Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
The Rhode Island General Laws give the Rhode Island Family Court and it's Judges the power to make an equitable distribution of the marital estate.
But what does it mean, generally speaking, to make an "equitable distribution."
Let's extract all the legalese from the statutes and simply approach it from a practical perspective and I'm quite certain our common sense can digest what the framers of the statute intended.
"Distribution" means to divide, to separate, or to apportion. That is fairly straightforward. The court has a job to look at the marital estate (whatever the judge may determine it to be) in a Rhode Island Divorce proceeding and divide it, separate it or apportion it between the parties.
Since children are not property or something owned by either parent you can be fairly certain that they aren't part of the marital estate so you don't have to worry about the distribution of your kids. Although some parents might like to distribute the more difficult ones to the other parent on occasion. Just kidding.
Now we can look at "equitable" and determine what that is. Equitable is a word having its origins in the french language in the mid-sixteenth century from the word "equite". (Sorry, I was unable to duplicate the french accents in this posting in order to recreate the word properly.) From this derivation we have today's meaning of equitable which means fair, just, impartial, evenhanded, unbiased and neutral.
If you look at the word "equitable" you can see that it is intended to be something that is viewed from the outside of the circumstances looking in, otherwise it could not be impartial, evenhanded, unbiased or neutral.
Thus, if we put these two definitions together with these observations we can see that an equitable distribution of the marital estate is supposed to be an impartial view from the outside of the relationship looking in where the judge balances the circumstances surrounding the relationship to determine how the marital estate, be it a debt or an assets, should be apportioned to each party.
In its most simplistic form, the court will distribute the marital estate in a manner that is fair and impartial given all the circumstances surrounding the parties' marriage.