Divorce isn't enjoyable whether you're in Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin or anywhere else. Ultimately, however, divorce is substantially a matter of law. The law of the state or jurisdiction in which you are getting divorced determines the manner in which assets and debts are divided. Generally, your jurisdiction's laws will also set forth how children will be provided for through child support, medical coverage, etc..
Though my experience with law has been limited to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, one consistent factor has presented itself in each jurisdiction. Clients and people representing themselves ("Pro Se") often underestimate the value of a good divorce lawyer.
A good divorce lawyer goes well beyond simply knowing the laws of the jurisdiction regarding divorce and domestic relations. Good divorce lawyers have honed their skills by looking at the details. It is often said that the "devil is in the details" and nothing could be truer in the case of a good divorce lawyer.
Divorce can be a complex area of law in any jurisdiction but a lawyer's role goes way beyond knowing the divorce laws themselves. Experienced divorce lawyers know not just the laws but they are all too familiar with the forms that need to be filed, the timing involved, the philosophies of the judges, the court rules that apply at any given time and laws regarding contractual interpretation and drafting.
Too many people think that divorce lawyers just follow a step by step procedure, submit the right form at the right time, then say a rehearsed set of questions when it comes time to a hearing. Ahhh . . . if it were only that simple. As lawyers we don't go through years of schooling to do something as easy as that. As a divorce lawyer myself in Rhode Island, I do like divorce lawyers all around the world. I keep up with the law. I think on my feet. I try to plan for each eventuality that may occur. I follow the courts rules. Most of aIl, I adapt to each client's needs and situation as necessary.
Imagine that you are a divorce lawyer representing Daisy in your home state or country. You initially meet with Daisy. Daisy tells you that she thinks her husband Tom, a corporate lawyer, is cheating on her. Daisy wants to file for a fault-based divorce and wants more than half of everything her husband has. Daisy mentions that Tom put their house and their summer home into some kind of irrevocable trust to benefit Tom's mentally retarded brother and that somehow her husband is part of a business partnership that was incorporated before Daisy and Tom were married. Daisy and Tom have been married for 17 years and have two minor children. Tom has his own business flipping houses for a profit but Tom is the only one who has participated in that business and Tom has contracts for about 9 house sales pending. Daisy tells you that she doesn't know much about Tom's "house flipping" business because Tom does whatever he wants with the money and Daisy never sees any of it.
What do you need to think of as a good divorce lawyer in this scenario?
First, can you file for a fault-based divorce in your jurisdiction based upon what Daisy has told you? Can you file a divorce in your jurisdiction based upon multiple grounds? Do your jurisdictions rules require you to give notice to the defendant husband and/or his lover before you can file using such grounds?
In your jurisdiction do you know if a fault-based divorce can be used to acquire a greater portion of the assets? What needs to be proven to establish the fault?
Do you know if an irrevocable trust that holds a marital home in your jurisdiction can shield the property from the opposing spouse? What if Daisy knew about the establishment of the irrevocable trust and did nothing to stop her husband from making the transfer. Could she be estopped from asking for part of the marital home? Wouldn't you need to know the law regarding not only divorce but also estates and trusts?
Daisy mentioned Tom as being in a partnership that was incorporated before they were married. As a divorce lawyer don't you now need to know if Tom is a partner in a partnership or whether he is a shareholder or a director or officer of a corporation? Doesn't it sound as though Daisy has her terms confused. Do you know if it is an asset that you can reach for Daisy in the divorce or whether it's outside the bounds of the divorce laws? Do you need to have more facts? Do you need to do more research?
If Tom's business of "flipping houses" began before Daisy and Tom got married and it was "self-funding" thereafter, what can you advise Daisy as to what she may be entitled to? If you and Daisy suspect that Tom is going to hide the money from the 9 house flips and keep them from Daisy, do you know if you have enough information to get a restraining order preventing the sale of the houses? Is it advisable for you to stop the sales of the properties? Can you get an equitable order from the court requiring the performance of the contracts but ordering that the proceeds be held by the court pending the divorce proceedings?
If Tom's business of "house flipping" voids the sales if any third party makes a claim to the proceeds, what can you advise your client to do in the divorce to avoid the loss of any share of the contractual proceeds?
These are just the immediate issues that present themselves on the surface without addressing anything relating to the children, retirement accounts, investments, etc. . .
There are many more issues presented here but this divorce posting would go on for hundreds of pages if every issue were considered.
Good divorce lawyers know that the devil is in the details. . . trust details, transaction details, contract details, legal details, court rule details and much more. Disregard or ignore the details and you settle either for a divorce flying by the seat of your pants either because you represent yourself or because you have hired a divorce lawyer settling for mediocrity in his or her practice.
Christopher A. Pearsall
70 Dogwood Drive, Suite 304
West Warwick, RI 02893
Call (401) 632-6976 Now for your low-cost consultation.
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Copyright 2008. Christopher A. Pearsall
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