Previous month:
February 2012
Next month:
April 2012

March 2012

Can I date during my Rhode Island Divorce?


Can I date during my Rhode Island Divorce?



You can, but as a Rhode Island lawyer focusing my own practice in the area of divorce I wouldn't advise it for several reasons.

Some RI Family Court judges believe it is inappropriate to begin new any type of romantic or intimate relationships with another person until you have properly and completely ended your relationship you are in by a Final Judgment of Divorce.  Since the judge's thoughts and ideas about all subjects in your divorce could affect you, it is advisable to abandon your own thoughts on the subject and refrain from dating.

Cheating is a fluid concept.  People have differing views about what cheating is.  To some it is intercourse, to others it can be as little as a flirtatious email or even a cup of coffee with someone your spouse wants to believe is the "other man" or "other woman."  It is emotions of anger and betrayal that catapult divorces into long drawn out and bitter battles.  It is best to delay dating to avoid your spouse's scorn.

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."

Rhode Island Divorce Judges - Won't the RI Judge just rubber stamp our Marital Settlement Agreement?

What?!?  The Rhode Island Divorce judge won't just rubber stamp our marital settlement agreement?  

In one word, "No."

One man called and wanted my price for a "completely uncontested Rhode Island divorce."

I told the gentleman I don't provide quotes for divorce matters over the phone and that with all due respect, his case may or may not be a completely uncontested divorce.

The man became very angry and told me he didn't like being jerked around.  I explained to him that I have been through this process myself before I even became a lawyer and I had no intention of jerking him around and was not trying to do so.  

The man then rattled off that he and his wife had discussed and agree to everything regarding the house, the kids, the other assets and debts, the health insurance, and even alimony.  

I praised the man for having mentioned the major issues he should be talking to his spouse about.  Here is how the conversation went.

MAN:  I have worked everything out for an attorney in advance so you should just be able to tell m how much time it takes to just push the paperwork through and what that costs.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  It sounds like you have done great.  Yetlet me ask you one question.  What happens if the judge won't allow your agreement?

MAN:  Well no judge has any business telling me what I can agree to with my wife and what I can't.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Many people feel that way.

MAN:  Well that sounds absurd.  They are our kids, our property, our lives, it all has to do with us.  No judge is going to go sticking his nose in our business and telling us how to live our lives or what to do.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Sir, calm down please.  All I am doing is telling you realistically that if the court finds something that isn't acceptable in your agreement or about how it was entered into that the Judge has the power to decide not to approve the agreement.

MAN:  I don't think that ever happens.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  No, it doesn't happen often, but it does happen.  I've seen it in several cases for different reasons.

MAN:  Listen, I'm not going to pay you or any other attorney to bring this through court if you are telling me that the Rhode Island divorce judge we get can just refuse to approve our agreement.  It's none of the judge's damn business.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Sir, I'm just being realistic with you.  A judge can and will exercise their right not to approve your agreement and your divorce if they have good reason to do so.

MAN:  Well that is stupid.  No other lawyer has told me that.  They've just either given me a price when I called or asked me to come in first.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Whether it's stupid or not, they can do it.  That is why I will not give quotes over the phone until I sit down and talk with you.  And if I'm going to sit down and talk with you then I'm going to make sure you are well advised about any problems you might encounter with your agreement.

MAN:  So I have to waste my time coming to sit with you to tell you about the agreement I worked out and about my marriage when I've done all of the work for you.  I should just be able to get a small quote over the phone and decide who I want to hire.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Sir, do you work for nothing or do you get paid when you go to work?

MAN:  That's a dumb question!  I get paid, of course!  That's another thing!  I'd have to lose time from work to meet with you.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  But aren't you the one who needs a divorce attorney's help?

MAN:  Yes.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  And that's because you don't know how a Rhode Island divorce works, right?

MAN:  Yes.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Well, I'm just like you.  When I go to work I expect to be paid.  And what I do is I give people legal advice whether I represent them or not.  If I have a tax problem I have to take time out of my day to meet with a certified public accountant and when I'm done with the accountant and I've received the accountant's advice or help then I have to pay the accountant.

