Now that you've read about the concept of Rhode Island Divorce Coaching in Part 1 of this Article, let me demonstrate how I can help you as a divorce coach.
Consider these stories about Janet's family and friends to learn what a divorce coach could do for you!
- - - The Factual Scenario - - -
Bob and Tiffany have been married for 7 years. Bob has had a great job for years and as a result he and Tiffany have been able to get a great house and Bob has amassed a substantial vested pension which started with his job about 20 years ago. Tiffany has a good job and is very frugal with her money and puts away a substantial amount of money in a savings account in her name while Bob has paid the majority of the bills for their home and expenses. Bob is laid off, and begins collecting unemployment. Tiffany has fallen out of love with Bob and finds this an opportune time to divorce Bob.
Tiffany hires a divorce lawyer who immediately files for divorce for Tiffany on March 12th. On March 16th Bob is served with the divorce papers just as he is leaving the unemployment office. When he returns home Bob discovers that Tiffany has moved out of the house and taken most of the more valuable things from the house, including Bob's baseball card collection, and several highend powertools in the garage. Tiffany also took the car she uses to go to work each day which is titled and registered to Bob and which Bob financed.
Bob had been making the car payment each month but now he does not have enough money to get by. Tiffany empties their joint checking account and cashes out the life insurance policy on Bob's life which has about $20,000 in cash value. She takes the funds and Bob doesn't know where he has put them. Bob is in shock and is left with only his unemployment funds to pay for expenses.
The waiting list for the Volunteer Lawyers Program is too long and he can't find a lawyer to take his case on a pro-bono basis. Bob is very worried about what is going to happen. Bob's sister Janet tells him he needs to do something. Bob goes from lawyer to lawyer trying to get free consultations to find out what to do. Bob is disappointed when he spends most of his free consultation time realizing that the lawyers won't really tell him anything until he pays them at least $1,500 or more.
Janet tells Bob she found a divorce coach on the internet and she lends Bob $100. Bob gives me a call that goes something like this.
BOB: Hello, my name is Bob. I'm calling because I need some help on my divorce and I need to speak to a lawyer.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay Bob are you looking to hire a lawyer to represent you in court, are you looking for a consultation or do you need some divorce coaching?
BOB: Well, I don't have enough money to hire a divorce lawyer to go into court with me.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay Bob. Do you just need a consultation or do you need a divorce coaching session?
BOB: I'm not sure. What is the difference?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Well, in a consultation essentially I ask you some questions and you tell me what is going on in your life and I advise you as to what your legal rights are.
BOB: Okay. That sounds straight-forward enough. How much does that cost and how much time do I get?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: I charge $50 for that Bob and I limited it to about 35 minutes.
BOB: Okay, I understand that one. Now what is a divorce coaching session?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: In a divorce coaching session its almost the same. I ask you some questions and you tell me what is going on in your life but instead of just telling you what your legal rights are, I give you advice on what you probably should do in court to address your problems and I explain that process to you. I charge $100 per hour for that with a 1 hour minimum and then you pay for each quarter of an hour after that if you want to continue beyond an hour. It's up to you.
BOB: So a divorce consultation just tells me my rights and a divorce coaching session let's me know about my rights and helps me by telling me what I can do in court about them too. Is that about right.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: I couldn't have explained it better Bob. I just have to make sure that we're talking about a Rhode Island Divorce here because I'm not licensed to practice law in any other state.
BOB: Yes, my wife filed for divorce in Providence Family Court so its only Rhode Island.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Well Bob, it is up to you. Do you want a divorce consultation or a coaching session?
BOB: I have enough money for a coaching session so I'd better do that. If I know my rights that's not going to help me too much if I don't know how to go about enforcing them in court, especially since I'm going to have to do this myself. But I wanted it limited just to one hour. I don't have money for more than an hour of coaching.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay Bob, I have an opening for a coaching session on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. or the following Monday at 1: p.m. Which time and date works better for you?
BOB: Let's do Thursday. I need to get some help pretty fast.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Great Bob! I've booked the appointment. If you were served with any papers then bring them with you and I'll meet with you then.
