Rhode Island divorce proceeding the parent that the child or children does not live with (the “non-placement parent”) should anticipate paying child support.

What is Rhode Island Child Support?

Rhode Island Child Support is typically an amount of money that the court orders the parent the children do not live with (the “non-placement parent”) to pay to the parent the child(ren) lives with ( the “placement parent”) the for the care, support and maintenance of the minor child(dren).

How is Rhode Island Child Support calculated?

For the purposes of this article it is necessary to understand that Rhode Island Child Support is based upon the gross incomes of both parents.

Though Rhode Island Child Support can and often is, somewhat complicated to calculate, the foundation of a basic calculation to arrive at a recommended minimum order involves taking the combined gross monthly income of the parents and applying it to the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines table.   Using the combined gross monthly income of the parents together with the number of children on the Child Support Table, a proposed minimum amount of support that the child(ren) are entitled to each month is provided by the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines table / chart.

You should note that there are both mandatory and optional deductions that may be made from a parent’s gross monthly income if certain criteria are met.  This section is not an all inclusive explanation of how child support is figured in every instance, rather it is an overall view of a basic calculation assuming no other deductions.

When do the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines provide for support increases?

Of course it stands to reason that the higher the combined gross income of the parents, the higher the child(dren)’s standard of living and thus the higher the total child support the children are entitled to on a monthly basis.   Therefore the total child support obligation the child(dren) is entitled to on a monthly basis will go up incrementally as the combined gross income of the child’s parents goes up.

Each parent, however, is typically held responsible for his or her percentage of the monthly child support obligation for both parents that his income is to the total.  Thus, if you make $3,700 per month and your spouse makes $6,300 per month, then your total combined gross monthly income is $10,000 per month. 

A quick calculation shows that you make 37% of that total income and your spouse makes the other 63%.    Therefore, whatever the total child support is for your child according to the guidelines, the non-placement parent will pay his or her percentage multiplied by the total child support.  (i.e.  If the child support monthly total is $1,000 and you are the non-placement parent you would pay child support of $370 per month).

How is overtime pay factored into Rhode Island Child Support?

A strict reading of the Rhode Island Child Support guidelines demonstrates that overtime is not required to be considered by the court in the gross income of a party.  However, that does not mean that it is not considered.

Overtime is a factor left to the discretion of the judge handling your case.  Therefore, it may or may not be considered based upon the circumstances of your case or the judge hearing your case.

However, if you have consistently worked overtime, have used the overtime pay to provide for your children, and your matter is heard before a judge who believes that all or a portion of overtime should be considered, you can expect that your child support is likely to be higher than those who do not work overtime.

Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer: Orders to Heed - Part 1

One tip your Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer may overlook is advising you in advance of filing a complaint for divorce is explaining to you the Rhode Island Family Court's Automatic Orders.

Automatic Orders - What are they?

Automatic Orders are just that, Orders of the Court carrying the full authority of law that apply to every divorce case filed in the Rhode Island Family Courts. The Automatic Orders are contained in an official form called, not surprisingly, Automatic Orders, that must be served upon the Defendant with the Plaintiff's Rhode Island Divorce Complaint, Summons and other accompanying documents that depend upon the factual circumstances of your specific case.

Who is bound by the Automatic Orders in a Rhode Island Divorce case?

Both the plaintiff and defendant (thus, both spouses) in a Rhode Island Divorce are bound by the Rhode Island Family Court's Automatic Orders.

What is the purpose of the Automatic Orders in a Rhode Island Divorce case?

There is no specifically stated purpose for the Automatic Orders of the Rhode Island Family court that anyone could direct you to and Rhode Island attorneys practicing in the area of divorce and family law may differ slightly about the phrasing of the purpose of the Automatic Orders, yet I believe the general principle can be summed up as "status quo".

The Automatic Orders substantially prohibit any significant changes in financial circumstances by either party, at least to the extent that such changes are in the party's control.  For example, neither party may change beneficiaries on life insurance policies or transfer or encumber property that is owned either individually or jointly.

