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Rhode Island Divorce: How Spouses Can Hurt Their Own Divorce Interests!

Spouses who feel wronged by their partner sometimes are so hurt or angry that they simply want to exact retribution against the spouse they feel has hurt them even if it means hurting their own interests.

Consider Pam and Jerry's divorce situation.

Pam and Jerry were married for 15 years.  Jerry worked as a Master Electrician for an HVAC company. Pam was a homemaker.  She had a high school education and worked 10 hours a week at the local library and cashed her check for her spending money.  Jerry always seemed to work long hours and several times a week told Pam he was going "out with the guys." 

Like many couples, they didn't communicate well and they became physically and emotionally distant from one another. One day Pam told Jerry she wanted a divorce and demanded that Jerry move out.  Jerry went to stay with his parents.

The next day, Pam goes to see a divorce lawyer.  Pam learns that she can make a claim for alimony because she doesn't have enough education or work experience to be able to immediately get a job where she can support herself.  Jerry has a good job and the lawyer is of the opinion that the court will award her some alimony.

The following day, Pam is trying to fix a fallen picture and goes into their storage shed to get some screws. In the shed, Pam sees some electrical equipment and an HVAC logo tag on her husband's workbench but she is more frustrated that she can't find the screwdriver. Pam heads to the local hardware store to get a screwdriver.  At the store, Pam's small debit card purchase is declined. Pam has no other means of payment and is mortified. Pam makes a call and quickly learns that Jerry has emptied their joint bank account.  

Driving home, Pam is furious and calls Jerry on his cellphone. Jerry doesn't answer. Pam calls the HVAC company and asks to speak to Jerry. Jerry's supervisor gets on the phone.  Pam learns that Jerry has the day off.  The supervisor also mentions that some expensive equipment was stolen from the HVAC company over the weekend.  He asks Pam if she would please have Jerry call the office if she speaks with him.  Pam puts the pieces together.

Pam keeps calling but won't answer.  Pam finally texts Jerry and the following short text exchange occurs:  

Pam:  "You emptied our joint account!"

Jerry: "Our?  It's MY MONEY! I earned it."

Pam:  "Half of that is mine. I talked to a lawyer."

Jerry:  "I don't care who you talked to."

Pam:  "You're leaving me with nothing."

Jerry:  "I've taken care of you for 15 years! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" 

Pam sends a few more texts demanding some money but there is no response.  Pam is livid that Jerry is leaving her penniless. Pam calls back Jerry's supervisor and tells them that she and Jerry have split up and she was going through their house after their call and found some equipment she doesn't recognize.  Pam invites the supervisor to come over to the house.

The supervisor identifies the stolen equipment and the police are called.  Pam is questioned but not arrested. Jerry is later arrested and refuses to answer questions. Jerry is terminated by his employer.

In this scenario, both spouses hurt their own interests because they were angry and not considering the repercussions of their actions.

1.  Pam did not take time to consider that she needs spousal support during the divorce and alimony after the divorce.  Jerry lost his job and as a result, there is no income from which Pam can now get any award of support.

2.  Jerry failed to keep in mind that Pam still lived in their home and might have discovered the equipment.  He also did not consider what she might do with that information when she discovered he had emptied their joint bank account.  In this regard, he damaged his own interests by jeopardizing his own freedom, his job, and his home and any other assets that might rely on his income.

3.  Jerry damaged his interests by his indirect text admission that he took the money in the joint bank account and considered it was his.  This admission may lead the family court to compel Jerry to produce the remaining funds to be held by the court. This may prohibit him from using the funds for his criminal defense.  If the funds are gone, the court could award Pam a greater share of the remaining marital assets to make up for the monies that Jerry disposed of.  

4.  Jerry also may have damaged his interests by his direct text admission that he had taken care of Pam for 15 years.  Though less likely, if Jerry were to obtain employment before the end of the divorce, Jerry's admission would support Pam's claim for alimony given her minimal employment, high school education, and reliance upon Jerry to get by with her daily needs for so many years.

It is always best to ask yourself, "how will my actions affect my own interests?"

Do you need to know and understand your legal rights and options?  Call (401) 632-6976 to set up an affordable legal advice session.

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