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March 2007

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 he 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 heroine 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 heroine and that her husband Jerry is not only an addict but that he has been dealing heroine 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.

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

Pam:  No.

Rhode Island Divorce 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 let's 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 concensus 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 assets of a marriage from 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 the 80% of the assets from the marital estate it was lost when Pam insured 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.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.  You should not take legal action without legal advice from a licensed practitioner who has been fully informed about your specific circumstances. Visit for More Helpful Rhode Island Divorce Tips

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Rhode Island Divorce: Domestic Abuse Law

If you are a man going through a Rhode Island Divorce, are thinking about filng 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 unfortunately 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 is 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 an 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 neighor 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 get's Bob ordered out of the house.  Charlene calls Bob and leaves an urgent message their their daughter is in trouble and says he needs to call her immediately.  When Bob calls back, Charlene has the police on the other end of the line who inform Bob that he had better turn himself in a 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 no where 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 scenario 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 wouldnt' 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.

Authored by:

Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall
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Rhode Island Divorce: Commingling of Assets

Rhode Island Divorce comes with some interesting questions of law, especially when it comes to property, real estate, personal property and otherwise.

One concept that everyone going through a Rhode Island divorce should be aware of is the principle of "commingling".

This can, and sometimes is, a very arguable concept in a Rhode Island Divorce proceeding and the purpose of this blog post is only to make you aware of its significance.  You shouldn't base any decisions on this posting.  Just be aware that this concept exists and that it could affect various items of property that you do have that may be subject to equitable distribution in your marriage.

Generally speaking, the principle of "Commingling" takes into account the idea that if you have something that you have thought of as "yours". . . for instance, something that is either pre-marital that you own or a gift or an inheritance that you received, and you treat that property in such a way that it was either used by you and your spouse or perhaps if it even was intended that you and your spouse both use it and have the benefit of it, then you have taken something that was separate and distinct that was YOURS and you have now commingled it with your spouse such that it has now become a marital asset.  Once the court determines that something is a marital asset, it has lost its individual character and it is now subject to equitable distribution in your Rhode Island divorce action.

What does that mean practically speaking?  Your spouse is entitled to claim that he or she is entitled to part of that asset or part of its value and you may have no way of stopping him or her from doing so.

Commingling is hard to prevent.  You must usually take fairly extreme measures to isolate the item from your spouse completely.  No contribution, no usage, no payment of storage fees for the item, no cleaning of the item, NOTHING. 

The end result.  If you want to truly protect something that you have from being considered part of your marital estate should you ever be faced with a divorce proceeding, get a pre-nuptual agreement at least as to those few things.  An understanding spouse will realize that all you are doing is protecting a family heirloom or whatever the item may be and not that you anticipate anything other than being with him or her forever.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™

Rhode Island Divorce - Your Children May Surprise You!

In most Rhode Island Divorce matters, the parents will often consider the best interests of the minor children.  At least one parent, if not both, are proponents of keeping the children out of the scuffle and dealing with their issues as adults as far away from their children as possible.

Unfortunately sometimes that doesn't happen.  In some cases, the children are pulled into the fray and in a few rare cases this MUST be so if a good divorce lawyer to to protect his or her client.

What do I mean?  Let me give you an example.

Melinda and Brett

Melinda and Brett have been married for 25 years.  They have two children, Alexandra who is 15 years old and Timothy who is 17 1/2 years old.  Brett is  a bit obsessive about his "things" which includes his wife, who he sees as his "possession".  Brett's home is his castle, he calls the shots and things are to be done his way without argument. Melinda and Brett have lived the same house for about 20 years.  The house is paid off and only Brett's name appears on the deed because he considers it "his" house.

Melinda can't take it any more and tells Brett that she wants a divorce and that things aren't working for her anymore.  Brett flies off the handle, smashes a kitchen chair and throws a drinking glass in Melinda's direction causing it to shatter against the wall with shards of glass flying everywhere.  Melinda is afraid, reaches for the telephone and tries to call for help.  Alexandra and Timothy watch as their father pulls the phone out of their mother's hand and then rips the phone cord right out of the wall.   In front of the children Brett tells Melinda that if she files for divorce or if she leaves the house that he will kill her.  Brett stomps around the house a bit more slamming doors and cupboards and breaking another object or two.  Brett grabs his coat, warns Melinda not to leave the house and storms out.

