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April 2012

Does My Spouse have to Keep Me on the Health Insurance after our Divorce is Finalized?

Question:  

In a Rhode Island Divorce doesn't my spouse have to continue keeping me covered by health insurance even after the divorce is finalized?

 

Answer:

No.  There is no Rhode Island law that says a spouse who has provided health insurance to another spouse must keep the other spouse insured under the existing health insurance plan.

Health Insurance is something that may or may not be negotiable during any particular divorce.  If the company that has set up the health insurance plan has set it in accordance with federal laws then the health insurance company may refuse to cover ex-spouses.  If that is the case, there is no negotiation regarding that particular health insurance because she won't be covered ... period... end of story.  

If the company has set up it's health insurance plan in accordance with Rhode Island law (ie. state law) then ex-spouses are generally covered as long as it is stated in the court's order that the spouse will remain on the insurance plan in accordance with the Rhode Island Health Insurance Continuation Act.

Keep in mind that this has to do with whether the spouse can remain on the insurance plan and NOT whether the spouse who is the main plan member has to pay for that other spouse's premiums.  That is a different issue entirely that I will cover in another question tomorrow.

[Please note that coverage available as a result of military service in the armed forces may be a completely different issue and completely unrelated to this answer depending upon the factual circumstances of your marriage and Rhode Island divorce case.]

 

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

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


A Good Uncontested RI Divorce is all about your Rhode Island Marital Settlement Agreement!

An uncontested divorce in Rhode Island remains uncontested because the parties have reached agreement on all issues relating to the resolution of their marriage.  Most of the time, unless the divorce does not involve minor children, real estate, or retirement accounts then the resolution of a divorce need not result in a written Marital Settlement Agreement.

However, the vast majority of Rhode Island divorces that are properly handled include a Marital Settlement or Property Settlement Agreement in a written form which sets forth the terms of the agreement between the two divorcing parties in detail so their isn't any confusion in the future regarding what the parties intended.

It is often misunderstood by parties that all it takes is "agreement between the parties" on all aspects of the resolution of the marriage.

This is NOT true!  I told one gentleman this who was very upset when I told him this.  He came out and said that I was wrong and every lawyer he had called had told him that all he had to do with his wife was come to an agreement.  I asked him if he met with those attorneys.  The man told me that he hadn't.  I told him that was the problem.  The man didn't care to speak with me further and apparently thought that I was going to try to make him pay money to explain my statement.  Sadly, the man was a bit hot-headed and it would have been better if he had listened a few minutes more rather than simply hanging up on me.

While it is true that an uncontested divorce stays that way by reaching an agreement with your spouse, don't forget that the agreement does not simply get rubber stamped by the court judge!  That's right, the court does not have to accept your agreement.

Why might the court not accept your agreement?  What reasons could the court possibly have to refuse to approve the agreement reached between agreeable parties?

Ask yourself if you know the answers to these questions before you go running off thinking you can handle your own divorce easily because you and your spouse have worked out your own agreement.

1.  Can the RI Divorce Judge refuse to approve your Marital Settlement Agreement in your Uncontested divorce proceeding

A) for aspects of your agreement regarding your children?

B) for your chosen division of your assets?

C) about the apportionment of your debts between both of you?

D) dealing in any way with your insurances?

E) that relate to out-of-pocket healthcare costs?

F) if both people have waived alimony permanently?

 

Surprisingly, not only are many people surprised that the court does not just rubber stamp every agreement put before it, but there are numerous reasons it does not do so and sometimes refuses to put your uncontested RI proceeding through for many reasons relating to protection of children and principles of fundamental fairness.

Are you at all concerned that your uncontested Rhode Island divorce might not go through because your agreement contains "red flags" that the court will notice and refuse to accept?

What do you do then?  Many people either cannot afford or do not want to pay for a lawyer for their entire case.  I can certainly understand and respect that.  So I provide a unique and individualized new service to my clients.  It is a Marital Settlement Agreement Review.  This involves three segments and depends upon the length of the agreement.

Segment 1.  Meeting with the Client to Obtain Background Information

Segment 2.  Review of the Marital Settlement Agreement based upon the Background Information obtained from the client.

Segment 3.  Meeting with the Client to review in detail questionable provisions of the Marital Settlement Agreement to insure you understand your Marital/Property Settlement Agreement to make sure you understand either all the provisions of your agreement or the provisions that may a greater impact upon you and consequences that you may want to reconsider or approach in a different way.

This service for you in a Marital Settlement Agreement is for the review of an existing agreement that either you and your spouse have prepared or the review of an agreement that has been prepared by one or both attorneys for the parties.  People would be surprised to find that sometimes they may not have chosen the best lawyer to protect their interests as it relates to their Marital Settlement Agreements.  

