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June 2007

Rhode Island Divorce - Medical Bills and Medical Expenses in Divorce

Rhode Island Divorce Question:

I am a mother who was awarded placement of my son, Theodore, by a Rhode Island family court judge at a hearing on Temporary Allowances.  The judge also ordered that while we sort out the entire divorce I am responsible for 1/2 of Theodore's medical bills and my husband is responsible for the other half.

After the order, Theodore got sick and I took him to the doctors and he was given a regimen of antibiotics.  I tried to explain to the doctor's office and the pharmacy that my husband had to pay half by the court order in our Rhode Island Divorce but they both made me pay the full co-pay for the appointment and prescription. 

I called my husband and told him he needed to pay me back half of the amounts I paid for our son per the divorce court's order.  He asked me to send him copies of the doctor's receipt and prescription receipt.  I sent him  the copies a week later.  I've waited another week now and I haven't received a dime from my husband.

Theodore has two follow-up  appointments coming up.  I just can't be footing the bill for all of this money up front.  What is going on?  How is this supposed to work?

Rhode Island Divorce Tip:

Your situation is an understandable one.  You are certainly not alone.  Many mothers and fathers who have placement of their minor children by a Rhode Island Divorce Court order find themselves in this situation.

Typically, the placement parent has the children and is the primary caretaker of the children.  As a result, parents often respond instinctively.  Parents don't typically pull out there divorce file and all the Orders that may be in it in order to analyze what they should do.  In fact, the thought of a parent doing that when his or her child is sick is somewhat absurd.

What a placement parent will do is to take the child to the doctor and get the child his or her medicine, just like you have done! 

Placement has its benefits.  As the placement parent, you have the benefit of being the person to be the primary caretaker of your child and have a substantial influence on their upbringing.  You often have the benefit of child support, and medical coverage or a medical financial contribution from the parent with visitation.  In the end, if you are the placement parent, you are very likely to get the tax deductions for the minor children in your care if the court makes such an order.

The point of explaining this to you is to help you understand that what you have describing is one of the small detriments that comes with being a placement parent.  It is usually referred to as "presentment". 

As the placement parent, typically it is the expectation that you pay for the medical costs upfront and then send copies as proof of payment to the other spouse so that (in this case) he has proof of the costs and can pay his 1/2 of the legitimate expenses that you have paid and a reasonable time to pay his (or her) share.

Providing the copies of the actual bills that have been paid and that the other parent is required to pay some portion of is known as "presentment". 

Typically courts will allow thirty (30) days as a reasonable presentment period (amount of notice by sending copies of the actual bills that that placement parent paid) to give the other parent the opportunity to make payment.

It should be noted that this is only a rule of thumb, that judges have discretion in this regard, and the amount, ages of the bills ,and the ability to verify the bill may all come into play.

In this case it is reasonable to allow thirty (30) days after the non-placement parent receives the proof of the bills for the non-placement parent to make payment pursuant to the Rhode Island Family Court's order.

Please note that this assumes that the information in the question is accurate.  Each person's situtation is different and other factors may affect the response to this question if the questioner has left out pertinent facts.

* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in any area of law.

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

NOTE:  The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue.  This site is presented for the convenience of the internet public.

Rhode Island Divorce vs. Rhode Island Separation

Though it is rare, sometimes Rhode Islanders or those people who have an issue relating to the Rhode Island Family Courts will want a solution other than just getting a divorce.  One option you may consider is to become "legally separated".

Yet what is it though?  Essentially.... it's a divorce..... without the divorce!  Strange...but true.

You deal with the  issues in family court the same way you do a divorce but rather than dissolving the marriage, the legal marriage between you and your spouse remains.  The assets and debts are usually split and apportioned.

If there are children then placement and legal custody are determined by the Rhode Island Divorce judge.  Sometimes spousal support becomes a factor for consideration.  Visitation is usually established  for the non-placement parent and an order issues indicating that you are legally separated.

However, you remain married with all the legal benefits of marriage and the detriments as well.  For instance, you can still file your taxes as "Married filing Jointly" . . . but since you remain married you may not remarry.

Legal Separation is an avenue that I have seen very few people take because usually the marital breakdown does not lead to reconciliation or, if it does, a divorce proceeding usually brings the seriousness of the matter to a head more quickly than a legal separation.

The parties most seriously consider the ramifications of their actions in a divorce proceeding during the statutory cooling off period before the divorce is granted.  If there is any doubt about their decision
on both of their parts, they can decide to withdraw their Rhode Island Divorce from the court's consideration before the final judgment enters.

If, during the course of a legal separation proceeding a party knows that he or she wants a divorce, then the party can move to have the separation matter converted to one for a Rhode Island divorce.