Alexandra and Timothy

Alexandra and Timothy do not want their parents to divorce and plead with their mother not to call the police and to let their dad calm down and talk to him later.  Melinda can't bring herself to call the police so she listens to her children.  Brett stays out until late at night, comes home and forces Melinda to have intercourse with him against her will.  Melinda doesn't tell her children.

A few weeks pass.  During that time Brett keeps reminding her that he will kill her if she files for divorce or tries to leave him.  Brett begins demanding to know her whereabouts throughout the day and tells her that she must be home right after work "or else".  Melinda does want to disobey out of fear for her safety.

Over the next few weeks Brett calls Melinda's work constantly, begins following her around in his car and leaves countless messages on her cel phone telling her that he knows where she is at all times so she better not do anything.

Melinda Gets an Attorney

Melinda seeks legal counsel and has her attorney file for divorce. On the same day that her attorney is going to have Brett served, Melinda goes to her mother's house until she sees how Brett is going to react.  Later that day Alexandra finds out that her mother has gone to grandma's house and she goes over to see what is going on.

Brett is served with divorce papers that afternoon and rushes over to Melinda's mother's house where he continues to threaten Melinda in front of Alexandra.  Thankfully, Melinda's mother comes home and Brett abruptly leaves.  Melinda, afraid for her son who is at their house goes back home to check on him.  At her home Brett again threatens to kill her and pulls a knife from the nearby butcher block right in front of their son Timothy.  Timothy tries to calm his father down and his father pushes him out of the way.  While Timothy scuffles with his father, Melinda leaves and calls her attorney who gets an Ex Parte Emergency Order which orders Brett out of the house, places the children with Melinda and prohibits Brett from contacting her.  Melinda is petrified.  During the three weeks before the hearing, Brett follows Melinda with his car daily threatens her with physical violence when no one is around and and makes anonymous calls to her work and cel phone from local pay telephones so he cannot be traced.  In each instance it is Melinda's word against Brett's word.

Alexandra and Timothy Meet Mom's Attorney

Melinda's divorce attorney meets with Alexandra and Timothy.  They confirm the death threats their father made to their mother as well as ripping the phone out of the wall and smashing various household items.   Melinda's divorce lawyer knows that if the judge is going to continue the Order that keeps Brett out of the house that he may need the children either to testify or to speak with the judge and confirm these events since ordering a father from the marital home is an extreme remedy.

In tears, calls her lawyer and has her lawyer go to court to get an emergency order restraining Brett from harrassing her.  The judge grants the Emergency Order temporarily and enters it in the divorce proceeding.

Melinda's attorney meets with the children and asks them what events they have witnessed between their mother and their father and what they heard.  The children substantially confirm that Melinda's account to her divorce lawyer was correct and that the children witnessed it. Melinda's attorney explains that it may be necessary for the children to speak with the judge about the events and that it is important for the children to tell the truth.  Alexandra and Timothy promise the attorney that they will tell the truth if the judge wants to hear what they have to say regarding what happened.

Brett Retains a Lawyer

On the day of the hearing Brett's divorce lawyer objects to the Order, states that Melinda is lying about the incidents and asks that the Order be immediately removed so he can return to his home. Melinda's lawyer argues vehemently that to remove the Order will subject Melinda to continued abuse and force her out of her home and away from her children because the events are true.

The Rhode Island Family Court judge is not inclined to keep the Order in force without something other than Melinda's word against Brett's word.  Melinda's divorce lawyer asks the judge to speak briefly with the children to confirm that the abusive incidents did occur.

The Kids Meet The Judge

Alexandra and Timothy are led into the judge's chambers to give the Judge additional information to determine if the Emergency Order should remain in full force and effect.  The following dialogue ensues:

Judge: There's no need to be nervous because nothing is going to happen to you here.  You're not in any kind of trouble or anything so you can just have a seat and rest easy.

As the judge I just wanted to make sure I had all the information I needed when considering what to do when issues come before me.   So I'm just going to ask you a question or two and then I'm going to speak with your parents and their lawyers.

Alexandra and Timothy: [Nodding...]

Judge:  Now it's important that you tell me the truth when I ask you something.  You know that, right?

Alexandra and Timothy: [Nodding again.]

Judge:   Good, so I just ask you a few questions, you tell me what happened and that's pretty much it.  Simple.  Okay.

Alexandra:  Sure.

Timothy:  Yeah.

Judge: Okay, now there was an argument between your mom and dad recently at your house.  It was in the morning and you were both home.  I know that.  And I know you were home and you watched the argument or at least some of it.  Do you both recall that?

