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In a Complaint or Complaint or Counterclaim for Divorce in RI what do I ask for?

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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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So you are going to file a complaint or counterclaim for divorce in RI, what do you ask for, right?

If you look at the Rhode Island Family Court's standard Complaint for Divorce form there is a "WHEREFORE CLAUSE."  This is where it states that you are asking the court to grant you an absolute divorce and ...   Of course space is left after this clause to allow you to type in whatever it is that you are asking the court for.

The main question people have regarding this clause is "What do I ask for?"  Ultimately, you can ask for things specifically like this and list all the things that you want:

"and . . . the 1989 Chrysler Lebaron SE, half of our dvd video collection, half of all the furniture including the bedroom set, the bank account in my name, my 401k, my coin collection, etc..."

Or, you could ask for things generally in this manner:

"and . . . a fair distribution of the assets and debts from the marriage, appropriate orders regarding health insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses, denial of alimony to my spouse, and the resumption of my maiden or former name of "Smith" and whatever else the court finds is fair and just.

Now a few of the questions you might be asking yourself are:

1.  Should I ask for things the specific way or the general way?

2.  Is there any difference between asking the specific way or the general way?

3.  If there is a difference, what is the difference?

4.  If I do things the specific way, what happens if I forget something?

5.  Are there any benefits to doing it the general manner?

6.  Do these examples include everything I should ask for?

These are excellent questions to be sure and they aren't the only questions you would want to ask or have answered.

Since this is a general article and is not about any one couple or case, the answers will vary depending upon the couple.

Should you use the general or specific manner to ask the court for relief?  Well, it all depends upon the circumstances, your style and what you trying to accomplish.  Even divorce lawyers differ regarding the answer to this and several of the other questions.

Obviously there is a difference between using the specific and general manner of telling the court what you want.  One clearly tells the court and the opposing spouse what you want while the other one simply tells the court that you want to do it's job under the law and divide things "equitably" as it is required to by law when asked to.  

Good long-term lawyers who care about their divorce clients would most likely say that the more pertinent questions a person should ask are, "How many differences are there between the specific and general manner?  And what significance does each difference make?  These questions, however, depend substantially on the couple involved and the dynamic of their divorce, including how well they are getting along, whether they have children, how old the children are, and other significant factors that a good lawyer weighs carefully with each case.  Therefore, exact answers to these questions aren't really possible in this article.

Does it matter if you are using the specific manner and you miss something?  The answer is this "it might!"  Does it seem as though I am evading answering the question?  Though it might look that way, I'm not.  The fact is that answers to each question are case specific and depends upon the facts of the case, what it is that might have been missed, and even whether the judge assigned to the case believes in following the letter of the law or believes in following a path of using his or her discretion regarding such matters.

In conclusion, I can answer one question with certainty and clarity.  These examples do not even come close to including everything that might be included in a person's request for relief in a divorce.   In fact, several requests that are common and may be necessary have not been included.

Do you know what those things are?

If you don't, then I will have achieved the point of my article.

Let me explain.  Right now I guesstimate that about 75% of people are filing their own divorces in the RI Providence County Family Court alone.  Yet here we are asking about just one single paragraph on the standard court form for the Complaint for Divorce and/or the closely eqivalent request for relief in a Counterclaim for Divorce.

This ONE paragraph that makes a HUGE difference in your divorce whether you file the Complaint for Divorce or a Counterclaim for Divorce.  It has to do with what you want to ask the court to award in the divorce.

Now if 75% of people filing in Providence County's family court are doing this on their own and they don't know all the answers to the questions in this short article then I'd be willing to bet that unless they are lawyers that 74% of them are GETTING THIS IMPORTANT PART WRONG!

Why is this significant?  Here's the kicker!  If you go through your own divorce without the help and coaching of an attorney and you missed something in this crucial paragraph, then some people are going to make errors that are going to be permanent that even the best divorce attorney in Rhode Island is never going to be able to undo!

Whether you are in an uncontested or contested divorce, the risks are still there!  If you don't see the need for either a divorce lawyer or some divorce coaching from a Rhode Island lawyer by this short article, then my very best to you and good luck.  

There's a reason I only practice divorce and family law in our state. The complexities and significance of what needs to be done and considered in a divorce are enough to take up more than one lifetime.  I felt that was enough... and after more than a dozen years doing this.. I know I was right.