A Rhode Island divorce can be traumatic even if you have a lawyer to help you through it. There is no doubt that some people are more fragile than others. Some women who have been "jilted" or "scorned" may be angry, experience denial or otherwise need counseling. Some men who have been good providers and faithful for years may find that they need some mental health services to get through a difficult divorce when they just don't understand what went wrong in their marriage.
Though it is often difficult for most people to deal with divorce, some people seem to get through it just fine even if they are not the party who filed the divorce action. Experiences are not only varied but they are interesting to note.
Yet what is not so interesting, nor enjoyable is when Rhode Island family law lawyers represent a client and help them to achieve what may be self-centered goals by helping them create a situation where none existed before.
An example is perhaps the best way to illustrate this.
Peter and Claudia have been married for 18 years. They have no minor children and own a home together. Peter files for divorce which Claudia claims is "out of the blue" and a "complete shock to her" even though Peter has approached her numerous times over the last year about how unhappy he was with their relationship. Apparently Claudia attributed it to a mid-life crisis or something Peter would pass through. Peter files for divorce. Claudia had been working for the past ten (10) years and she is upset and depressed about the divorce filing. Claudia takes time out of work and begins thinking and re-thinking why Peter would do this to her. Claudia considers that there must be another woman. Claudia also considers that Peter should have done more in the marriage to make it work or that he should have suggested counseling. Claudia gets angry and then more upset as thoughts of the last 18 years run through her mind.
This is not an uncommon thought process for a woman to go through.
Claudia returns to work but her mind isn't on her work as it should be and her work just isn't up to par. Claudia's boss mentions it and Claudia is now fearful for her job security. Claudia consults and hires a divorce attorney who suggests that she go to a psychologist or a mental health counselor about her feelings. Claudia takes the attorney's advice and goes to an individual and marriage counseling specialist. The counselor confirms that Claudia is understandably depressed by the divorce situation. Claudia feels better after going to the counselor and continues to see the counselor on a weekly basis.
Claudia is advised to take an extended leave from work to deal with her divorce and the emotions she is going through. Claudia continues to go to counseling. After a month or so Claudia's attorney starts arguing to the court that Claudia should receive alimony from Peter for at least two years.
Peter's attorney asks for the reason why Claudia should be awarded alimony. Claudia's attorney is adamant that Claudia is now in a deep depression, has lost time out of work and is unable to do her work effectively as a result of Peter's filing for divorce. Claudia's attorney argues to the judge that if he can prove Claudia's depression and that it resulted from the divorce filing then Claudia needs a recovery period and needs to rehabilitate her mental state to be able to function in the working world again.
Situational depression is a common side effect of most divorces. However, to argue that alimony should be awarded because one party has an adverse reaction to a divorce filing is essentially punishing the payer spouse merely for filing for divorce because the relationship has failed.
Yet it has been argued by some Rhode Island divorce lawyers that rehabilitative alimony is justified for a spouse who gets situational depression as a result of the divorce filing itself. Regrettably, some Rhode Island family court judges have bought into the argument if it is adamantly argued with the right tenor and the right documentation.
An important tip is to note when the onset of the depression symptoms occurred. Even if the depression relates directly to the breakdown of the marriage, the lack of a diagnosis of chronic depression by a psychologist, depression is not and should not reasonably a basis for rehabilitative alimony, especially for those spouses who were previously capable of earning an income and only incur difficulty as a result of the divorce filing or the breakdown of the relationship.
A person's inability to cope with the actual legal proceeding that precipitates the alleged depression is not a reasonable basis for alimony. No rehabilitation is needed to acquire more education or new skills or for entry into the workforce. These are the fundamentals for rehabilitative alimony in Rhode Island and as such alimony based upon anything other than a longstanding chronic depression should be opposed strenuously. Most judges will see this for what it is if you give evidence of the timing of the depression but be wary. A difficult battle may be on the horizon if Alimony is a primary goal of your spouse.
Christopher A. Pearsall
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West Warwick, RI 02893
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