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February 2012

A Dangerous Trend in Rhode Island Divorces? RI Family Court may not be helping you!

If you are thinking about handling your divorce completely on your own before the Rhode Island Family Court, think again!

At first I saw a trend that I was in favor of.  I saw more and more people filing their own divorces and representing themselves.

I have supported a person's right to do this because I know that many people don't have thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer to represent them.  I can understand and appreciate the economics of the situation.

However, this trend has spiralled out of control from people representing themselves because they can't afford to hire an attorney to those with a strong income stream filing their own divorces without even getting legal advice from a lawyer because they don't want to pay any money at all to know their rights.  

However, it is one thing to simply bypass hiring attorneys because you couldn't pay the retainer fee and hourly rate and completely another thing to avoid getting good solid legal advice at all even when you can afford it.

Am I offended for myself?  Not at all.  What worries me is that I see more and more people going through their divorces "on a wing and a prayer" without knowing their options and legal alternatives are.

In a divorce there are laws that apply to everyone and there are some laws that may just apply to you and your situation.  

There are some instances in which you may only have one chance to do something in your divorce to protect yourself.  If you don't say the right thing or do the right thing and miss that golden opportunity to appeal or file a Petition for Certiorari to the Rhode Island Supreme Court then. . . well . . let's not just say it . . . you're screwed!  

People have criticized me for my "down to earth language" rather than using large words, legal ease or "proper" wording for an attorney.  I certainly respect their right to have their opinion.

I grew up with hardworking parents and grandparents.  They struggled to get where they were and it is perhaps only by sheer tenaciousness that I am a lawyer today.  Yet I put my pants on one leg at a time just like secretaries, firemen, doctors, sanitation workers, etc... and I help those who come to me as affordably as I can.  I don't sugarcoat things.  I'm a proper gentleman but I tell things like they are. . . truthfully and realistically.

Can you do your divorce on your own?  Yes, you can!  Should you do it without good solid legal advice?  Absolutely not!  

What I'm seeing though is blowing my mind.  I'm seeing people who make $150,000 per year avoid getting good solid legal advice to get through their divorce intelligently and in an informed manner at a cost of only $145 in some cases and only $650 in others.

If a layperson has handled their own divorce and told you that it is easy and you can do your own divorce then I'll be happy to show you a person who made at least 2 to 5 critical errors that are most likely going to come back to haunt them.

I'll be forthright.  I don't like seeing this trend of people thinking divorce is simple and easy.   People are believing that they can do it themselves as simple as connecting the dots by going to a website called LegalZoom or CompleteCase or any other website professing to have a complete solution for uncontested divorces.

There is NO one size fits all agreement or advice system. Every couple's lives, property, circumstances, children, and financial situation are ALWAYS different!

Without the advice of a live person, namely a real, experienced attorney licensed in the State of Rhode Island who knows about divorce and family law to listen AND hear what has gone on in YOUR life and properly advises you on all aspects of your divorce, including your rights, alternatives, and each actions consequences.  

If you try to do this all yourself and let the court "lead" you through a few blanket questions, then you are playing with dynamite and 19 or so out of 20 times it is going to explode and blow your hand off!  That is a fairly good analogy to use here.

There is perhaps nothing harder than to have someone come to me later and beg me to help them and tell them what they can do only to have me to go through all the facts and information and I have to tell them that they had their chance but they blew it and there is absolutely nothing that can be done legally for them now because they didn't act wisely when they went through their divorce and failed to get good solid legal advice.

It's your choice to go with this trend or not.  As I've told my wife, it is our children's undeniable right to screw up their own lives because they didn't want to get solid legal advice so things are done right.

There is a reason that I chose to focus my law practice on Rhode Island divorce and family law as the one area of law I would practice despite the fact that there are easily hundreds of areas of law I could practice in.  I could spend a lifetime practicing just divorce law in Rhode Island and still not know everything.

There is a reason lawyers exist.  We exist because it isn't simple.  Law is complex and always changing.  While I advocate a person's right to represent themselves, it has been my hope that people would do so in an informed manner.  That's not what I'm seeing though.  I'm seeing haphazard people who just want to save a buck and it genuinely saddens me.

Our rights are precious in this country.  Ignorance of their value does a disservice to the men and women who have given their lives to insure that we have these rights today.