That's the way business works.  Divorce is a service business and it's harder than most because we're dealing not just with laws but with people, emotions and equitable principles that the RI court upholds by the judge's discretion based upon what is presented.  So when I meet with people I take no less than 1 hour.  We're talking about people's lives, parents, children, homes, retirements, child support, visitation, out-of-pocket health care costs and many other issues.

MAN:  So I have to take a whole hour out of work just to tell you all the work I've done for you and then you do the easy part.

[At this point I have to admit that even with a tremendous amount of patience I was getting a little annoyed because this man had a very angry and disrespectful tone and clearly did not want to do anything except vent at me.  Of course since every minute I waste arguing with him could be spent helping one of my clients or someone who does want my services.]

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  And I charge only $145 for that initial hour.

MAN:  No way!  You're nuts!

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Okay sir, well I wish you luck and I hope you have a nice day.

MAN:  Well, wait a minute . . . what might a judge reject my agreement for?

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Sir, now it sounds as if you are asking for me to work for free.  Is that what you are doing?

MAN:  No!  But could you please just give me a generic example?

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Assume you have a disabled wife and she isn't getting tons of assets from your Marital Settlement Agreement and that her only income is social security disability.  A RI Family Court judge might refuse to allow the Marital Settlement Agreement and let divorce go through if the wife has agreed to waive alimony if it doesn't appear that she has enough to live on.  

MAN:  Do you know who I am?  

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  No.  Should I?  You didn't state your name. It only says your number on my caller ID?

MAN:  Okay. I was just wondering how you knew the exact situation in our Marital Settlement Agreement.

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  That is just one of the red flags off the top of my head that I've seen a RI judge use to reject an agreement and not process a divorce.

MAN:  [Silent.]

ATTORNEY PEARSALL:  Would you like to set up an appointment?

MAN:  No, I'll think about what you've said and call you back if I want to.

[The Man hung up.]

Rule of Thumb: Don't expect the RI Family Court Judge simply to rubber stamp whatever Marital Settlement Agreement that you and your spouse put together.  The Rhode Island Family Court still has equitable guiding principles of fairness and protection for the minor children and the parties in a divorce that influence how a judge may rule.  It is always better to seek the advice of a licensed RI Attorney who has sufficient experience practicing before the Rhode Island Family Courts before proceeding before the court with your Marital Settlement Agreement.  Not every Marital Settlement Agreement is approved.

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."

What Can Happen Without a Fee Agreement with your Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer?

Mark went to Attorney Scrimsawyer who told him Mark he would handle Mark's divorce for a flat fee of $3,000.  Mark expected the divorce to go very easily and thought that was a bit much but Attorney Scrimsawyer was very confident, expressed himself well.  Mark was a nervous wreck and very worried because the documents Mark was served with stated that Mark only had 20 days to answer them and appear before the court and he had been served a week ago but had to work all week.  

Mark told Attorney Scrimsawyer that he wanted to call one or two more attorneys to do some price shopping.  Attorney Scrimsawyer was offended and said Mark wouldn't find a lower price so if he wanted to hire him then Mark had to engage his services with a check for $3,000 before he left.  After Mark left the building Attorney Scrimsawyer said he would only do the divorce for a usual rate of $250 per hour and his usual $3,500.00 retainer fee to bill his time and expenses off.  Mark was nervous so he wrote out a check to Attorney Scrimsawyer for $3,000 and the attorney gave him a questionnaire to start filling out for the file and asked Mark for the papers he had been served with so he could take care of them for him.

To make a long story short, the case was a nightmare.  Mark's wife had a lawyer on her side of the family who kept the case going on and on and on.  They went through discovery, depositions, mediation, and every aspect of the case imaginable.  Finally Attorney Scrimsawyer got fed up and demanded that Mark give him another $3,000 for all the time and work he had spent.  Mark refused.

Attorney Scrimsawyer tried to withdraw from the case but the judge denied the motion.  Attorney Scrimsawyer was angry about the denial but ended up going through the trial doing far from his best job.  In the end, Mark's wife got 75% of all the marital assets and Mark got stuck with all the debt.  There was no reason for the bad result except poor presentation of Mark's case by Attorney Scrimsawyer.

