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RI Divorce Lawyer on Alimony Awards after Trial versus Alimony in a Marital Settlement

Most divorce lawyers in Rhode Island know that divorce settlements are a matter of give and take, offers and compromises.  

Yet as a RI divorce lawyer there are settlement aspects that frankly I wish didn't exist but are a reality of the process.  Alimony as part of a marital settlement when it isn't warranted from a legal perspective is sometimes one of them.

Yet, this is a perfect example of how as a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer, or even more economically as a Rhode Island Divorce Coach, I could be of tremendous assistance to you.

 * * RI Alimony - A Brief Lesson * *

Rhode Island alimony has been deemed by the Rhode Island Supreme Court to be for rehabilitative purposes.   To give yourself a general idea of what this means you could think of it this way.  If you and your spouse were to get divorced ask yourself these two questions.

1)  Are either you or your spouse in need of financial support from the other spouse to get back on your feet to reasonably support yourself?

2)  Does the spouse who is not in need of financial support have the income, resources, or skills necessary to provide that additional financial support to the needy spouse?   

If a Rhode Island family court judge after hearing the evidence is of the belief that that one spouse is in need of financial support AND that the other spouse is capable of providing that financial support, then an award of alimony to the needy spouse is likely probable.

* * NEEDINESS * * 

Under Rhode Island law there is no set standard for determining when you as a spouse are "in need" of financial support.  A judge at trial considers a wide variety of factors before reaching his or her decision on this subject.

However, there are a few very strong indicators of a spouse "in need."  

1)  If your skills are too outdated in the current job market to earn enough money to reasonably live on; and/or 

2)  If you have been out of the workforce too long to be able to obtain a job with your existing skills that would allow you to reasonably support yourself.


Assume that a trial is heard in this hypothetical Rhode Island Divorce case.  

Trial evidence shows that Cheryl Court and David Court have been married for 28 years.  That there are no minor children that must be cared for.  That both parties have been employed for the last 10 years of the marriage.  That Cheryl earns $32,000 and David earns $78,000 per year.  Cheryl requests alimony.  David argues that alimony be denied.   

The Judge's decision after trial denies Cheryl's request for alimony finding as fact that she has been consistently employed, that makes a sufficient income to support herself, and that she has not demonstrated any need for rehabilitation warranting financial support from David.


Divorce trials can be a huge drain on a person's time, finances, and mental and emotional well-being.

Let's look at the same case from a settlement standpoint.

David filed for the divorce.  Cheryl has enjoyed 28 years where they have lived fairly well, taken several trips per year, and she has not really been limited in what she can buy for herself.  At first Cheryl feels hurt and rejected.  Then Cheryl's hurt turns to anger as she realizes that her lifestyle may have to change.  Yet Cheryl doesn't want it to change and she doesn't believe she should be punished because David wants a divorce so she demands alimony.

David truly wants to settle the case but he becomes angry because now Cheryl is being unreasonable and demanding what the court isn't likely to give her after trial.  Cheryl doesn't care.  Cheryl takes the position that if she doesn't get alimony then she'll go to trial and take her chances.

Keep in mind that the facts are the same as the trial scenario above.  A reasonable legal analysis would lead a divorce lawyer to advise David that Cheryl isn't legally entitled to alimony.  So even though David agrees with just about every proposal when he says "no" to her demand for alimony its a question of whether David or Cheryl is going to give up before they go to trial or force the case to go before the judge for a divorce trial.

Alimony is different in a case like this when it comes to a legal analysis for trial versus trying to settle a case.  It doesn't matter if Cheryl is legally entitled to alimony or not, the fact is that she believes she is entitled to alimony so her emotional state may force a legal battle that is unnecessary if both parties were acting rationally, equitably and amicably with one another.

How could a good divorce lawyer or Rhode Island Divorce Coach help you?  One word..."balancing."  This is what I call it when a professional advises his or her client regarding what scenarios are possible to determine the best course of action based upon numerous factors including financial effects, emotional effects, family effects, practical reasoning, and even one's internal principles.

In the end, though the trial route may simply to be to fight against alimony tooth and nail, a party may decide to pay alimony for reasons far different than whether it is legally warranted or not.  

An analogy for this alimony scenario in a Rhode Island divorce might be considered similar to the cost-benefit analysis that a company might do to determine what action should be taken to address what to do about several hundred defect car parts that are known to exist but may have been installed in any of the millions of cars throughout the United States.

Rhode Island Alimony is not a cut and dry situation.  If you want to go to trial, it may be fairly clear the path to take.  If you want to settle the case, it's about as murky as it gets.  

Do you have a Rhode Island Alimony predicament?  

Feel Free to Call Me for a low-cost Coaching Session!

Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - Phone: (401) 632-6976

Article Copyright 2010 to present - Christopher A. Pearsall and The Rhode Island Divorce and Coaching Institute (All Rights Reserved.)