BOB: (Shaking hands with Attorney Pearsall) I'm Bob, it's nice to meet you. I hope you can help me. I'm a nervous wreck.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Well Bob, this is what I do for a living and I'm sure I can help you in one way or another. Try to relax. Let's begin your coaching session. Sit down and tell me the scenario. What's been going on in your life?
Bob hands Attorney Pearsall the papers he was served with and with a little help from Attorney Pearsall's questioning the entire fact scenario outlined above is presented.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay Bob, that took a bit longer than I expected and I can understand why. There is certainly quite a bit going on here. It's no wonder you are anxious about this divorce.
BOB: Attorney Pearsall, I don't know where to begin.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Well, let's save some time and make things easier. You're entrusting part of your life to me here so let's be comfortable together. Call me Chris and let's get going. I see you don't have a pad. Here's a pad and a pen because you are going to want to take notes as quickly as you can.
(NOTE: Quickly I explain to Bob the process of Answering the Divorce Complaint, preparing a counterclaim for divorce, preparing his financial form and creating an entry of appearance and that he must file all the originals with the court, send a copy to his wife's attorney and keep a copy for himself and that he needs to do that within twenty (20) days after he was served with the papers by the constable. )
BOB: Now can Tiffany do all the stuff she did. I don't have any money and . .
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: [cutting Bob off] Sorry to cut you off here Bob but I can see your concerns a mile away and since you have a limited amount of time with me here today I'm going to address things fairly quickly so make sure you take notes. If I've missed anything then we'll see if we have time at the end of your session.
BOB: Okay... (Bob gets his pen ready.. then interrupts.) I forgot to mention that she sold my baseball card collection and my powertools on Craig's list.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay... thanks for telling me. That is very important. Did she sell anything else?
BOB: Not that I know of but I wish I knew where our bank account money was. I put most of that in there.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay, then let's not waste any time Bob. You need some serious coaching in a limited amount of time.
First, your wife has done some things she is prohibited from doing under Rhode Island law. In a divorce there are Automatic Orders of the Rhode Island Family Court that are signed by the Chief Judge Jeremiah. You were served with them. Do you see them right here? [Bob knods.] Okay, well you should read them again later but these are "LAW" Bob and your wife has no right to violate them and you have the right to enforce them with the family court.
Once you were served with these papers on March 16th, you were bound by these laws but your wife was bound by them on the day she signed her divorce complaint on March 12th.
Do you know which day she emptied the bank account?
BOB: Chris, she did everything on March 15th. Took the money out of the account and cashed out the life insurance.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Did she sell your baseball card collection on Craig's list on that day too?
BOB: No. Actually it looks like she sold that on Craigs list on March 9th but it's hard to tell because I don't know when she got the money for them because I don't have access to the account any more. Does that mean I can't get my baseball cards back?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Let's take one thing at a time. First, make sure you read and understand the Automatic Orders of the Court. Second, it is good to know where to find the law for the Automatic Orders of the Court. The law can be found in the Rhode Island General Laws at Title 15, Chapter 5, Section 14.1. So write that down. RIGL 15-5-14.1.
This is your wife's biggest problem. When you violate an Order of the Court what you do to get action from the court is to file a Motion to Adjudge in Willful Contempt. I'll give send you a form to generally show you what a Motion looks like.
Now, what you want to do is file this motion for Willful Contempt against your wife and allege that she intentionally violated the court's Orders and she has damaged you by doing that.
So you would call this a Motion to Adjudge the Plaintiff in Willful Contempt. Without getting too complicated, you simply tell the court that the Order prohibits your wife from concealing, removing or disposing of assets and that she removed, concealed or disposed of the bank monies, the life insurance monies, your baseball card collection and the powertools Go ahead and lump them all together because she concealed or disposed of all of those things as far as you know.
Now the Automatic Orders say that your wife only violates that provision of the Order IF she did these things without your written permission, so make sure you write a short statement that says that she did not have your written permission.
The Automatic Orders also say that life insurance polices must be kept in full force and effect. Did you check if it's still in effect?
