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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: Domestic Abuse Law

If you are a man going through a Rhode Island Divorce, are thinking about filing for Divorce in Rhode Island or if you are a man whose spouse thinks you are cheating on her, there is one set of laws you need to be aware of. . . those regarding the Protection from Abuse, namely the Rhode Island Domestic Violence Laws.

Some men go into a Rhode Island Divorce situation with their eyes wide open and knowing what their spouse is capable of.  There are other men, however, perhaps even a majority of men within the Rhode Island Divorce process who are totally clueless when it comes to their spouse and what a scorned woman might do with a little help from a lawyer who doesn't give a hoot about morality or simply has a different and even perhaps warped view of it.  Unfortunately, they are out there and there are far too many of them.

One example should be all it takes to convince any man to be on his or her guard.  Naturally, names and circumstances have been changed to protect anonymity.  This is, however, a scenario that I have run into in my last 18 years in the legal field.

Charlene and Bob are married and have a minor daughter, Brittany.  Bob meets an old college sweetheart, Courtney, and has coffee with her at a local coffee shop.  Bob isn't concerned about this meeting because it is just coffee and he is just reminiscing with an old friend.  Bob does nothing sexually or otherwise to lead Courtney on.  They simply just have a nice chat.  Bob has already been unhappy with his marriage for the past 6 years and as fate would have it he discovers that Courtney is still single and that she has wondered about him all these years.

Bob feels bad and tries to make things work with Charlene because his mind strays to how nice things might be with Courtney as opposed to being so unhappy with Charlene.  Bob decides to try to make things better in his marriage.  Unfortunately, a friend of Charlene's mentions to her that she saw Bob on a "date" with a woman he heard was Bob's "old flame".  That sets things off for Charlene and she confronts Bob and accuses him of cheating on her.  Bob denies it, tries to speak with her, she hurls a few profanities at Bob and he storms out for the evening.

The next week doesn't go too well and Bob decides to lighten up his week by having coffee again with Courtney after an evening fight with his wife.  Certainly not the best thing to do, but Bob doesn't believe he has done anything wrong and needs a friend to talk to.   This time when Bob gets home Charlene is waiting for him in the house.  She accuses him of cheating and begins striking him repeatedly in the house.  Brittany sees this and runs to her room to avoid the fight.  Bob makes his way outside to get away before things get out of control.

Charlene suspects that there is evidence of his infidelity in the truck and she begins screaming at Bob, pushes him out of the doorway of his truck and frantically throws papers and such in the air while screaming at the top of her lungs.  Bob just wants to get out of there because she is out of control and he's getting scared because he's never seen her like this.  Bob does the best he can to restrain his wife and pull her from his truck so he can get in and drive away.  All the while, Charlene is kicking and screaming. 

Somehow Charlene is not realizing that her little Rhode Island family is headed for a Rhode Island Judge, a Rhode Island Court and a Rhode Island divorce proceeding.  Yet I doubt at this point that anything was just going through Charlene's head except rage and emotion.

Anyway, Bob pulls her from the car and she continues to kick and scream.  She grabs Bob's shirt and rips the sleeve, kicks him, yells to Brittany to call the police and then takes her long fingernails and gouges Bob in the face.  Bob tries to get his keys from her and get in his truck to leave.  Charlene continues to kick and hit him while getting in between him and the door.

Bob is forced to pull her out of the door of the truck and push her away from it so he can get in.  When Bob pushes her away, she stumbles and falls to the ground.  Charlene starts to get up but then notices that the neighbors have just come out and are watching her and her daughter is at the window also watching her.

Charlene feigns that she has been terribly hurt and falls back to the ground instead of getting up and rolls around holding her head and her face.

A nearby neighbor runs to his shed and gets a large old-fashioned croquet mallet from his garage and starts running at Bob.  Bob gets in his truck and tries to pull away while the man with the croquet mallet is striking his truck, clearly having no idea what has happened.  Police sirens can be heard in the distance but the neighbor is still pounding on his truck with the mallet. 

Bob is scared to death because of the way his wife has reacted and because the neighbor has now tried to intervene in a matter that he clearly has no idea what has happened.  Bob drives away and calls an attorney for advice.  Meanwhile, the neighbor told what little he saw and Charlene has concocted a story about being struck on the head by Bob.   The police take photos of Charlene which show scratches to her face and a welt on her forehead that were not there when he drove away.  Bob later finds out from his daughter that the mother struck herself with a stone from the driveway just before the police showed up but she didn't want to "tell" on her mother.

The end result is saddening and maddening.  Bob is arrested for domestic violence and a no-contact order is issued.  Charlene's lawyer gets Bob ordered out of the house.  Charlene calls Bob and leaves an urgent message that their daughter is in trouble and says that he needs to call her back immediately.  When Bob calls back, Charlene has the police on the other end of the line who informs Bob that he had better turn himself in at the local police station because he is under arrest for violating the no-contact order.  Bob is arrested again.  Bob now has two criminal charges.  One for domestic abuse and the other for violation of the no-contact order, neither of which have any basis at all because it's all been concocted and set up by Charlene.  Bob is forced to pay all the household bills plus try to survive on his own.  When he goes to retrieve his clothes he is again alleged to have assaulted Charlene but there are no marks, no witnesses and Bob is confused because all he did was pick up his clothes left at the curb in a garbage bag.   The police do not pursue it this time. Bob has already filed for divorce at this point and there is no chance of reconciliation.  Sadly, Bob discovers that the few clothes he was given by Charlene are mixed with dog feces.

Bob stays with his sister for a bit but Charlene causes some problems for his sister so his sister asks him to leave.  Bob, with nowhere to go, has coffee again with Charlene who offers to take him in if he can help pay for the household expenses.  Bob accepts and in the divorce proceeding Charlene's attorney rants and raves about all the domestic violence and Bob's contempt for the court's order of no contact.  It's all a sham but the judge has bought into the scene just like the neighbor and the police.  With criminal charges pending and Charlene's word against Bob's word.  There is little Bob can do because he never expected that Charlene was the kind of person capable of such humiliating tactics.

By the end of the divorce proceeding, Bob gave up most of the assets.  He had been worn down by the criminal charges which resulted in a criminal record and all the false accusations that he could not directly prove were false except by his testimony and no one was believing him except his own lawyer.

It was an outrage of justice and something that we hope wouldn't occur in a civilized society.  Divorce is the legal separation of two parties in a controlled setting so that things are equitable.  Yet the breakdown of the relationships and the emotional "metal" so to speak of the parties involved are often what bring things to a head.

Whether you have a Rhode Island Divorce pending or contemplated, or if you just have a woman who is angry at you, beware!  No matter what anyone tells you, the Domestic Abuse Laws favor women in large part because many judges harbor the notion that men are... well  ... men!  But mostly that a real man really must be pushed pretty hard to have (as the legal standard requires) a reasonable believe if imminent danger of serious bodily harm.

In the end, it is best for any man . . . and in my humble opinion . . . every man to consider that a woman who is upset at divorce, the prospect that her husband may be cheating on her or that she feels wronged in some way (regardless of whether there is any truth or factual basis for that feeling) that a woman scorned . . . regardless of what you may believe her demeanor to be. . . can be.. and often is . . . a dangerous weapon or a loose cannon. 

Having seen several men's lives destroyed and left in ruin by an angry woman who simply manipulated circumstances for her own benefit, it is best to be aware of the domestic relations laws, be aware that your significant other may be capable of ANYTHING when angered enough and that you had better know EXACTLY what to do immediately if such a situation arises or your life may be forever destroyed.