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Affordable do-it-yourself divorce run amuck!

Tracy and Thomas believed they could handle their divorce all on their own in the Providence County Family Court. It's more affordable when you do it yourself but then again you risk making mistakes because you are not a divorce lawyer.

Compared to most people, Thomas and Tracy did a fairly good job. However, Tracy never anticipated that Thomas might not provide her with a quitclaim deed to ensure that the house could be refinanced and titled solely in her name.

Once the nominal divorce hearing in the Providence Family Court was completed, Thomas moved halfway across the country. Before he left, Thomas promised Tracy that he would in fact provide her with a quitclaim deed to the property when she needed it. In the Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment of Divorce Tracy was awarded sole and exclusive right and interest to the property they owned located in Cumberland, RI.   In the sentence that followed, Thomas was ordered to provide a quitclaim deed to Tracy for that same property so Tracy could refinance it and get his name off the mortgage on or before May 1, 2012.

Thomas did not provide the quitclaim deed even when asked by Tracy. A problem arose when Tracy confronted Thomas by telephone with the fact that the judge had required her to refinance that same property on or before May 1, 2012 to get Thomas's name off the mortgage. Thomas was less than cooperative.

Tracy was anxious to refinance the property as required.   Ultimately, Thomas felt he was being “bugged” about it and he refused to sign a quitclaim deed for the property.   Thomas now lived several states away and he believed there was nothing that the Rhode Island Court could do to him to force him to prepare and sign a quitclaim deed. Tracy was very upset.

That's when Tracy came to me. She simply wanted the easiest way in which to refinance the property in order to get a much lower mortgage payment.  The larger payment she was paying when she and Thomas lived together was too much to budget.

I discussed the options with Tracy.  Most of the options didn't appeal to her because of the amount of time it would take to process them through the Rhode Island Family Court system. It was only one more week could be entered before the Final Judgment of Divorce could be entered.

I suggested that Tracy make one more demand upon Thomas to provide her with a signed quitclaim deed that complied with Rhode Island law no later than  April 30, 2012. I also suggested that Tracy remind Thomas that he was obligated to provide a quitclaim deed so the property could be placed in her name by a refinance of the mortgage before May 1, 2012. Thomas didn't care. He refused to sign a quitclaim deed.

Though Tracy was frustrated, I provided her with a copy of Rhode Island General Laws, Title 15, Chapter 5, Section 16.4. That section is, in fact, a very seldom used law.  Section 16.4 allows a person who has been awarded real estate in a divorce proceeding to essentially use the Final Judgment of Divorce as an equitable deed in the event the other party does not comply with signing over the property as required by the Final Judgment.

Tracy was confused. It certainly was understandable since this is not a law in Rhode Island which is very often used. In fact, it's rather obscure and it is avoided when possible since many mortgage lenders want to see deeds for the transfer of property and not a recorded Final Judgment of Divorce.  Nonetheless, I let Tracey know that once the Final Judgment of Divorce had been signed she should record it in the Land Evidence Records for the Town of Cumberland Rhode Island.

Once Tracy recorded the Final Judgment of Divorce in the Land Evidence Records of the Town of Cumberland, the title to the property could be lawfully changed to Tracy's name and she should be able to proceed with the refinance of the property.

Admittedly, Tracy did have a little bit of trouble with the recording of the Final Judgment of Divorce because a keyword that is often used by judges was missing. This was a very easy mistake for Tracy and or Thomas to make in their divorce case but it was and still is one that may cause difficulties in the future.

Specifically, at the time of the hearing, Tracy asked the Court to award her sole and exclusive right and interest in and to the real estate. Since that was all the Tracy asked for, that was exactly what the court awarded. However, Tracy should have requested the court to award her all right, title, and interest in and to the real estate.

Tracy may or may not have difficulty when it comes to refinancing the property in the future due to the single missing word “title”.

Tracy had one shot to get it right at the time of the hearing and missed her opportunity by that one word. An experienced Rhode Island divorce lawyer most likely would not have missed such a crucial part of the statement in the request for relief from the court.

This is only one of the risks you take when you represent yourself in your divorce action. Many times, errors like these and other similar errors may not be correctable even with the help of an attorney later.  Some times you have only one chance to do things right and that is it.  Contrary to the poor reputation lawyers sometimes have with the public, we do serve a very vital purpose.

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."

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