The consistent statement and argument that I have heard used most both by Rhode Island divorce and family law attorneys is that the purpose of the court's Automatic Orders is generally to preserve the status quo between the parties.

Ultimately, the court doesn't want the parties playing games with the finances or items such as insurances, etc... that may adversely affect the other spouse during the divorce proceeding and therefore, unless the Automatic Orders are specifically modified by a motion presented to, and granted by the family court, the best rule of thumb is to continue managing all financial, asset and debt matters as it had been the parties' practice to do during the course of the marriage.

Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers - Caring is not Fundamental. It's CRUCIAL!

When it comes to your Rhode Island Divorce, the selection of a Rhode Island Divorce lawyer that is right for you is not simply fundamental, it is CRUCIAL!

It's easy for your divorce to frustrate you in such a way that you "just want it over".  That's a typical mindset for most people facing divorce.  Yet people still have this instinctual need to want to make sure they have their interests protected.

So what do people do?  They look up divorce, lawyers or attorneys in the yellow pages and they start calling.  Most people will try to find one that has a free consultation first and foremost because they don't want to spend a dime on a person who may not tell them anything.  Divorce lawyers who offer free consultations may or may not tell you anything that will help you.  The latter is more likely but that is a blog article for another day on Rhode Island Divorce Tips.

Divorce lawyers shopping is far from enjoyable but it's important.  There are ways to go about it that will make it easier.  I will address those in another blog posting as well.

In my opinion as a Rhode Island lawyer who has chosen to focus my practice in the area of divorce and family law, as well as a man who tried to consult with attorneys before I went through my own divorce, I have come to one conclusion that I firmly believe.  If you don't engage an attorney who cares about people and who cares specifically about you and your case, then you've chosen the wrong divorce lawyer.

That's right.  It's my opinion that CARING is the biggest factor to be considered when hiring your Rhode Island Divorce or Family Law Attorney.

Why?    Think about it!  In fact, think about people in general and how they think.

Hey, let's start with YOU!

When you care about something . . . your child, your wife, your career, your investments, your car or motorcycle, etc. . .    What do you do?  What do you think about?

When you care about something such that it means something to you don't you do what you can to take care of it . . .  improve it . . .  work hard for it . . .  protect it . . . and sometimes even die for it!  That's exactly what you do!  That's exactly what everyone does because that is human nature.

We take care of the things and people that we care about.  We don't throw them to the side and ignore them.  We don't abuse them.  We don't destroy them.

Human nature is such that we as people do the most we can based upon how much we care about that thing.  When people care they will move mountains for the things and people they care about.

So why is caring important?  That's the answer.

If you have an attorney who truly cares about you and your case as I do for my clients, their cases and their assets, you do whatever you can to take care of them. 

Sure any attorney will still do what is necessary to insure that he or she will get paid some kind of fee for the work being done for you because that's that divorce or family lawyer's livelihood... without that he or she just doesn't survive.

Yet when you find a caring attorney it's not about the amount of the fee . . . it's about YOU.  It's about caring about YOUR LIFE, and YOUR ASSETS and doing what is necessary TO HELP YOU get through the turmoil, sometimes at the expense of the attorney's personal time or at his or her expense.

We're out there.  Some of us care and we're here to help you without charging you the $300+ an hour that some attorneys think you need to pay them.

Look for the caring attorney and my bet is that you'll be better off every time.

Rhode Island Divorce: Women Can Hurt Their Own divorce!

As a Rhode Island lawyer, I focus my practice on divorce and family law and I can tell you that I see this kind of thing all the time though I refuse to partake in it.  Some women who feel scorned however will use any information they receive from friends, family, lawyers, etc... to exact any amount of pain and or retribution they can from their spouse regardless of the consequences to their actions to their spouse, to their spouse's family, to their children and sometimes even surprisingly to themselves.

Since I like using analogies and stories that I have seen in practice, a practical example here will help.