The question as to whether to file for a Rhode Island Divorce or a Rhode Island Separation is one that is a matter of choice.  However, in my humble opinion, absent a compelling reason to opt for a legal separation and the end result that it provides, it is best to seriously considering filing a divorce proceeding.  This suggestion is not intended to advocate divorce, but rather is a suggestion of practicality. 

If a party has opted for a legal separation, in my opinion they may need to do so for the legal protections it affords while trying to sort out the marriage.  If this is the case then there is a loss of trust with the other spouse such that he or she needs to be compelled to continue to provide for the other or for the children.  In the absence of this trust and the need for court intervention to insure the protection of one party or the children, the result of a legal separation order, carries much less weight than that of a divorce decree.

There is something to be said for the idea that in a marriage, we are as spouses are bound to one another.  Neither of us may remarry and infidelity is most assuredly frowned upon.  We have obligations to our debts with our spouse and with our children, if there are any.  There is typically a reliance there and hopefully at some time in the relationship a bond of trust.

Yet the finality of a final judgment of a divorce is like the resounding tone of the thud of a tree as it falls in the forest.  Once cut from the ground it is separate and apart from the stump which has been a part of it and enabled it to get nourishment and the stump is now exposed and widened with a more difficult path of any type of growth a head.  It is the finality of the divorce decree that makes people think and
it is this factor that helps parties determine in the "cooling off period" between their hearing date and the date when the final judgment may enter that reconciliation is most likely.

So what happens if you get a Rhode Island Separation Decree and subsequently want to divorce your spouse?

You must file for divorce and go through the proceeding all over again.

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

Rhode Island Divorce: Free Consultations . . . you get what you pay for!

There are a few things people should know about consultations.

Sadly, they don't apply just to Rhode Island divorce consultations. . . . rather it would seem that it is a trend that it applies to most free consultations involving any area of law.  So what is it?  It's the lack of good, solid legal advice.

Certainly this blog article sounds cynical.  As a divorce lawyer, I have my own opinion on things and I'm certain there are exceptions to my way of thinking and what I have witnessed . .  . in fact, I am one of those exceptions.  Yet I see very few attorneys who are quite like me.

You've heard the saying..."you get what you pay for", right?!  Well, assuming for a moment that in a Rhode Island Divorce matter or any Rhode Island legal case for that matter that you have a "free" consultation that is given by a  Rhode Island lawyer, what kind of advice do you think you are going to get from the attorney that is not getting paid for giving you valuable advice in the profession that is intended to put money on the table for him and his family and pay the bills.  You can draw your own conclusions here.  My answer is the simple one... you get what you pay for... you pay nothing  . . . you get nothing.

Another consideration is how much time the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer is giving you during this "free consultation".  Is he or she willing to answer all your questions?  Does the attorney provide you with clear cut answers to the questions he or she will answer or do they muddy the waters and say that there are too many "variables" to give you a definitive answer without explaining what those legal variables even are?

Most people get a referral from a friend, family member, the internet or the yellow pages to find a divorce lawyer.  Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?  And there's nothing wrong with that.  The second part of the process is usually to ask if the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer provides free consultations (at least in my experience my clients and prospective clients stated that they asked this during their search).

The bottom line is not only common sense, it is a practical answer.  Attorneys give legal advice and representation to clients for their living.  That is what puts the food on the table, pays for the car payment, keeps the kids in ballet and martial arts and pays the house mortgage.  Now consider that if an attorney gives you legal advice that you rely upon and the attorney is wrong...the attorney has liability and it's entirely possible that they could have a malpractice lawsuit coming their way.

Now think about that.  You are coming in the Divorce Attorney's office for a free consultation.  The attorney is going to get NOTHING from this consultation and you will be taking up his or her time which is used to pay his or her mortgage, car, etc..    AND....if the attorney actually does give you solid legal advice about your legal rights and happen to make a mistake when you rely on it, they have the joy of knowing that you can sue them for legal malpractice.

So what does this tell you about the attorney who offers free consultations if he or she is REALLY going to give you usable information?  It tells you that you have one extraordinary attorney there. 

Why?  Because this attorney is going to take time with you for NO MONEY.  During that time this attorney is going to give you valuable legal advice that should cost you $200 an hour.  Then when you leave that attorney has to be certain that he or she was right otherwise the attorney could end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit for legal malpractice.  And what did the attorney receive for that pleasure?  NOTHING!  No compensation!  No guaranteed client!

So what is the moral of this article?  Shop around. It is a very bad idea to cast attorneys aside who charge a fee for a consultation.  If they are going to charge you a fee don't you think that the attorney expects to give you valuable information you can bank on?  Absolutely!