Please make sure you are informed.  It is worth it!

All my Best to All Who Go Before the Rhode Island Family Court,

I am Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach."

Family Court Judge in Hamilton County Ohio Orders Man to Apologize or Go to Jail!

Published:  February 22, 2012
Author:  Kimball Perry 

Photographer Mark Byron was so bothered by his pending divorce and child visitation issues that he blasted his soon-to-be ex-wife on his personal Facebook page.

That touched off a battle that resulted in a Hamilton County judge ordering Byron jailed for his Facebook rant – and to post on his page an apology to his wife and all of his Facebook friends or go to jail, something free speech experts found troubling.



Mark Byron, a local photographer, holds his iPad with a photo of himself and his son. Byron is involved in a divorce suit with his wife, Elizabeth, that has spilled over into Facebook. Due to a post on his Facebook page about his divorce and custody restrictions in November of 2011, a Hamilton County judge is ordering Byron to post an apology to his wife on his Facebook page every day for 30 days. The divorce is not yet final. / The Enquirer/ Liz Dufour

“The idea that a court can say ‘I order you not to post something or to post something’ seems to me to be a First Amendment issue,” Enquirer attorney and free-speech expert Jack Greiner said Tuesday.

Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the rulings are unique and “raise quite a few” free speech issues.

“There haven’t been a lot of cases that have dealt with this particular issue,” he said.

Mark and Elizabeth Byron had a son in July 2010, but their marriage soon became troubled. She accused him of verbally abusing her, threatening her with his fist and threatening to “end” her life.

While Mark Byron, an Over-the-Rhine photographer who has worked freelance assignments for The Enquirer, was exonerated of criminal allegations, a civil protective order was issued instructing him to stay away from his wife.

Mark Byron also argued the same court prevented him from seeing his son. In a Nov. 23, 2011, Facebook posting, he blasted the situation and the judicial system he believed wronged him.

“...if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husbands life and take your son’s father away from him completely – all you need to do is say that you're scared of your husband or domestic partner...” he wrote on Facebook.

Elizabeth Byron saw it – even though her husband blocked her from viewing his page – and believed it violated a previous protective order by Domestic Relations Court Magistrate Paul Meyers that prevented Mark Byron from doing anything to cause his wife “to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance, or bodily injury.”

Magistrates act as quasi-judges and hear the bulk of the cases in Domestic Relations Court. Their work is reviewed by Domestic Relations Court judges, this time by Judge Jon Sieve who signed off on Meyers’ finding.

Sieve said Ohio judicial rules prevent he and Meyers from commenting on a pending case.

Elizabeth Byron, who couldn’t be reached, believed her husband’s Facebook rant violated the court order, said it and the comments about it made by Mark Byron’s Facebook friends embarrassed her. That, she said, violated the previous order from harassing her – even though the post wasn’t addressed to her and she was blocked from viewing it.

“She wasn’t harassed,” Fakhoury said, “because she deliberately sought this out.”

Meyers found Mark Byron in contempt and ordered him jailed for 60 days beginning March 19 – and to post for 30 days on his Facebook an apology to his wife, written by Meyers, if he wanted to avoid jail.

“In a million years I didn’t think he’d be found in contempt,” Elizabeth “Becky” Ford, Mark Byron’s attorney, said.

“He did nothing but vent. She didn’t like what he had to say. That’s what this boils down to.”

Particularly troubling for Greiner and Fakhoury was Meyers’ do-it-or-go-to-jail option for Mark Byron to post the apology. “I didn’t think I had an option,” Byron said.

“The court’s order to compel speech is as much a violation of the Fist Amendment” as suppressing free speech, Greiner said.

Greiner called the difference between a legal order to post the apology and then noting jail could be avoided if it was posted “a distinction without a difference.”

“Forcing someone to speak as punishment for speaking” could violate Mark Byron’s free speech rights, Fakhoury said.


Read the Entire Article at Judge: Jail for Facebook Rant


(Disclaimer:  This literary work/article is the property of the named author and/or publication.  This website nor it's authors or publishers claim an portion of this work as their own.  It is used, in part, under fair use standands as a matter of public interest and full faith and credit is given to the actual owners and authors.  The reprinting of the portion of this article is not meant to reflect and/or represent the views of the owners or authors of this website. Neither, Christopher A. Pearsall nor any websites or companies owned by him claim any legal, right, title or interest to this literary work. Full Credit is given to the actual authors and owners.)