BOB: No Chris, it's not! The insurance company said that she cashed it out and there is no more life insurance coverage.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay Bob then that is another violation because she didn't do what the Order requires in one of the other paragraphs. Look on the Automatic Orders you received. It's that paragraph about life insurance policies.
BOB: Okay... I understand. So we're putting everything in here that we can to tell the court that she violated the court's Order and we're looking for each paragraph that she didn't abide by.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Exactly Bob! Now about your baseball card collection.....
BOB: Can I get my collection back Chris? I think she sold it for a few hundred dollars and it was worth over $10,000!!!
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Let's stay on track first Bob but I will get to that in a minute. First, when did you get that collection?
BOB: I've had it since I was a kid Chris. I think I bought one more card in my twenties. I found a very rare Mickey Mantle card at a garage sale.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Okay Bob, but did you buy any new cards during the marriage?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Did you spend any money to either store or restore any of the cards during your marriage?
BOB: No. [Now looking puzzled.]
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: So are you telling me that everything having to do with those cards was done before you married Tiffany?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Great!
BOB: Why is that Great? My card collection is gone. I don't understand.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: When everything having to do with an asset was prior to the marriage, then it is known as a pre-marital asset! The family court does not have the power to distribute it and your wife has no claim to it. It means it was yours before, during and after this marriage.
BOB: So she sold something that was mine. Either way it's gone Chris. What are you getting at?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Stay calm Bob you'll get this in about two seconds. Your wife sold something that was yours and yours alone! She did this without your permission! She did this without having any claim to it at all and she had an attorney that she could have checked with on this. The importance of this is that she didn't just sell a pre-marital asset, she STOLE your baseball cards!
BOB: Okay. So what does that mean in my divorce?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: She's taken advantage of you Bob. You have the right to go down to the police department and report the cards as stolen and let them know that your wife stolen an item that is solely yours and is worth over $10,000!
Now, it might be hard to get the police to take you seriously because of the divorce, but tell them about the value of the cards. If they still won't do anything, then file a Motion asking that the family court determine that the baseball cards were pre-marital and that they were and are your property and that your wife had no right to them. If the court grants your motion and makes that factual finding, then you can take that the court's order down to the police station and have Tiffany prosecuted.
BOB: I don't know if I want to go that far.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: That's your decision to make Bob but let me tell you why that is important.
Under Rhode Island Law, your wife has no right to sell something that isn't hers. She is selling stolen goods. That means if you make the complaint that the person who received the baseball cards has received stolen goods. It doesn't matter how much the person paid for your baseball card collection, he or she has no right to them. You see, you can only sell something that you have a legal right to sell because you are passing along your ownership of something to someone else. If your wife had no legal right of ownership then she had no right to sell your baseball card collection so when she sold your collection she didn't have any legal right of ownership to pass on to a new owner. That means that even though the person who received the baseball card collection may have thought it was perfectly legitimate, the buyer has no right to keep the collection. It has to be returned to the owner, but that only works if you make a claim that your wife stole it because you were the sole owner! Do you follow me?
BOB: Yes, but I have to do all that to get my own cards back?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: I'm telling you what to do legally Bob. You can approach the buyer if you want but if they know the true value of the collection I doubt they are going to give it back even if you pay the person what they gave to your wife. Ultimately Bob, you need some leverage here and you don't have any. If you want to get your baseball card collection back then you are going to have to do something as drastic as your wife did by stealing them. If the court finds your wife in contempt and you have criminal charges brought against her then you may get your cards back plus half of all the monies she removed and has hidden away.
BOB: Now what about the power tools Chris? I had some good stuff and paid a lot of money for them.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Did you buy any of them during your marriage to Tiffany?
BOB: Almost all of them, why?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Well, then you're still looking at having her found in willful contempt but I wouldn't count on seeing those tools again if she has sold them to third parties because they would be considered marital assets. In other words, Tiffany has a claim to perhaps half of the value of the tools. She violated the court's order, but legally she had a right to sell them because they are really just as much hers as they are yours. If an innocent buyer paid money for them then that person bought a real ownership interest in those tools that was passed on from Tiffany to the buyer. Don't expect the tools back unless the person she sold them too is really kind and understanding.
