Uncontested Rhode Island Divorces - More People Try to Represent Themselves but It's Getting More Difficult!
More and more Rhode Island divorces are being filed by people trying to represent themselves ("Pro Se") to save money. But if the truth be told it's getting harder than ever to do so. Here are just three (3) reasons why representing yourself in an uncontested divorce is getting harder.
1) One Rhode Island Divorce Hurdle - Disclosing your finances in a divorce is no longer accomplished by a quickly filed Statement of Assets and Liabilities which was once made up of the front and back of one sheet of paper. Now the form has to be on Green paper. Yes, it must be on green paper or it will be rejected. Why? I have no idea. I have asked clerks, assistant clerks, and even one member of what I have understood to be the committee or commission set up to recreate this very old form in the Rhode Island divorce practice why it is now green. So far no one has an answer for me. Perhaps it's to make it more easily locatable by the judges and court personell? Maybe it has to be on green paper because it relates to money matters and when we think of money we think of green.
Whatever the reason, the idea is that it can be downloaded from the internet and filled in using the Microsoft Excel program and it will perform automatic calculations for you. But here's the catch to using this great online tool. First, it's now nine (9) pages long. Now, if you happen to have 9 pages of mint green paper laying around your house to print out your DR-6 Statement of Assets and Liabilities then good for you. But short of buying a whole ream of paper at Staples when you only need 9 papers of the stuff, you're probably going to buy a bunch of green paper you don't need only to go through the frustation of filling out the less than clear form which I noted has some calculation and clarification issues that upon my inquiry the committee has no intention of addressing. For those people who have any amount of assets, the form can be both confusing and time-consuming.
2) The Second Rhode Island Divorce Hurdle - No more handwriting your documents. I noted that a few of the Rhode Island Family Court Clerk's windows still had signs up showing that documents had to be legibly handwritten or they must be typed. You should disregard the signs because the powers that be in the Providence Family Court have informed me that handwritten divorce packets will not be accepted. That is not to say that no handwritten documents will be accepted at all, but don't plan on handwriting everything. So folks, typing is no longer optional. So plan on typing your Rhode Island divorce documents. You can do it yourself via some good typing skills from school or typing it via the hunt and peck method of typing or perhaps even paying someone else to type it.
3) The Third Rhode Island Divorce Hurdle - This hurdle isn't as new as the others. Yet if you are intending to represent yourself in your Rhode Island divorce, then you better plan on it. The Judges in family court are not there to counsel you. They are not there to lead you through the divorce proceeding. They are not there to ask you the questions that give them the right answers so they can hear what they need to hear. They have a responsibility to hear your case. However, you and your spouse have the obligation of presenting your case in the manner in which it is expected to be presented as if you went to law school and knew what you were doing. I know of a few judges who occasionally do help people through their divorce by asking a few questions. Sometimes those questions are just the bare basics. Many times people DO NOT realize that even though the judge may be helping them, those questions most likely do not cover everything in your relationship, your divorce, your children, your assets, your debts, your possessions, your former name, your healthcare, etc... So what happens if something isn't addressed? I can't tell you because everyone's case is different... but the truth is that if something important isn't addressed then all hell is likely to be unleashed later.
Know what to say at your own divorce hearing.
Know the questions you should have thought over and have the answers to.
Know if your answers are acceptable to the court, BEFORE you go into court.
Know what you and your spouse agree to.
Ultimately, if you are going to represent yourself, DO NOT expect on the JUDGE to do it for you!
Remember, the Rhode Island Family Court judge is NOT your divorce attorney. The judge's job is not to protect your interests or your spouse's interests.
So, if things fall apart now or in the future, remember that you can't go back and blame the court.
2011 was a unique year for my Rhode Island divorce focused law practice. About 24 percent of all the cases I handled were spent fixing issues that people representing themselves. Keep in mind that I'm a lawyer who advocates people representing themselves if they are willing to do it right and get just a little bit of coaching.
In the end, in several cases where I had to play "Mr. Fix It", it cost the people more money for me to fix the issues than it would have cost if they had just called me and had just a little bit of coaching to get through their divorce properly. It really is true that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Divorces are part of life... YOUR LIFE! They are important. If you have assets, debts, real estate, children, . . . . just ONE of these factors is worth getting some coaching to get you through the divorce correctly.
If you can't find a way to pay $135 for some coaching to get through your divorce properly then you should re-think getting any legal help because that is peanuts compared to what it costs for representation by an experienced Rhode Island lawyer who knows his and/or her way around the family court.
I'm here to help you. I'm here to guide you through, over, around and under the hurdles if need be. I live, eat and breathe divorce in the Rhode Island family court system. It is my entire Rhode Island law practice. I want to help people have more uncontested divorces because it helps the parties, it helps the children, it helps the courts, and it helps our society as a whole.
In the end, I may get to pay part of a bill from what I make on my coaching and that is it. I don't offer coaching for the money. I know just as well as any other lawyer that representing clients is where the real money is.
Yet I still offer Rhode Island Divorce Coaching. Why? I don't do it for the money. I do it for the PEOPLE! I do it for YOU! Does it sound ridiculous because you think all Rhode Island divorce lawyers just charge too much and they are all there to screw everyone over?
Think again. The fact is... sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference and if I happen to be the only one then so be it. That's okay because I know one person can make a difference. I'm going to make a difference if it kills me.
Yes, I'm Christopher A. Pearsall. I'm a Rhode Island attorney focusing my Rhode Island practice exclusively in the area of Rhode Island Divorce.
I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach" and I'm here to help and here to stay!
Happy Holidays to All for a Happy and Safe Holiday Season!