Political Outlook: Time for RI to Support Same-Sex Marriage

Published:  Monday, February 27, 2012

Author:  Brett Broesder, GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™


A Same-Sex Marriage Bill will be introduced in Rhode Island this year, according to Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

With recent polls showing that a majority of voters support legalizing Same-Sex Marriage – in addition to Maryland on the cusp of becoming the eighth state in the nation to legalize marriage equality – the issue is at the forefront of local and national news.

That said, Rhode Island politicians should embrace this groundswell of public support,and move the Ocean State beyond Civil Unions by supporting the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage.

A key reason for supporting marriage equality is that voters are in favor of it.

Majority Support Same-Sex Marriage

More Rhode Islanders support Same-Sex Marriage legalization than oppose it by a nearly double-digit margin, according to a 2011 Public Policy Poll.

Even more noteworthy about these findings is that amongst Democrat and Independent affiliated voters, nearly three out of five support legalizing Same-Sex Marriage. This is significant because according to Gallup, the vast majority of Rhode Island voters either affiliate as Democrat or Independent.

The issue is also gaining popularity with voters nation-wide.A recent New York Times/ABC News poll found that 63 percent of voters support recognizing same-sex relationships in some capacity. Moreover, of that 63 percent, by a nearly two-to-one margin they favor legalizing Same-Sex Marriage versus passing a Civil Unions law.

Politicians are taking note, and pushing for passage of Same-Sex Marriage Laws across the country.

Two noteworthy elected officials who are behind this nation-wide effort are New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Furthermore, both are well positioned to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Cuomo: “There’s no logic” in naysayers’ argument

Governor’s Cuomo and O’Malley both are not only siding with the majority of Americans on this issue, but are also mastering how to vocalize their support for it.

For example, after championing passage of a Same-Sex Marriage bill last year, Governor Cuomo was asked about his support for the issue during a recent interview with GQ Magazine.Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage in New York regularly argued that gay people should not get married because they can’t make babies.

In response to this argument by Same-Sex Marriage opponents, Governor Cuomo states:

“Oh, really? So then we should change the law to say, ‘Only people who can and want to make babies can get married.’ So an infertile man can't. A woman who can't, she can't get married. People who don't want to make a baby, they can't get married. So let's change the law so it says, ‘Only people who can and will make babies.’ ‘Well, we don't want to do that. You can get married if you don't want to make a baby or if you can't—except if you're gay!’ There's no logic.”

While Governor Cuomo asserts the illogical nature of arguments in opposition to Same-Sex Marriage, Governor O’Malley has framed it as an issue of dignity.

O’Malley: “Love is an Unalienable Right”

Governor O’Malley is currently in the midst of a Same-Sex Marriage legislation battle. And, he is slated to sign the bill into law next week, according to the Associated Press.

Throughout this debate in Maryland, Governor O’Malley has framed the issue as one of “human dignity” and “equal rights.” After passage of the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012 last week, Governor O’Malley put out a statement that included:

“The common thread running through our efforts together … is the thread of human dignity; the dignity of work, the dignity of faith, the dignity of family, the dignity of every individual. Love is an unalienable right.”

Read the Remainder of the Original Article here at GoLocalProv.


(Disclaimer:  This literary work/article is the property of the named author and/or GoLocalProv Mindsetter.  This website nor it's authors or publishers claim an portion of this work as their own but is used under fair use standands.  The reprinting of a portion of this article is a matter of public interest and is included here as such.  The reprinting of the portion of this article is not meant to reflect and/or represent the views of the owners or authors of this website.  Full credit for this article is given to Brett Broesder, GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™)


A Rhode Island Divorce Tip for Those That Represent Themselves at their Nominal Hearing!

If you are going to be your own divorce lawyer in a Rhode Island divorce proceeding, then be prepared!  You could be held to the same standards that as a Rhode Island attorney I am held to.  I don't expect help from judges and if I were to goof up for a client then the blame falls on my head.  If you goof up in your Rhode Island divore and you are Pro Se then the same goes for you.  Don't expect to be able to blame anyone else.