Contracts is a very special area of Family Law that I have taken the time to become particularly adept at in order to protect my clients.  If you are at all hesitant about your lawyer and/or your marital settlement agreement because you are concerned about what you are agreeing too, then trust your instincts.

Call me and set up your Marital Settlement Review program to make sure that something important isn't missed or that your agreement is appropriate for your circumstances?

Call me Now at (401) 632-6976 to set up your low cost unbiased 2nd opinion from a skilled professional who has been practicing exclusively divorce for over a decade!

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 Family Law Courtroom Decorum to Prevent A Problem with Your RI Family Court Judge!

The way you present yourself in Rhode Island Family Court makes a huge difference in the way that the judge sees you and your case.  The reason you see lawyers do what they do in the way of formalities and expressions of respect to the Judge is not just because they are lawyers, it is because they know that presentation makes all the difference.  

10 Points of Rhode Island Family Court Decorum

Adjusting your behavior to follow these 10 points of decorum for behavior in the Rhode Island Family Court will help prevent your case from being harder than it needs to be.

1.  Apparel:  Wear decent clothing.  No t-shirts, shorts, jeans, clothing with holes or clothing with patches.

2.  Things to Avoid:  Avoid Items that may not be appropriate in Court such as peircings, gum and tobacco chewing, "busting a sag", excessively casual clothing, etc...

3.  Standing:  Always rise when speaking to the Judge.

4.  Hands:  Avoid putting your hands in your pockets when addressing the Judge or when listening to the Judge speak.

5.  Electronic Devices:  Always make sure all electronic devices you have are turned off while in the courtroom.  Placing devices on vibrate or silent mode is not acceptable.  This includes cel phones, ipods, ipads, itouch, mp3 players, computers, pda's and any other electronic technology device other than necessary devices such as hearing aids for those with hearing problems.

6.  Interrupting:  Do not speak over the Judge.  When the Rhode Island divorce court judge is speaking, it is rude and considered disrepectful to the court when you try to speak when the Judge is speaking.

7.  Posture and Stance:  How you stand actually does make a difference in the courtroom.  Stand up straight no matter now tired you are.  Just in the way all divisions of the military teach their enlisted men and officers to stand up straight, you should do the same.  Standing up straight gives the aura that you are confident but as well as respectful.  It is not, as some might think, a position of defiance.  If you want the court to take you seriously, then you have a better chance when you maintain a good posture.

8.  Positioning Your Arms:  When you speak with your arms folded across your chest, this has the appearance of defiance to the court or that you are not listening.   Crossing your arms in front of you likewise projects an appearance of defiance or that you are not paying attention.

9.  Eye Contact:  Make eye contact with the Judge from time to time.  Do not be afraid to look at the judge.  Avoiding eye contact with the judge has the appearance that you are not telling the truth or that you have something to hide.

10.  Tone:  It is a good idea to consciously remain aware of your tone of voice when speaking in court.  A hostile tone is about as helpful to your cause as kicking a beehive is in getting the honey out of a beehive.  Maintain a calm tone when speaking with the court.  Anger does not get you anywhere.  Remaining calm and focused will help you achieve the best possible result.

 

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 does Rhode Island Child Support Cover in RI Family Court Matters?

Rhode Island Child Support is often misunderstood by parents, particularly by the parent who is receiving the child support.

 

In Rhode Island, unless specifically stated otherwise by the court the child support is the non-placement parent's contribution toward

1) Keeping a roof over the child's or children's head at the placement parent's house as well as the,

2)  Heating,

3)  Electricity,

4)  Food,

5)  Clothing including socks, undergarments, sneakers, shoes, pants, dresses, coats, shirts, bibs, diapers, boots and other clothing necessities,

6)  School supplies, and

7) other basic needs of the child/children.

Often parents in a Rhode Island family court case who receive child support wrongfully think that the child support is compensation in order to be able to visit with the child or that it is monies intended to compensate the placement parent for room and board for the child as if the placement parent were the landlord.

An other misconception is that a parent who has visitation with the child is supposed to provide all the closing and needs mentioned above for the child/children during visitation time.  This is not true and many family court judges do not see this as realistic because to require this would be to have the visitation payment paying for the same basic items twice and would be penalizing the visitation parent.

Essentially, most family court judges in Rhode Island have expressed the more prudent view in their decisions that the placement parent is reasonably required to provide the child with clothing and needs suitable to what will be needed by the child/children during the time the visitation parent has visitation.  Therefore, if a mother has placement of two children and the father has visitation for a weekend during the winter, it is generally anticipated and expected by many family court judges that the mother will send these two children for the weekend with their father with appropriately sized clothing to take the children through the weekend.  The clothes should be clean and appropriate for the season of the year.

Depending upon the father's ability to wash the clothing or have adequate access to washing facilities relatively easily, then the Father should return the clothes "clean" to the placement mother, if possible.

