Rhode Island alimony can be complicated and Rhode Island divorce lawyers can easily confuse the heck out of someone who is representing himself or herself in a divorce proceeding.
Fundamentals are important in understanding Rhode Island alimony. No matter how much I seem to stress this to clients I have represented or coached, there are always those clients who buy into the hype of a Rhode Island divorce lawyer representing the opposing spouse.
Too many times I have seen Rhode Island divorce lawyers convince a person who is representing himself or herself that the Family Court Judge will almost certainly grant their client alimony so the Pro Se individual might just as well accept that fact and start thinking about the amount of alimony the Pro Se person is reasonably willing to consider offering.
So let's take a single fundamental of Rhode Island alimony. Here it is. Rhode Island alimony is supposed to be rehabilitative!
Keep in mind that we're not in California! Rhode Island law's concept of alimony is not like the vast majority of television shows or the tabloid articles you see on the way out the checkout at the grocery store. A good many times the media will show us the sensationalized awards of large alimony to one spouse, sometimes leaving many of us to wonder how a million dollar earning wife gets a large alimony award from her ten million dollar earning husband.
It's helpful if you remember that generally alimony will be awarded by the Rhode Island family court judge when a spouse is in need of rehabilitation. What does that mean? Well, if a spouse's job skills are outdated and the your spouses reasonably cannot sustain himself or herself financially, then the court may award a period of rehabilitative alimony.
The underlying principle behind this financial support from the greater earning spouse is to allow the other spouse to time to obtain new skills or improve his or her existing skills so he or she can sustain himself or herself.
Alimony is taxable to the spouse that is receiving it just as if it were income. Alimony is also deductible by the spouse that is paying it on that spouse's taxes.
While there are many other aspects to the concept of Rhode Island alimony, I believe it is most important to understand its rehabilitative nature, especially if your are going to represent yourself (Pro Se).
If you represent yourself in a Rhode Island divorce proceeding, don't simply believe your spouse's lawyer if you are told that you the RI Family Court judge is going to award your spouse alimony simply because you make more income.
Rhode Island law wasn't designed to give the lesser earning spouse more money just so you both have roughly the same amount of money coming in.
In short, don't get caught up in that thought or concept through television or from an attorney merely because he or she is advocating for his or her client and is trying to convince you that the Rhode Island judge is likely to award alimony.
All in all, don't panic if you are threatened with alimony by your spouse's attorney. It's best to do your homework and get some professional advice because alimony situations will vary and there are exceptions.
Be on your guard. Know your rights. In the very least, get some divorce coaching so you know what you are dealing with in your particular situation. A hundred dollars spent now could save you literally tens of thousands dollars down the road.
Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law
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