So be prepared!  Do tons of reading about Rhode Island divorces and Nominal Hearings and then take the time to sit in on at least a dozen of them and make a note of how both attorneys handle the hearings and how those people who are "Pro Se" handle their own divorce.  If you haven't watched 6 sets of Pro Se couples act as their own lawyers then you haven't watched enough of them.

Note the questions that they ask that are consistent in each and every case. Particularly note any questions the family court judge's themselves ask either party because it is an indicator that a lawyer or Pro Se party has missed something the judge wants or usually needs to hear.

Your Nominal divorce hearing is crucial.  Take this tip to heart!  It is better to be prepared and get it right and get it right the first time! You may not have a second chance to get it right.  If the judge happens to have a short fuse or a long calendar on your hearing date you may find yourself coming back.  

If you ARE prepared, then make sure you say what you have planned to say.  Even if the judge seems to want to gloss over things or hurry things along (and they may have their own valid reasons for doing so with regard to their court calendar) BUT it is your divorce and if you have something that needs to be said in order to protect your rights and interests and you let the judge steamroll right over you then it's nobody's fault but your own.  

There are many ways to respectfully ask the court or even tell the court that what you have to say needs to be said (though not in that way) in order to get your statements on the record and either taken down by the court stenographer or the stenographic recorder in the courtroom.

Yes, court can be a scary thing at times, especially if you are not there day in and day out.  Yet ultimately you don't have the option to be a wallflower when it comes to your divorce.  These are your legal rights you are dealing with and if you do not speak up at the time of the hearing and you let the judge shut you down without at least making two attempts to say something important that must be on the record to protect your rights, then you won't have a second chance.

My Best to All those who go before the Rhode Island Family Courts,

I am Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach."

Gay spouse murder case puts focus on long-hidden problem

Published:  FEBRUARY 24, 2012

By Bella English |  GLOBE STAFF   

Around 8 a.m. on March 29, 2010, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala punched out of her overnight shift as a paramedic in Springfield. That evening, police found her wife, Cara Lee Rintala, crying and cradling Annamarie’s lifeless body in the basement of the Granby home they shared with their 2-year-old daughter, Brianna.

In October, following a 19-month investigation, Cara was charged with first-degree murder in the strangulation death of Annamarie, 37, making it the first murder case in Massachusetts in which the victim and suspect are same-sex spouses. Cara, a 45-year-old Ludlow firefighter, has pleaded not guilty. 

The case has shaken rural Granby, population 6,400. Residents of the Western Massachusetts town say they can’t recall the last murder.

“This is just a horrible tragedy, and I think it shocked us all,’’ said Police Chief Alan Wishart.

Eight years after gays celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the Rintala case is shining a light on domestic violence among gay couples, a subject that gay advocates say has festered in the shadows. Physical and psychological aggression among gay couples occurs at the same rate as heterosexual couples but is less likely to be discussed and reported, domestic violence specialists say.

“It’s still very much under-recognized in the community,’’ said Beth Leventhal, executive director of The Network/La Red, a nonprofit working to end domestic violence in the gay, lesbian, and transgender communities. “There’s still a stigma. For so long, we’ve been the victims of violence from outside the community, but it doesn’t mean we don’t also face violence from inside.’’

According to Jane Doe Inc., a statewide advocacy group that tracks domestic violence deaths, a second homicide involving a married gay couple in Massachusetts occurred a year after the Rintala case. Michael Losee, 41, of Malden, was charged in the March 2011 stabbing death of his husband, Brian Bergeron, 55.

A 2010 survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control found that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been the victim of severe physical violence with an intimate partner. Although the national study did not differentiate between straight and gay couples, both The Network/La Red and Jane Doe both say they believe it happens at the same rate.

In heterosexual relationships, women are the victims more than 90 percent of the time. But they can also be abusers.

“What we see in lesbian relationships,’’ said Toni Troop, spokeswoman for Jane Doe, “is the same dynamic that occurs in heterosexual relationships, in terms of one person trying to exert power and control over the other person.’’

A rocky relationship

The Rintalas had a rocky relationship. They moved in together in 2004 and married in Provincetown in August 2007. Shortly before they were married, they adopted a baby girl, Brianna.

A year later Annamarie told Granby police that Cara had struck her with a spatula and a closed fist. When Cara was arrested, she said that Annamarie had hit her. In the two years preceding Annamarie’s death, each had taken out two restraining orders against the other, and both had filed for divorce.

