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February 2013

Today's Divorce Tip: Act Before You File!

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Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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For Plaintiff's, the Notice of Automatic Orders goes into effect at the moment the Plaintiff signs the Complaint for Divorce under oath.

What does that mean?  It means that if you have filed your Complaint for Divorce and you take any action that is in violation of the provisions of the Notice of Automatic Orders that you may be technically or even willfully in contempt of court.

So what do you do?  If you have to take any actions regarding insurances or any assets, etc... that are in any way addressed or impacted by the Rhode Island Family Court's Notice of Automatic Orders then you must do so before you sign that Complaint for divorce if you are the Plaintiff.

Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that you need to initiate a change before the Automatic Orders go into effect but rather that you should make sure that whatever action you take is completed before you sign that Complaint for Divorce as the Plaintiff otherwise you risk a contempt order being issued against you by the court.

Readers, please note that this does not relate to Defendants.  Defendants are bound by the rule that they are bound by the Automatic Orders once they are served with the Complaint for Divorce by the Automatic Orders of the Court.  There is an exception to this rule though. If the court has reason to believe that you had actual notice of the divorce action and that the papers were being served and you knew of the Automatic Orders and you acted contrary to those orders, then the court may still find that you had what is known as "constructive notice or constructive service" of the papers and therefore the Defendant was bound by those Orders at the time he or she had notice according to the Court.

The situation becomes slightly more precarious for the Defendant than it does for the Plaintiff.  Yet there is one thing that both parties need to remember.

The Rhode Island Family court is a a court of equity and no matter what you may have done which may or may not have been in violation of the Automatic Orders, even if you completed the action before the papers were signed, the judge may still have the power to reverse what you have done or make orders that restore the equity of the situation.

This is one small component of any divorce, be it contested or uncontested.  Did you know this?  If not, think about that.  There are hundreds if not thousands of these little tidbits of knowledge that competent family law attorneys know that helps them get their clients through the court system.  Can you really afford not to be without that information and help?

Another Form of Parental Alienation Becomes Similar to Extortion!

Picture of Attorney Christopher Pearsall
Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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Some parents just don't get the message and don't have the proper concern they should have for their children.

New forms of parental alienation keep coming up just when I thought I'd seen it all.

Imagine a parent who pays their child support.  Yet the parent after the divorce doesn't seem to grasp the idea that it costs more for two people to live separately than it does for them to live together.  So what might a parent do.  Some parents want to keep their child in the lifestyle the child was used to before the divorce existed.

So, that parent, let's assume it's the placement parent, not only wants what has been ordered by the court, but continues to send additional bills to the other parent that relate to the minor child that the non-placement spouse isn't required to pay.

Coincidentally, what does that placement spouse select as the things to send the non-placement parent.  They are all the expenses having to do with the Minor Child's activities or "fun and enjoyable things." 

Here's the kicker.  The placement parent doesn't run these things by the non-placement parent before getting the Minor Child all hyped up about them, but rather gets the child excited about them and then either pays for them or gives no notice to the non-placement parent that 1/2 of the payment is expected from him or her and then springs it on the non-placement parent after it's too late.

So what do you get?  The minor child is all excited about receiving the item or participating in the event and then the non-placement parent is hit with the bill.

Yet that's not the "end all" of the alienation... it's only the "set up."  Then when the non-placement parent provides any resistance to paying the expense, the non-placement parent is first guilted into being told that he or she doesn't care about his child or her would pay the expense.  

Here's where the parental alienation and the extreme lack of care for the minor child comes in.  Then, if the guilt trip does doesn't work.... the placement parent actually tells the Minor Child that he or she can't have (or participate in) this or that because the non-placement parent doesn't care about them enough to pay part of it and the placement parent tells the child that he or she can't afford the cost on their own.

This is the newest form of parental alienation I have seen and another way to disgust any genuine and truly caring parent in situation between people who have a Minor Child together or have a Minor Child from a divorce.

Often I try to refrain from making judgments in my articles but here I will make several judgment calls in the form of questions.  