Naturally it is reasonably incumbent upon the father to provide a roof over there head, keep the children reasonably warm or cool depending upon the time of year, provide adequate food appropriate to the children's ages, provide electricity if necessary, and spend quality time with the children.  A prudent parent would also make sure there are reasonable first aid items at hand for the children based upon their age.

Anything extra or special that the father wants to do with the children would be at his own expense and he should not expect any reimbursement for any part of it from the placement parent.

Other than possible childcare expenses necessary for one of the parents to engage in work to support the children that have been ordered by the court, or specific educational expenses deemed necessary and ordered by the family court, this is traditionally what child support is used to pay for.

Clear up the confusion and use common sense.  Visitation is intended for the non-placement parent to be able to maximize his or her quality time with the children.  It is not the intent that the non-placement parent is to pay for everything all over again for clothing that has already been calculated within the initial child support payment to the placement spouse as the physical custodian supposedly acting in the best interests of the minor children who are the true persons entitled to the monies from the child support.
 

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 Does Rhode Island Child Support Cover in RI Family Court Matters?

It's too easy to get confused about what child support covers and what it doesn't cover in the Rhode Island Family Court so it is better to understand at least Three Important fundamentals as a starting basis.  Those child support and visitation are much deeper issues than these three issues, they will help you with a good start to understanding child support and how it relates, or does not relate to visitation in Rhode Island Divorce and family court cases.

1.  Usually Child Support will include child care for one or more minor children if that child care is necessary for one or both parents to work in order to support their child or children associated with the family court matter containing the child support for that particular child.  Note:  This does not mean that if you have another child that is not the subject of the family court proceeding and you have had the child with another person that if you need the childcare because of that secondary child, that you are entitled to childcare expenses from the father of the first child.

2.  Too many parents seem to believe that Rhode Island Child Support is tied to visitation and that payment of Child Support is payment for the right to the parent who is paying that Child Support for the right to see the child or children.  Wrong!  The two are not reliant on each other.  For instance, if a father is denied visitation with this children, he has no right to stop paying child support for his child or children.  Similarly, if a mother is not paid child support for the children she has placement of, she may not deny the father his rightful visitation.  The recourse for either party is to file a Motion to Adjudge the Parent in Contempt who is denying him or her his right to child support or visitation under the court's orders.  Denial of visitation or child support is not proper recourse.  By denying child support payments in response to lack of visitation or by denying visitation for lack of child support payments places you in a contempt of court position where you are directly defying the court's orders of visitation and child support.  Child Support does not pay for visitation rights and a parent can't be denied his or her visitation Rights for failure to make child support payments.

3.  Child Support is an entitlement of the "child" and NOT the "placement parent."  Therefore, child support cannot be waived by a parent.  Parents are supposed to protect the interests of their children and the underlying principles of the family court are such that a parent is NOT considered to be protecting a child's right to child support from both parents by trying to waive it.  Attempting to waive child support in a Rhode Island Family Law proceeding may actually cause the family court to question whether you are a fit parent to look after the child's interests if you want to try to waive a minor child's right to being supported by one or his or her parents.  Child support may be "left open" which is essentially "undecided for the moment" by the Family Court but capable of being opened/determined at any time by either party or by the court if there is a substantial change of circumstances.

    For Child Support to be "left open", the court must have a strong reason or justification that is usually testified to under oath at court by one or both of the parties that justifies leaving the child support open (i.e. the non-placement parent does not pay child support) usually for the benefit of the entire family unit.  Another instance may be a large offset in a divorce settlement which justifies that a parent has paid "in kind" child support by virtue of the settlement terms and therefore it is appropriate to ask that child support be "left open."  However, you should realize that there are limited instances in which the family court judge or magistrate will exercise his or her discretion to diverge from the Rhode Island Child Support Guideline adopted by Federal and Rhode Island law and the court will carefully scrutinize the reason for the request that child support "remain open"

    It is a bad idea to simply plan on asking the court to have the court leave child support open per a marital settlement agreement and expect the court to rubber stamp the agreement.  You could be asking yourself for a kick in the butt by the judge and told to get a lawyer because you have no idea what you are asking.

    Child support can be a complicated aspect of family court matters.  Always ask that it be explained if you represent yourself and make sure you read the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines and understand them.  If you bind yourself to more than you can pay because a lawyer or someone else has told you that you won't do better and yet you don't understand it, you may dig yourself a whole you can't get out of.

Be careful!  You are the best one to protect your own interests!  If you don't care enough to be informed and to get the help you need, especially when it relates to child support and visitation, then many people would say.... you get exactly what you deserve.  As for me, I just encourage you to be informed and to seek out at least some professional help from a licensed attorney.  $145 and an hour or your time could save you thousands of dollars just in a single year alone.

Tomorrow I will include a short update on what child support is expected to cover so placement parents don't have unrealistic expectations.

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."