Financial strain may have contributed to the tension. Each woman had racked up debt. At the time of her death, Annamarie owed $33,510 on credit cards; Cara was $35,000 in debt.

“Annamarie was a spendaholic by all accounts,’’ said First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steve Gagne, who is prosecuting the case. “She had opened a line of credit under Cara’s name without Cara’s knowledge.’’

Co-workers saw bruises on Annamarie over the years, said Gagne, but she would always attribute them to bumping into things, and the women would recant their allegations of abuse against each other.

In 2009, the couple filed separately for divorce but never followed through. Annamarie briefly moved into her own apartment in South Hadley, but they reconciled that November. In early 2010 they took their daughter on a Caribbean cruise for a new start.

“They were all aglow after they returned,’’ said the Rev. Lori Souder of the First Congregational Church of South Hadley. The Rintalas had started attending services that fall and were embraced by the church, which has other gay members. “They were seeking meaning for their own lives, their own relationship. I think they were seeking help on how to regain balance in their relationship.’’

On the night of March 28, 2010, a telephone argument erupted between the couple, according to the prosecution. A friend of Cara’s had gone to the house, and when Annamarie called home from work, she overheard his voice. “He’d come over without Annamarie knowing,’’ said Gagne, “and she felt that was sneaky.’’

The incident prompted a flurry of calls and text messages, with Annamarie telling Cara that the visit was disrespectful - that, as a married couple, they should be telling each other such things. Around midnight, she sent a text: “I HATE OUR RELATIONSHIP.’’

Cara told police that the next morning she took Brianna for a drive to let Annamarie get some sleep after she arrived home from work. At 5 p.m., surveillance cameras showed Cara throwing a rag in a trashcan in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in Holyoke. Testing revealed traces of Annamarie’s DNA, Gagne said.

Cara told police that when she returned home around 7 p.m., she saw the basement door open, glimpsed Annamarie’s feet, and ran to a neighbor, who called 911. She then returned home, where police found Cara cradling her wife’s body, which was covered in wet, pink ceiling paint. Annamarie had three scalp wounds; one to the back of the head, one on each side.

“It’s odd behavior,’’ Gagne said. He adds that “someone went to great lengths to make it look as if there was a break-in.’’ Gagne theorizes that the paint was used to cover up blood; nearby was an overturned 5-gallon can.

Insurance money

Two weeks later, Cara filed for Annamarie’s $512,000 life insurance benefits, which have yet to be paid. Annamarie had named Cara as her prime beneficiary and her brother Charles Cochrane as the contingent beneficiary. Cochrane, who lives in Springfield, contested the claim, saying Cara could not collect because she caused Annamarie’s death.

Lawyers for the Prudential Insurance Company of America have asked the court to decide whether it should pay the claim to her. That case, in US District Court in Springfield, won’t be decided until after the criminal case is over.

After Annamarie’s death, Cara took a leave of absence from her job, and she and Brianna moved in with her mother and stepfather in Narragansett, R.I. She was “psychologically unable to return to the house’’ that the couple had shared in Granby, her attorney said in a bail hearing.

Six months later, Cara sold the house but returned to work at the Ludlow Fire Department. She stayed with friends in Springfield, commuting to Rhode Island to be with her parents and Brianna when she was off duty. In April 2011, she quit and moved full time to Narragansett.

In Rhode Island, Cara worked as a paramedic for the Westerly Ambulance Corps. On Oct. 19, 2011, at 4:30 p.m., shortly after being indicted, she was arrested while driving, with Brianna, in Narragansett.

Cara is being held at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee. Brianna, now 4, remains with Cara’s parents and has visited her mother in prison.

Since Annamarie’s death, Cara and her parents have refused to let Annamarie’s parents see Brianna, Gagne said. A Rhode Island judge recently granted supervised visitation rights to Annamarie’s parents, Lucyann and William Cochrane, who live in Springfield and often baby-sat Brianna.

Neither the Cochranes nor Cara’s mother and stepfather, Sandra and Carl Montagna, would speak to the Globe.

A date for Cara’s murder trial in Hampshire Superior Court has not been set. Cara spends her time in prison “reading ferociously’’ and volunteering in the prison library, said Souder, who visits her.

Awaiting trial

Read the Entire article in the Boston Globe's Metro Section here.