1)  How low does a parent have to be on any moral scale to be so desperate to extort money from the non-placement parent by hurting the relationship between the non-placement parent and the Minor Child, perhaps permanently?

2)  Is the placement parent so bitter that they must harm their child simply for money or is the underlying reason that they want the child's relationship with the non-placement parent be damaged?

 3)  Does the placement parent realize that even up to the age of 15 through 20 that our children really don't know what they want in life and they still want to believe their parents are good people?  Do they grasp the concept that by treating this "child" as an "adult" that they are damaging their own child's psyche?  Does the placement parent even care?

4)  What parent needs to hurt their child in this manner simply to extort money from the non-placement parent by placing adult burdens upon their own child?  What does that say about that parent?

Parental alienation may be difficult to prove but it is real and it is not impossible to prove.  It doesn't need to be called a "syndrome" nor does their need to be a psychological definition placed upon it to go before the courts.

Yet there needs to be some punishment meted out to the parent that causes it.  Parents who burden childen with adult matters purely to make themselves look better or to "explain why a child can't do this or that" are just fooling themselves.

Ultimately these (and yes I will say it) "parents with poor parentings skills" such that it would be fair and appropriate to call them "bad parents" have a lack of respect for their own child that they deprive that child of a beneficial relationship with the other parent.

Parents who take these actions with respect to a child, whether they are placement parents or not, need some serious counseling and need to shift their priorities so that they see what they are doing to the child.

Parents who take actions such as these (and other actions which similarly create alienation of another parent) need to stop burdening the child with adult matters that a child should not have to be privy to, nor does a child have to know about finances contributed or not contributed by the other parent.  These are "adult matters."

Children need to be allowed to grow up and enjoy things that children do.  Adult pressures will reach them fast enough.  For a parent to place these things upon a child earlier than they need to is to cause potential social and psychological trauma to the child that is needless, careless and thoughtless.

The world can be cruel enough without your parents who are the normal structural foundations of stability for a child reaking havoc on their day to day life because they have their own relationship and emotional problems.

To parents who are behaving in this manner which causes their child to suffer the consequences, for the sake of your child or children, please get some counseling.

Keeping the Love Alive in a Valentine's Day Way Can Prevent Divorce!

Picture of Attorney Christopher Pearsall
Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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If you believe divorce lawyers only work to get clients and make money then I will let you know you're wrong.  At least you'd be wrong about this one.

Keeping a marriage together is work and that work involves both parties and being aware every day that each party in the marriage relationship has needs that need to be met.

It is when you start forgetting about the needs of the other person in the relationship and you start taking them for granted that a marriage may start to fail and fall on rocky ground.  If you notice times of silence, times when you argue more and forget why you are arguing, times when you have a disagreement and you are wrong but you are not willing to admit that you were wrong and apologize to the person then you're hitting those rocky times.

Of course today is Valentine's Day.  It is the day to celebrate love and relationships and be thankful for those around us who love us.  It is more than just for lovers.  It is a time that is best used by married couples or those in relationships to rekindle that love that first brought you together.

Personally, I'd rather spend a few hours to help a person realize they really aren't ready for a divorce and that their marriage is worth saving than I would taking 20 minutes and getting a signed agreement to represent a person and be handed a check for several thousand dollars.  Why'?  Because that's me.  My goal is... has been... and always will be to get you to a better tomorrow.

If that better tomorrow is to give you some insights as to how to revive your marriage and lose a client then Fantastic!  I'd rather lose the client.  I don't want to see people getting divorced.  I want to see them happy... whatever that may be and whatever the path is that they may need to get there.  If it's divorce that they have to go through then I want to use my skills to take them through the process relatively easily and help them through it with as little expense and as little emotional turmoil as possible.  Change is hard enough.  The court system doesn't have to be a bitter fight for things that really don't matter in the end.  

And frankly, when the love of the couple forms the very stability that a child born from the relationship relies upon then that poor child needs to be protected and attorneys should try to get these people through with as little animosity as possible to protect that child as well.