Once the divorce was completed and the Final Judgment was entered, Attorney Scrimsawyer filed a lawsuit against Mark for $43,750 which was the amount that he claimed Mark owed him for representing him in the divorce.

Mark was sick of attorneys because of his divorce.  So Mark didn't hire an attorney for the lawsuit.  Mark thought that it was too simple and he could handle the defense on his own.

Mark filed a document claiming he didn't owe any of the money and that Attorney Scrimsawyer had agreed to do his entire divorce for $3,000.

MARK:  When they went to court Mark testified that Attorney Scrimsawyer verbally agreed to perform his entire divorce for a fee of $3,000.  On cross-examination Attorney Scrimsawyer asked Mark to produce the agreement.  Mark admitted it was verbal.  Mark was asked for a letter confirming that he was even offered $3,000 as the fee.  Mark admitted there wasn't any.  Mark was asked if there was an email showing the $3,000 offer.  Again, mark said that it was all verbal.  Mark was asked if he had a copy of the canceled check.  Mark produced the canceled check and was very proud of himself for bringing it.  Mark was asked what it said in the Memo Line?  Mark had to admit that the Memo line was blank.  Mark was asked who else was present during this "alleged agreement?"  Mark said that it was just himself and Attorney Scrimsawyer.

Attorney Scrimsawyer asked if he remembered mentioning his regular rate to Mark.  Mark answered, "Yes it was $250 per hour and a $3,500 retainer."  Mark then left the witness stand.

Attorney Scrimsawyer did only one thing first.  He pulled out Mark's divorce file a slammed each banker's box on the table to show the heaviness of the contents of each box.  In total there were four (4) full boxes. For his own testimony Attorney Scrimsawyer said only this.

ATTORNEY SCRIMSAWYER:  "Your Honor, this is Mark's file.  I have worked on this case for ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY SEVEN HOURS which took 1 year and 7 months. I have been paid a total of $3,000.  Nowhere in this file will you find even the mention of any agreement by either of us that I would do ALL of THIS for only $3,000.  If the court thinks I did then the court has to believe that I am the biggest idiot on the planet.  I just want fair compensation for what I've done and not a penny more.  Mark told you my rate so I am asking you to award me the $43,750 that I am owed an not a penny more.  I just want to be paid for my hard work Judge."

The judge went into chambers for about 20 minutes and came back out.

JUDGE:  I find that there is no credible evidence strong enough to convince me that Attorney Scrimsawyer agreed to handle this entire case for $3,000 and that if I were to simply believe Mark that he would be unjustly enriched at this Attorney's expense.  Therefore, I find in favor of Attorney Scrimsawyer and judgment shall issue in the amount of $43,750 as requested plus statutory interest and costs from the date of the initial $3,000 payment until the judgment amount is paid in full.

Mark was shocked and now he was stuck with paying the attorney $43,750 simply because he did not have a signed agreement with Attorney Scrimsawyer saying exactly what the lawyer would do and exactly how much Mark would pay.

Sadly, Attorney Scrimsawyer simply made a poor bargain and then wouldn't abide by it and when the Attorney came before the court he never lied but cleverly used his lawyer's skill to have enough information revealed that it appeared that he had not entered into the agreement.  Hopefully this is a rare example of what can happen.

Yet I find it important for the client's sake to put together the fee agreement so the client will know exactly what they are getting from me when they pay me for my services.  Client's should be treated fairly and with respect, especially in the area of divorce and family law where emotions run high and it would be far too easy to take advantage of already vulnerable people.

What else can happen?  How about a $43,750 lien on your house?  How about an Order from the court allowing this attorney to remove those monies from your bank accounts or retirement investments?

A word to the wise.  Have a Fee Agreement signed by you and by the lawyer drawn up, and make sure that it really does say what the divorce attorney said he or she was going to do for you.  Without that agreement, you could find yourself like a sheep being led to the slaughter.

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."

Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers - Do you have a Representation or Fee Agreement with Yours?

Trusting your Rhode Island divorce lawyer is one thing.  Turning over control of your life and your financial stability to that lawyer lacks common sense.

Virtually every client who is retaining or engaging the services of a divorce lawyer to represent him or her in a divorce matter should have a signed fee agreement with that lawyer.  That while I understand that sometimes both the lawyer and the client may have intentions of preparing and executing such an agreement it may get delayed in the shuffle if the client is in need of services as quickly as possible, it should not be forgotten entirely.