Alexandra: Yes.

Timothy: Yup.

Judge: Now, did either of you hear your dad say that he wanted to kill your mom?

[The children look at each other and hesitate. . . ]

Judge:  Go ahead.  Either one of you can speak.  How about you young lady?

Alexandra: It happened pretty fast.  I know there was some yelling, but my dad has a loud voice.

Judge:  Okay, but did you hear your father make any threats to your mother?

Alexandra:  Well, his voice sounded threatening because he's loud and he was angry but mom had just told him she wanted a divorce so I guess I can understand why he was angry.

Judge: Alright, but did your father say he was going to kill your mother?

Alexandra:  Well, he might have said something about that he wanted to kill her for doing this to him or something like that but I don't think he meant that he would really kill her.  I don't believe my dad could do that.  He gets angry, but that's not my dad.

Judge:  [Looking at Timothy.]

Timothy: Alex is right.  Dad was upset but if he said anything like that I think my mom misunderstood or something because she knows Dad would never hurt her.

Judge: Okay.  So your father was angry.  Did he grab a weapon or anything?

Timothy: No.  He just had it.

Judge:  What do you mean he just had it?

Timothy:  Well, I can't remember but I think my dad may have been making a sandwich when mom told him about wanting the divorce.

Judge: What do you mean that he just "had it" though?

Timothy: You know.  When we make sandwiches we cut them with a steak knife.  I think dad was just making his sandwich when he was told about the divorce and he had the steak knife in his hand and he talks with his hands alot so the knife was moving around in his hand. I could understand if mom got nervous but I don't think it's like he pulled a knife on her or something.

Judge: Okay, last question.  Did your father throw anything or do anything with the telephone that day?

Alexandra: I think that was an accident.  Mom went to call someone and dad grabbed the phone and the plug came out of the wall.

Judge: That's it?

Alexandra: That's what I saw.

Judge:  Okay... I've heard enough.

Alexandra and Timothy Leave the Judge's Chambers.

Judge:  The Order is vacated.  The father can return to his home.

Melinda's Attorney: Judge I must object.  This is endangering my client.   The kids . .  .

Judge: The kids just confirmed for me that your client is LYING or that she is trying to set this man up to keep him out of his own house.  YOU had no objecting to having the children talk to me and now I have the truth and you're unhappy that it backfired on you so I don't want to hear another word or I'll find you in contempt and send you down to lockup.  The Order is VACATED!  Good day counsel!

In the courtroom Alexandra and Timothy were sitting down cajoling with their father as I led their mother crying through the courtroom.

Practicalities of Testimony

The long and the short of this is that adults are not the only people that lie.  This is a substantially true story which has been changed slightly to maintain anonymity.  The children were questioned by the judge and they lied.  They lied and it hurt their mother more than they will ever know.  It placed their mother and her lawyer in a horrible position throughout the remainder of the divorce.  Most importantly, it set a precedence whereby she was forced to move out of her home and was relentlessly stalked by her husband for more than a year and a half.  Even now after the divorce is done and over with, this man still taunts her, threatens her and stalks her.  This mother could no longer trust her children to back her up on the other occasions when her husband mentally tormented her and she could not trust that the legal system who had called her a liar would protect her.

We all would like to think that our children are loving, loyal and will be there for us or better yet just that they tell the truth. Unfortunately, children are often manipulated by using their own feelings and desires.  Whether you are in a Rhode Island Divorce or another proceeding in which you need to rely on what your children have said, seen or witnesses, first you must think about what happens if they do not tell the truth.  Think and then think again . . . when you least expect it . . . and when it hurts the most . . . your children may surprise you.


For those who are interested, Melinda's attorney later discovered that Timothy had been promised a new car by his father if he told the judge his father hadn't done anything.  Timothy did, in fact, receive a new car just three (3) days after the hearing.  Alexandra later apologized to her mother and stated that her father had been crying and that he would kill himself if he went to jail and that if she told the judge the truth that he would go to jail.

While it is true that the father played on each of the children's feelings, greed and weaknesses, the ultimate responsibility landed with the children.  They had one responsibility.  To tell the truth.  Sadly, despite all the efforts of Melinda's lawyer to achieve some level of safety for her, she paid the price for her children's lack of honesty.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™ 

Copyright 2000 to Present Christopher A. Pearsall, Esq (All Rights Reserved.)