To this end, on Valentine's Day this year I wanted to rekindle my own relationship with my wife.  Now I could have gone out and bought her a $5.00 card from Hallmark.  Or I could have purchased a dozen roses as a customary token of a man's love for his wife.  Or I might have purchased something that was engraved with something short and sweet that she might have appreciated.

Yet when you've heard "It's the thought that counts."  I thought that was true of my wife.  So later that night as she slept next to me I opened my computer and I just laid their and thought.  I thought about the day we first met and how I felt.  I thought about the emails we exchanged before we met.  I thought about the first time I kissed her and how I couldn't concentrate on my work for several weeks because all I could think about was the warmth of her in my heart and how I could not wait to be with her again.

Then I thought of all the good times we've had and the bad times we've weathered in nearly 15 years.  I thought of the Intensive Care Unit when she was hooked up to all kinds of tubes for breathing and eating and I thought she was going to die.  I thought of the emergency surgery she needed on another occasion because she had a rare disease I discovered after many doctors had told her it was all in her head.  I remember how I felt as she dwindled from 135 lbs down to 94 lbs and needed help walking because she was so weak.

As I laid next to her tears came to my eyes to think of all the joys and sorrows we shared together, sometimes on the verge of giving up and giving in.  In that time, I remembered how to love and cherish her and so I began writing as my feelings seemed to gush out onto the computer screen.

And this is what came forth from my soul.  I wrote it for her.  I wrote it about her.  I wrote it for us on this special day to cherrish her.

No bird could sing so majestic a melody as that which my heart plays when you are near;

No artist could paint with colors bright enough to match the glimmer in my eyes when I touch your skin;
There is no hole deep enough to measure the depths I would go to win your hand and your heart;
For you are the lantern that lights my path when the darkness surrounds me;
And you are the strength that beckons me onward when weakness presses me to stop;
Your smile upon me is like the break of day on a dewy morning welcoming the promise of happiness within my soul not only for today but forever.
No treasure is as rich as you who I have found to share my life with.  As my friend, my lover, my partner . . . never behind me but always beside me because we are equals …. because we are One!
And One we will always stay until the time comes when God calls us to another place … and even there our love shall abide and we will be with each other ever more.  
One waiting for the other…. until we are once again… as we were always destined to be …. just as we are now…..
Loving….. Complete . . . always as One.

I make no claim to be a magnificent poet.  I am no Shakespeare nor a Cyrano DeBergerac hiding in the shadow to profess his love through another.

I am a simple man who in an evening took the time to appreciate my wife for all she is to me, for all she does for me, for everything my life has been with her in it.  It is in something as simple as a poem that we cherish those we love and we give not from our wallets but from our very soul how we feel and how much we care.

It is this type of caring and appreciation that keeps romance and love alive.  Love is like a plant.  It needs sunshine.  It needs water.  It needs for the weeds that would kill it to be pulled out and away for its survival.  We are each a plant, in need of that care not just on Valentine's day but every day, every month, when there is drought and when there is flood... making sure we get what we need to survive side by side with our kindred plant to help us remain strong.

I urge you on this Valentine's Day to remember your co-plant in this life.  Remember that he or she needs care that is not always easy to see or hear.  Yet if we close our eyes and ears to the fact that our co-plant has these needs, all it will do is wither and die.

Help you co-plant grow and flourish and you will find that you will do the same.

And by the way, she had me read what I wrote and she loved it.  It wasn't expensive, it didn't look or smell pretty, but it was the water that she needed to know.... she is cherished.  She is loved!

Happy Valentine's Day to All!

Authored By: Attorney Christopher Pearsall
Valentine's Day 2013

Can I Settle My Divorce Case without a Lawyer?

Recently, I was at the Providence Family Court waiting in line to file some documents for a client.  I heard two people talking to each other at the counter.  From the gist of the conversation I could tell that they were both filing their own divorces and being helped by separate clerks.

