Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. The Rhode Island Divorce Coach℠
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Many times it is the debts that can be the trickiest part of the Rhode Island Divorce. In particular, one phrase you will often hear attorneys and mediators use is "indemnify and hold harmless".
Let me use it in the context of a Rhode Island Divorce Decree so that you can get a true understanding of how it is used.
1. The Husband shall be solely responsible for the remaining balance on the Capital One VISA which is $3,488.00 and shall indemnify and hold the wife harmless with respect to same.
The language is important even though to some it looks like a bunch of legal gobbledy gook.
Let's look at the word "indemnify". In the context of this Rhode Island Divorce decree provision, this means the husband must secure and even guarantee the spouse against legal responsibility for the Capital One VISA debt of $3,488.00. For instance, if the wife were to get sued over this debt, this provision would require him to defend her, possibly pay her attorneys' fees and costs, and even pay any judgment and continuing interest that might be rendered against her.
Now let's look at the words "and hold the wife harmless". The words mean exactly what they say. The husband must hold the wife completely harmless from any . . . and that's the key word. . . ANY. . . harm she may sustain relating to that debt.
For instance, let's say that except for that Capital One VISA debt that the wife has impeccable credit. Yet her husband has not paid the obligation on time and is three payments behind. The wife tries to apply for a mortgage for a house and is denied because of the late payments by the husband. In fact, she can't get a mortgage anywhere. The husband now has a problem because he must hold the wife harmless for any damages relating to that debt obligation.
The question is actually, how will the court's treat it if the parties return to court. The husband might be found in contempt of court for Provision #1 of the Rhode Island Divorce Decree but what is the remedy. The husband cannot reverse time and make the payments on time. The damage has been done. What remedy might the judge use?
Do you see why debts can be tricky?
What would happen if the language weren't in there at all? What could the wife do? Anything?
There are answers. The question is .... do you know them.
Are lawyers necessary? If you don't know these answers then you understand why we are here.