Smitty Jacobowitz convinced his wife Mildred that since they were getting an amicable uncontested divorce that they didn't need to bother with a lawyer and they could save a bundle in divorce lawyer fees.
Mildred went along with it because they didn't have much money. Mildred and even Smitty were thinking they had nothing to lose except money paid to a lawyer.
They both filled out the paperwork and Smitty filed the Rhode Island divorce paperwork as the plaintiff. Smitty served his wife properly. They talked about what they each wanted and agreed what Smitty would ask for from the court. The only thing Mildred wanted to be sure of was that Smitty made sure she had health insurance because she had a pre-existing condition. Smitty agreed.
Smitty wanted to get things right so he even took a week off from work just before the hearing date. Smitty sat in court and watched uncontested Rhode Island divorce hearings over and over again for three (3) days.
Smitty wrote out a script and went through their Nominal Divorce Hearing (aka uncontested divorce hearing) without much difficulty and asked that he be required to keep Mildred on his insurance pursuant to the Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation Act. That was the wording used in every single divorce proceeding he watched so he determined that it must be correct.
The judge let a few things slide and Smitty and Mildred made it through their nominal divorce hearing and the divorce was granted.
Smitty figured out how to draft and submit the Interlocutory Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment after the 2nd rejection by the clerk's office and everything seemed fine.
Smitty and Mildred were pleased.
Smitty prepared and submitted their Final Judgment of Divorce which was entered 3 1/2 months after the hearing date.
Smitty and Mildred were now happily divorced. That lasted about 2 weeks.
Two weeks after the Final Judgment entered Mildred received a letter from Smitty's employer telling her that she was being discontinued from Smitty's health insurance plan effective in two weeks.
Mildred called Smitty and asked him what was going on. He said he'd check on this letter she received. Smitty found out from his employer that he had no choice. He was told that since Mildred was now his "ex-wife" she was no longer going to be covered under the company's health insurance plan.
Smitty went over to see Mildred at her apartment. Smitty broke the news to her that he didn't have a choice and he was very sorry.
Mildred was crying because she had a major pre-existing condition and she had already checked on health insurance before their divorce. Mildred already knew no company would insure her, or if she found one the premium would be so outrageous that she wouldn't be able to survive. She had counted on Smitty's company health insurance.
Mildred went to see lawyers about what she could do but because she had represented herself and had a chance to get legal advice and assistance before and during the divorce there was very little she could do. She was stuck.
Mildred demanded that Smitty make this right and provide her the health insurance they had talked about. Smitty hunted around, but Mildred was right. No company would insure Mildred except one. The one company that would offer Mildred health insurance cost would cost Smitty just about 2 paychecks per month. He couldn't do it and still survive and pay his bills. He told Mildred it wasn't possible.
Mildred and Smitty became mortal enemies. They no longer talked or were friendly with each other. Mildred looked for state and federal health insurance programs to help her but they just weren't available.
Nine years after the divorce Mildred was barely surviving and paying everything she made to be able to buy and take her medicine half as much as had been required. Ten years after their divorce Mildred became sick and died. Smitty was at the funeral and scorned by many of the morners who felt he was to blame. Smitty quickly left and went back to his car where he spent the rest of the night crying and blaming himself for her death all because he didn't want to pay for the help of a divorce lawyer.
All of this could have been solved if Mildred or even Smitty had sought some legal advice or coaching about the divorce process and the health insurance issue. It is entirely possible that this could have been avoided for as little as one coaching session at a cost of $145.00 for a one hour session with me.
Smitty and Mildren saved the money. Was it worth it?
I hope this helps many people to think twice. Believe it or not, sometimes we as Rhode Island lawyers actually save lives by what we do.
My Very Best to All Who Go Before the Rhode Island Family Court,
I'm Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and
I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach."
Give me a call to set up your Coaching or Advice Session at (401) 632-6976.