One person seemed very confident about his filing and the other younger man didn't seem so confident.  Rather than asking one of the lawyers who were still standing in line waiting to be helped, the less confident man asked the other one if he could settle his case without a lawyer.  The more confident fellow responded "Absolutely, you just put down what you and your wife agree to on paper and submit it to the judge on the court date."  The less confident man seemed reassured that there wasn't more to it and he went on his way breathing a sigh of relief.

Certainly people can settle their divorce cases without a lawyer.  Heck, I see people do it all the time and I'm sure it's not limited to Rhode Island.  I've seen people do it on the day of their divorce on a single piece of lined notebook paper.  It doesn't look fancy but it works for them.

Yet the interaction between the two men got me thinking.  Do people do it better without lawyers or would it be better if they had a lawyer?

As a lawyer you'd think I'd jump in and say that people can't do it and you need a lawyer and all that stuff and there's much more to it than just what people scribble down on a piece of paper because they don't know the law.

Thankfully I was a philosophy major in college for 5 years and it taught me to think until my head hurt.  It was a good match for law school.  Yet the point of mentioning this is that it taught me not to simply advocate for my profession and more clients but to think of the REAL answer and to give it to people straight with no sugar coating.  In otherwords, for people to hear the truth.  

So what is the truth?  The truth is this.  Yes, you can settle your divorce without a lawyer.  AND, you could do it WITH a lawyer!  It's an easy question to answer.  

Then there's the much harder question to answer,  If you can settle your divorce case without a lawyer should you?

I had to ponder that question for a while and make a few assumptions.  Let's assume that you have enough money at least to have an attorney do the bargaining and drafting of the agreement with your spouse.  

Now ask the same question under those circumstances.  Should you settle your divorce case without a lawyer?

I thought about this for days.  I didn't jump to conclusions.  I considered every angle imaginable just with the assumption that the person had enough money to have an attorney bargain for the settlement with your spouse or your spouse's lawyer and then write it up for you.

Get this.  After all of that here is what I came up with. 

Can you settle your divorce without a lawyer?  Absolutely.  Should you?  If you can't afford a lawyer at all for any part of your proceeding then "Yes."  After all, what are you going to do except do it yourself.

Now add in the assumption that you could pay for a lawyer to do your bargaining and write up the Marital Settlement Agreement for you.  Should you?

Here's my answer.  "Yes and No."

Can the person in that position still settle their divorce case without a lawyer?  Absolutely?  Should they do so even if they have the money for a lawyer to do the bargaining and write up the agreement?  Yes, they should try to settle it.

Now the question is "Why?"  Why would I come to such a conclusion when my job is to protect people's rights?

The answer is quite simple.  People who can communicate together will settle their divorce and generally speaking they will settle it in a manner that is acceptable to each them.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that they will do a much faster job than an attorney who will be focusing on the details from the start as lawyers usually do.  

People want their divorce done and over with and therefore they usually process the most important things quickly and settle them.  They don't focus on the details as lawyers do.  Therefore, the fundamentals of the settlement process will usually be completed much more quickly and much more easily than an attorney will handle it.

Keep in mind that I am talking about the fundamentals and not the entire agreement.  Should a person who has the ability to pay a lawyer to draft a final agreement draft that agreement on their own.  Then my answer is "NO."

Your final Marital Settlement Agreement as submitted to the Family Court as an Exhibit is most likely going to be a contract that is going to bind you and your spouse until all the provisions are complied with.  There are too many details that lawyers DO think of that are very important that people do not think of on their own.  If you miss those details then you might as well plan on returning to court time and time again if their is anything at all of significance in your agreement.

When I mean anything of significance, this includes children, visitation, child support, debts to be paid, assets to be kept or sold, real estate, retirement plans, joint physical custody (i.e. placement), items that each party may buy before the Final Judgment of Divorce but after the court hearing, health insurance, division of retirement accounts, etc....


All of the things that I mention above involve details that the layperson and even a well-informed person is typically not aware of. Without a lawyer to look over an agreement and find the holes you may have missed with your spouse.  Remember that this agreement is not to intimidate your spouse or scare him or her, but rather it is to make sure important issues that are evident to lawyers experienced in family law are not overlooked by the layperson.