Pam's relationship with her husband Jerry has broken down.  She isn't quite sure why although the tell-tale signs seem to be there.  He is frequently working late.  When he comes home there is little or no communication between him and his wife.  Usually, he doesn't stay home long but leaves to go do something or claims (at the age of 48 to be going out to play Dungeons & Dragons with his group of buddies).  Yes, some true stories are odder than fiction.  Jerry, however, seems to have some strange fetish for Pam's oldest daughter Casey who is 31 years old and lives the next town over because he is always going over to see her.  Or. . . at least this is what Pam discovers later on.

Pam sees the marriage breaking down and she can't live like this anymore so she tells Jerry.  Jerry immediately moves out, takes a few of his choicest possessions and goes to stay with his mom and dad for a bit.  Pam suspects that something is going on but isn't sure what.

The police show up at Pam's doorstep not long after and ask if she has any knowledge about Jerry's activities.  Pam is confused.  The police officer's badge says "Narcotics Division".  Pam is worried.  After a few questions, Pam learns they are looking into Jerry and his possible sales of heroin to minors.  Pam is aware that her daughter Casey once had some issues with drugs in her early years.

Pam is very upset and speaks with Casey who tells her mother that she is addicted to heroin and that her husband Jerry is not only an addict but has also been dealing heroin for more than a year.

Pam speaks with her Rhode Island divorce lawyer who indicates to her that since Jerry still has a good job then she has the opportunity to get alimony through her divorce but that her claim may now be at risk because of Jerry's activities. 

Pam says that she wants all the assets because Jerry is dealing drugs even though she has no proof that Jerry is a dealer or is even addicted.

Pam asks her lawyer about what happens to alimony if Jerry goes to jail.  Pam's divorce lawyer simply asks her a question.

Lawyer:  Pam,  Do you think he can pay you any alimony if he is in jail?  

Pam:  No.

Lawyer:  Then do you think it's in your best interests to have Jerry put in jail when you are making a claim for alimony?

Pam:  No.

Pam is very upset and now believes that the drugs are the reason for the divorce.  She is furious and lets the narcotics officers search the house and gather any information they want on Jerry.  Pam becomes an informant for them on Jerry's activities and wants to prove how bad Jerry is, make him regret he ever did this and have him pay for life.

Jerry is arrested and is caught red-handed with enough drugs to float a barge.  Jerry is held without bail and the district attorney isn't offering any deals.  There is virtually no doubt that Jerry will be going to prison for quite some time thanks to Pam's assistance.

Pam feels vindicated.  Pam now wants all the assets and for him to pay alimony.

Jerry has lost his job and whatever money he has made has either been spent or disappeared.

Jerry has no ability to pay alimony in the eyes of the court, but after a conference with counsel and the family court judge it's the consensus that since the drugs did not affect the value of the existing assets that Jerry is still entitled to a portion of them even if Pam should receive a bit more because Jerry has been supporting her for more than 10 years.

Pam is outraged.  Her attorney gets her about 80% of the assets in a settlement.  Pam is upset because it just isn't enough in her eyes.

Pam dug a whole here.  Her anger and her desire to get retribution for a horrible wrong that the wanted to put right caused Jerry to end up in jail sooner than he might have.  Pam's cooperation and action with the law enforcement authorities could have been delayed until her divorce was completed or might have provided her with leverage against her husband to get 100% of the assets.

There are lots of pitfalls here and lots of things to consider.  The point here is that Pam took action that was clearly detrimental to her divorce claims.  Parties who go to trial rarely, if ever, get 100% of the marital assets awarded by a judge.  The more realistic number is 60% if there is wrongdoing involved by one party.

Pam was not happy even though she should be.  She got more in the divorce than the vast majority of all women who go through the Rhode Island Divorce process.  The chances that Pam might have received more are very slim.

However, if there was any chance to get more than 80% of the assets from the marital estate it was lost when Pam ensured that Jerry went to jail before her divorce was completed.  Pam lost site of her own financial best interests in order to feel vindicated.

This is not uncommon for this to occur with a man or a woman yet I see it more frequently with women who feel wronged in a marriage.

Rule of thumb would be to listen to your divorce lawyer.  You can't expect to get the results you hope to achieve if you act against your own best interests and then expect your lawyer to repair the damage you've done and get you what you want in the end.