There are two important standards that laypeople should know, especially if they hire an attorney to protect their interests.
1. You are not protected so that you can appeal if your attorney does not place your issues "on the record". In a divorce or family court proceeding issues are "on the record" if they are taken down by the stenographer. What does this mean? It means that chambers conferences where the court stenographer is not present and taking down the information discussed in the judge's chambers are not "on the record". It means that discussions with the judge at the bench in court are not "on the record" unless the judge specifically tells the court stenographer to take down the information.
2. When you are protected with items that are "on the record", if you have to appeal any particular issue, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has consistently ruled that they will not address an issue that is raised for the first time on appeal. In other words it wasn't "on the record" . . . and . . . the Rhode Island Supreme Court has also consistently ruled that it will give great deference to the trial judge as the trier of fact (since he or she was the person in the best position to evaluate the demeanor, character and testimony of the witnesses) and the factual findings of the trial judge will not be disturbed absent some gross inaccuracy. The trial judge's determinations of law will be upheld unless it is shown on appeal that the trial judge clearly abused his or her discretion when applying the law or the facts to the law.
Every litigant before the Rhode Island Family Court should keep in mind whether they are financially able to appeal issues if the trial judge does not rule their way. If so, those same litigants should be vigilant that major issues are placed "on the record" and aren't discussed at the bench or behind closed doors in a chamber's conference. If your attorney doesn't preserve your issues for appeal on the record if you lose, what was the point of beginning the battle to begin with? Just the chance of winning the very first time?
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall a.k.a "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™