So if you can resolve your divorce with your spouse.  Great!  But have a lawyer look it over, then advise you of your rights regardless of what you may have agreed to and then fill in the holes so that everything is covered between you and your spouse.

Remember, you won't get a chance to do this agreement right.  So get it right the first time.

I'm Affordable and I'm here to help when you need me.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™ 

Why Do I Need a lawyer for my Divorce?

There you are.  You're at the counter for the Domestic Relations counter at the Rhode Island Family Court for Providence County. You ask for a divorce packet from the court clerk.  Suddenly you're given about 19 pages of paper with no instructions.

Well, there's a pretty good reason for you to need a divorce lawyer right there in those 19 pages.  Do you know what to fill out and where?  Most people don't and for those people whose packets MAY (and I emphasize that word) be accepted by the court, do they have it right?  Who knows?

Should you care what's on those pages?

You'd better because they do considerably more than just start your divorce.  Those pages could well spell out what your rights are and which ones you may have waived.

Yes, if you fill out the paperwork wrong you could possibly waive valuable rights that you might have been entitled to.

But you have one of those "no brainer" divorces where everything is agreed to, right?  Did you know that almost everyone describes their divorce like that?   People do that especially when they want the best price possible.  Some people say "everything is agreed to" so you practically have to do nothing to the prospective lawyer.

Sorry folks, even uncontested divorces take work.  Any lawyer in any case from beginning to end is most likely going to put in 10 hours of work to get you from beginning to the end of the case.  It's not nothing.

These 10 hours at a minimum are spent using our expertise to protect your rights with our knowledge, schooling and continuing education.

Am I saying that you need representation?  No, but I AM saying that if you don't at least get good solid advice on each step of the process (including the initial paperwork) then you are making a mistake or you are being foolhardy.

Recently I had a call from someone who paid a service to prepare the initial documents for filing for them.  The first time, the clerk told the person the paperwork was all old and outdated.  The client was upset of course and went back to the service.  The person at the service was given the current paperwork and filled it out for the client again.  The person again got the paperwork and tried again.  The paperwork was rejected by the court yet again because it was filled out incorrectly by the service.  The client was upset and frustrated.  The client went back to the service and demanded a refund.  

The person called me and I explained my divorce coaching approach but that I would not simply prepare the paperwork because when the client doesn't understand the process, their legal rights, and why you do what you do for each step of the process then not only do I do the client a disservice but I would be helping the client to commit their own personal brand of malpractice.

There is a reason for each step of the process in a divorce proceeding.  It is not just procedural or lacking legal significance.  If you don't understand the "law" of it and the reasoning behind it, then you don't know what you are doing other than filling in some papers.

Regrettably, everyone is so engrained in the fast food america that we want everything fast and easy.  Well, I'm not one to sugar coat things to get clients or for any other reason.  I believe in truth.  The truth of it is that divorce is what it is and the process can't be short cut and if you don't know what you are doing you can screw things up royally.  Not for me.  Not for the judge.  For You!

It's better to be smart and get some coaching from a lawyer like me who has been practicing family law for more than a dozen years then to make mistakes even in those crucial first pages that you file with the court.  

I don't want you to waive important rights that you have any more than I'm sure you don't want to waive them.

Yes, it's easy to get married and much harder and time consuming to get divorced.  Accept it.  Deal with it.  Spend what you may need to spend to get it done right and move on with your life.  

We all spend money on computers, food, furniture, cars and trucks, christmas presents for our children, pets and their vet bills, etc.... but when it comes to something as important as protecting our legal rights we can't find the money.  It really says something about how poor our priorities have dropped on the totem pole in America.  Our rights are everything!  We only have all of these other things because of our legal rights and what came before us by our forefathers and the battles they fought.

Lawyers aren't all bad and they aren't as bad as they (as we) are protrayed.  There are those of us who do care because we've been through it.  You're not a paycheck.  You're a person and you have real issues and we (I) want to help you get through it without a lot of aggravation and expense.

I'm here when you need me.  Affordable.  Caring.  Friendly.  Helpful.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™