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The Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer and Family Law Coach serving Warwick, RI: Living Separate Lives, but Not Divorced

Do You Need Divorce Coaching or Legal Representation?  Consider this Example.

On a whimsical impulse Carrie and Jack got married in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1992 while on vacation with friends.  They remained married and living together for seven months in Rhode Island where Carried had her job and family and Jack was stationed in Newport with the military at NUSC.  

The marriage quickly deteriorated after Jack discovered that Carrie was a verbally abusive and sometimes violent alcoholic.  When Jack refused to buy Carrie alcoholic beverages of any kind, Carrie moved out.  Even though all the furnishings and other assets belonged to Jack before the two got married, Jack agreed to give Carrie everything.  Jack felt bad for Carrie and he went so far as to engage professional movers to pack up and move all the furnishings in their apartment to wherever Carried wanted them moved.  The only things Jack did not give to Carrie were the things that were provided to them by the US Military because he had no right to give them away.

Carrie left with 95% of everything and Jack kept only a few minor things that were needed for his survival in the apartment.  Jack went so far as to set up a military allotment to be deposited in an account of Carrie's choosing for half of the military pay he received each pay period.  Carrie's allotment was set up to last for an indefinite period of time.

Both Carrie and Jack were aware that as long as they remained married the military would provide Jack with an additional amount of money each pay period as long as he was classified as "married."  

Carrie and Jack each went their separate ways and verbally agreed to live their own lives under these circumstances.  Jack didn't want to hurt Carrie and realized she had a problem so he did not file for divorce.  Carrie did not seek any form of rehabilitation but she knew that if she filed for divorce she would get less money from Jack, so she never filed either.

Finally, Jack retired from the military in 2000 and the allotment to Carrie ceased pursuant to the military's own administrative guidelines.  Jack then began receiving a military pension for his 20 years of military service.

When the military allotment ceased, Carrie sought legal advice in Rhode Island where she had been living for the past 12 years and made a substantial claim for Jack's pension and other assets he had accumulated while they had been living separately.

Jack was surprised to learn that although the Rhode Island judge could certainly consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the divorce, Rhode Island law did allow Carrie to claim that at least a portion of Jack's military pension was "marital" because it accrued while the parties were legally married and absent a Rhode Island or Federal Law which instructed the Rhode Island Family Court otherwise, the pension could be considered marital if the court made a finding that all or a portion of the pension was marital and should be equitably split between the parties as the court saw fit after trial.

Jack was not happy about the divorce proceedings.  All this time he thought he had "done the right thing" for Carrie and now she wanted even more and Jack didn't want to give more.  Jack felt he had given enough and he was willing to fight for his military pension as a non-marital asset because he had already given Carrie what amounted to more than her share.  In Jack's eyes he had already given more than he would have been ordered to give by any divorce court.

Perhaps the greatest thing to keep in mind regarding a scenario where you and your spouse separate all your assets and debts and live completely separate but you do not terminate your marriage legally is this. . . YOU ARE STILL MARRIED!

Can you answer these questions?

1.  Can Jack argue that since he and Carrie separated everything at the time they personally terminated their own marital relationship with each other that any asset accumulated after that time is non-marital?

2.  If Carrie runs up credit card debt in order to support herself during the time that she is separated from Jack, could a Rhode Island Family Court Judge find the credit card debt to be marital debt?

3.  If Carrie builds up an IRA plan during the time she is separated from but still married to Jack, does Jack have a reasonable claim to a part of that IRA plan if he didn't contribute to it?

4.  If Carrie has a child during the time she is separated from Jack and there is no name specified as the father of the child on the birth certificate, is it possible that Jack might have to pay child support for that child?

5.  Are there any federal laws which trump state law regarding any of these issues and decide the question for us so that the question(s) become a non-issue?

6.  Do you see the other eight (8) important legal questions/issues that a skilled divorce lawyer might address with you if you were either Jack or Carrie?  

If you do not see the other important legal questions/issues in this scenario, then you either need some professional RI Divorce Coaching or representation by a good Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer.

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law

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Copyright 2009.  Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
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* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.  There is no recognition for specialization of attorneys in any area of law.

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