BOB: Well that isn't fair, they were my tools. I bought them.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: If they were bought during the marriage with income that either of you made, then they are marital assets Bob. That means that belong to both of you until the court decides what should happen to them. Every dollar that you make and Tiffany makes during the marriage is a marital asset, so whatever is bought with any of those monies is a marital asset as well unless its given to a third party.
BOB: Okay, now what if she sells the car?
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Bob, I have to stop our session here because you told me to limit it to an hour. Hopefully I haven't made you late for another appointment. She hasn't sold the car yet so don't try to make more problems for yourself. You have enough challenges to tackle right now. Well, we're at about an hour and fifteen minutes.
BOB: But I don't . . .
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Bob don't worry about the extra quarter of an hour. I'm not a clock watcher and I'm glad to help you. I'll just eat the other $25 for my time. You had already told me to keep the session limited to an hour.
BOB: I understand Chris. This has been a huge help and I took some great notes. This was well worth the money. If I get more money in the future can I set up another session with you.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Absolutely Bob! I've got notes about our session so I'll keep those for future reference.
BOB: Here's a check for $100 for your time.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Thank you Bob. What is your email address so I can send you a receipt for our coaching session and the motion form?
BOB: It's email@example.com.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: Great. If you haven't received your paid receipt and the sample motion form that I mentioned to you in our coaching session in two days in your email, please call me right away so I can make sure you receive both. The motion form is going to be general but it is especially important. The court appreciates it when you maintain the standard format. You may find there is other technical information we didn't cover. If you do, don't panic. Speak with the clerks at the family court. They are helpful about filing and hearing dates. You should also look through my website at RhodeIslandDivorceTips.com. All the resources you need are mentioned in one or more articles for the court's process. We've covered as much as is humanly possible in the time we had Bob. I hope you found it helpful.
BOB: It was great Chris. I just have a lot to absorb. Thanks so much.
ATTORNEY PEARSALL: It's my pleasure Bob. Good luck with your case.
Hopefully this scenario has given you as the reader a clear picture between the difference between a paid consultation and a divorce coaching session.
If this had been merely a consultation, Bob would have explained the situation to me, I would have listened to Bob, then asked Bob questions that would give me additional important facts to allow me to properly advise him. In a consultation I would advise Bob of his legal rights in the situation.
However, since this was a divorce coaching session I not only advise Bob about his legal rights, and in particular the violations of law his wife Tiffany made here, but I also specifically guided Bob through the steps he probably want to take to remedy the situation, including the motions he should file.
Bob will have to do a little bit of work on his own to find out how to get a hearing date, what relief to ask the court to award him as a result of Tiffany's violations of the court's Automatic Orders, and perhaps how to serve his motions. However, I did point Bob to sources where he can obtain that information either through the court, this website, or through other sources mentioned in this website. Bob simply needs to learn what else needs to be done.
A coaching client should never expect to learn everything about their issue or receive every piece of legal advice possible about their situation in a single coaching session or even in several sessions. Coaching is just that . . . partial assistance in your case based upon the issues you present and what you disclose. Of course there are always two sides to every story and if information isn't disclosed, or if the client is unable to afford enough coaching time to address every issue, or every aspect of even a single issue then the client needs to be aware that limited time provides for limited questioning and information. In the end, the divorce coach helps you with the skills and information to be able to address the issues in the divorce proceeding, but ultimately you as the client are the one that take the actions, manage the timing, decide what you will and will not do. Responsibility ultimately falls with you as the divorce litigant. This is a risk that you take when you cannot afford an attorney to represent you in court.
Divorce Coaching is a new concept and it is not a replacement for engaging an attorney to represent you in court. However, for those who cannot afford to hire a Rhode Island divorce attorney to represent them in court, it is a new, innovative and affordable alternative to help you with some of your divorce issues.
Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law
Call (401) 632-6976 Now to Schedule Your Rhode Island Divorce Coaching Session!
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Copyright 2009. Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
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