Attorney Pearsall, I have a neice that I am trying to help out with a very difficult situation. To keep her anonymous, I'll call her Tracy.
Tracy married Brian about 15 years ago. Tracy had a promising career and a very good education but she gave up working as a graphic designer to raise their two children. The kids are age 13 and 10 right now and they are her whole world. Tracy hasn't worked in 15 years.
Before filing for divorce Brian took Tracy's name off all the bank accounts, confiscated the checkbook from her and took the debit card out of her purse. They have a house and he pays the house bills right now but he has given Tracy an ultimatum that she has 3 months to get up to speed with her job skills, get a job and pay 1/2 of everything or he'll fight to take the kids from her and not give her any money at all. Brian is the only source of income for their family. Brian is the jealous type and thinks that Tracy has been having an affair when she hasn't.
What can Tracy do in this situation? Tracy is already cut off from all the monies of the family and she doesn't know what Brian has done with their savings account and other accounts. Any help would be appreciated. Tracy is a mess over this divorce and she is frazzled to the bone. There must be something she can do.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
There's no easy answer for Tracy. Many spouses do this in a Rhode Island divorce either with or without their lawyer's advice. I call this move a "pre-emptive strike" by a spouse in order to leverage their position to try to coerce their spouse into giving into their demands. What happens is up to Tracy!
If Tracy has already filed for divorce, and it's early on in your proceeding, then Tracy could file what is known as a Motion for Temporary Allowances otherwise known by many lawyers as a Motion for Temporary Orders. The idea is that the parties can't wait for the matter to be heard in full by the court and needs some orders in place so that the parties can each continue to function. For instance, if the Children are residing with Tracy, then she would ordinarily ask for child support for the children as well as a contribution for medical care which would either reimburse the State of Rhode Island for state assistance that the custodial parent of the Minor children may be taking advantage of or child care that is necessary for either party to work and support the children.
There types of relief Tracy can request is as broad as the mind can think of. Can the Rhode Island family court grant "every" kind of relief? No. You will find that without either testimonial documentary evidence at a formal hearing, the court will be reluctant to order anything except what the parties may mutually agree to.
Temporary allowances is to get relief ordered from the court sooner rather than later because the type of motion puts the court on notice that relief is needed in advance of the court's intervention at trial.
How you approach the requests for relief to the court is important. Sometimes the manner and order in which you request the relief can make a difference too.
What should or could Tracy ask for in this situation?
1. Child Support for the Children?
2. Contributions toward the marital bills that need to be paid?
3. Orders requiring Brian to put back the monies he previously deposited into the joint account for the benefit of the wife and children as well?
4. Attorney's fees for Tracy because she doesn't have money to pay for her attorney or had to borrow the money to hire a lawyer?
5. Orders freezing any assets in Brian's name to protect Tracy from any future damage?
6. Order Brian to pay all the bills? With a hearing? Without a hearing?
7. Spousal support for Tracy herself to help her survive and rehabilitate herself?
These are only a few questions to ask yourself and things you need to know the answers too. Do you know if these can be done? In fact, some of them can. It is only in some instances that the court is limited in what it can do for Tracy.
What do you need to prove to the court in order to get any of the items of relief I have mentioned above? Can you prove these things by an affidavit? Can your attorney simply represent to the court what you are requesting and why? Do you need to be sworn in and testify under oath in order to obtain the relief from the court?
The fact is that each circumstance will vary depending upon what you are requesting and what the level or proof is that is needed.
Let's assume that Tracy files for divorce and needs immediate relief for the sake of the children. Can she do anything different? Can she request any or all of the things noted above. Yes, she can but she could or would do so on an Ex Parte Basis where the party requesting the relief would do so by a Motion, Affidavit in Support of the Motion and his or her presence to confirm for the Judge that he or she has testified truthfully under oath regarding what is contained in the affidavit.
In fact, there are many ways to handle each and every situation that Tracy may encounter or need help with and each one may be different. Tact and approach may be a big factor in the presentation as well as the content and manner of the presentation. None of these things come easy to an attorney, let alone Tracy who may be representing herself in her own divorce.
Does Tracy have options available to her to request help from the family court. Absolutely! Yet Tracy may only have one chance to make the request and get it right.
Law is not as easy as people make it seem. Most of the time there is no definitive answer because family court judges have tremendous discretion in their decisions, including the laws that govern and guide that discretion.
Do you know someone who is in such position? Perhaps it is you! If so, you need to know your rights and your options before you can make any decisions at all. Without information then our decisions may be the wrong one. Your legal rights, the court's procedure, the judicial process and other answers you don't have are the very reason I created my coaching program.
I don't have any expectation that you hire me after our 1 hour advice and coaching session. There is no other foot that falls by my telling you how many thousands of dollars it might cost you. We meet and within our 1 hour together I inform and educate you as well as answer your legal questions. For 1 hour of my time I reduce it from $250 per hour to only $145 for that hour so that you are informed. I answer YOUR QUESTIONS! I learn about YOUR situation! I advise you on YOUR RIGHTS! I coach you on what alternatives are available and what might be best suited to you. Lastly, I answer your most important questions! The appointment is about YOU and it is 100% focused on YOU and what YOU NEED!
I expect nothing more than being paid my roughly 53% reduced fee of $145 to make sure you know your rights and what you can do and what you can't do during before and during your divorce proceedings. The amount covers 1 hour of my time and a small portion of my liability in case you misunderstand something I have said or misuse something I have said. It's a small price to pay for long-term family law experience and the large liability I undertake when advising you of your legal rights and positioning on everything we discuss.
On top of all of this, our meeting and everything we discuss relating to your case is completely confidential.
Don't let anyone convince you that representing yourself is easy. Can it be made simpler? Yes, in some instances it can, but not in every instance. Make sure you don't become overconfident and make even one huge mistake in your divorce... if you miss something... it's very likely that you won't get a second chance.
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."