A signed retainer agreement, fee agreement or engagement letter is crucial to both the lawyer and the client.  It is the foundation of your agreement and for the most part it should spell out the client's major responsibilities and obligations to the lawyer and the lawyer's responsibilities and obligations to the client.  In shorthand, it tells the lawyer what he or she is receiving out of the fee arrangement or agreement.  It also tells the client what he or she is receiving from his or her lawyer out of the very same fee arrangement or agreement.  For the most part it is the foundation of the relationship between the RI divorce lawyer / attorney and the client.

What happens if you don't have an agreement with your lawyer?  Frankly, you could have a time bomb waiting to explode.

I'll explain why in tomorrow's article.

For now, you should know that the agreement should contain all the major terms of what the ri divorce lawyer and the client have agreed to, including the price, how things will be charged, what things will be charged, what things will not be charged, and what the scope of the matter is.

Many people often have misconceptions about what the divorce lawyer must do for them.  As a result, a client may make demands on the attorney that are unreasonable or simply aren't possible, but just as it is said in retail stores that "the customer is always right" the client often believes that the same is true for them.  Frequently this is not the case!  This is precisely the reason that a fee agreement between the lawyer and a client when representation in a court is involved is so crucial.  This is especially true when it comes down to payment and terms of what the payments cover.

Lastly, the Fee Agreement between the RI divorce lawyer and the client should be signed by both the lawyer and the client for the sake of clarity.  When both parties sign the contract for services for payment between them, then if either party ever has to proceed to court to enforce the agreement that absent a claim of forgery the court usually knows that the lawyer and the client have each agreed to the terms in the fee or retainer agreement.  The signature of each party is always one of the most important parts of the agreement.

Read tomorrow's article for an example of what can happen when there is no fee agreement between the parties.


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

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

Ohio Judge Grants Gay Couple a Divorce - National Marriage and Divorce News

A gay couple that tied the knot in New York last year received a divorce by a private judge in Columbus, Ohio, last week the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Judge Donald Cox granted Jonathan Baize, 31, and Stephen Wissman, 31, a divorce after a short hearing. The two men married in New York last September but later decided to end their relationship.

In 2008 New York Gov. David Paterson made marriages from other jurisdictions valid about a year and a half before Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed same-sex marriage into law in June 2011.

Ohio does not recognize marriage equality as voters approved an amendment that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state in 2004. Baize and Wissman’s divorce is one of the first cases of its kind to be approved by Ohio.

Baize’s attorney, Thomas Addesa, told the newspaper that the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, an anti-gay organization, filed a legal brief in the case.The group’s lawyer said that the court could not grant the two men a divorce because "by default" it would acknowledge that they were legally married.

"Unfortunately, there are and probably always will be a few rogue judges who are going to ignore the Constitution. For our part, we will continue to urge them to uphold it," David Langdon wrote in an email to the newspaper.

Addesa argued that that the divorce of a gay couple does not "speak to the same-sex marriage prohibition." He added that the constitutional amendment and state law have nothing to do with divorce -- only marriage.

Like gay marriage, there is no federal law that recognizes "gay divorce." Most states that legalized gay marriage treat all divorces the same. But when it comes to states that do not recognize same-sex marriage is when things become tricky.

An incident that mirrors Baize and Wissman’s case occurred in February 2011, when an Austin, Texas, judge granted a divorce to two women who were legally married while living in Massachusetts. The state’s general attorney, Gregg Abbott, filed a motion to undo the ruling arguing that the judge did not have the proper authority to grant the divorce because Texas has a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The judge, however, ruled that Abbot’s motion was not timely, the Associated Press reported.

In 2009 the General Assembly introduced a law that would allow same-sex couples to divorce in Rhode Island. The bill was a response to a 2007 state Supreme Court ruling where the court denied a lesbian couple a divorce because they married in Massachusetts. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch (D), would allow same-sex couples to divorce in the state even though their marriage would not be recognized.

By:  Jason St. Amand
Web Producer / Staff Writer
Tuesday Mar 27, 2012

Wed Site:

(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.)