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Rhode Island Divorce Tip: Get a Divorce Lawyer!

The title of this Rhode Island Divorce tip article isn't intended to be self-promotion, although if anyone comes to my door I will consider their case.

However, this tip is meant in all seriousness and should be taken seriously. 

The fact is, that every lawyer licensed to practice law in the State of Rhode Island can prepare a divorce and put it through the Rhode Island court system.

So where's the tip, right?

That's it!  Every lawyer is licensed to put divorces through the court system. . . but should they?

The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all of us as attorneys in the general practice of law, including me.

When attorney's advertise or promote themselves in a specific area of law it is because they have chosen to do so and NOT because they are particularly good at it.

That is why I tell you to get a 'Divorce' Lawyer.  If you are going to spend money to protect your rights, then make sure that you spend it on an attorney who regularly practices divorce and family law before the Rhode Island Family Courts.  Regularly does not mean once or twice a month in my estimation.

Let me give you an example.  I have had a case with an attorney in the past few months who clearly is NOT a divorce attorney.  The attorney used the wrong summons, an ancient divorce complaint form, requested child support for a 20 year old daughter, and was seeking alimony for a woman without any disabilities with a Masters Degree in Culinary Arts.  These are only four (4) of the nine (9) glaring mistakes I found on the initial divorce package that my client received.

A divorce will affect your life, your finances, your retirement benefits, your relationships with your children and more.  Be sure you entrust something this important to an attorney who practices family law regularly and can answer most of your questions intelligently without a bunch of double-talk.

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
PEARSALL LAW ASSOCIATES
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

NOTE:  The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue.  This site is presented for the convenience of the internet public.

* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in any area of law.


Rhode Island Divorce Tip: A Checklist Helps

A Rhode Island Divorce filing has it's own forms and its own procedure.  It can help to have all the forms you need.  All the forms you need to file your Rhode Island Divorce Action from any of the Family Court Clerk's Offices.

So what are the typical Rhode Island Divorce Forms you'll need?

1.  Summons Form (in Duplicate)

2.   Complaint  Form

3.  Nominal Track Notice Form

4.  Notice of Automatic Orders

5.  Family Court Statement Listing Children of the Marriage (in Duplicate)

6.  Family Services Counseling Unit Form

7.  Rhode Island Department of Health Report of Divorce Form

8.  Family Court Statement of Assets, Liabilities, Income and Expenses (DR-6)

9.  Affidavit of Non-Military Service (if the Defendant Does not Appear).

There are other forms that are necessary in your checklist depending upon the length of the process.  Hopefully your divorce process will be short.  Let's assume for the sake of argument that you have a very agreeable divorce that leads up to a 10 minute Nominal Hearing where everything is agreed to and is just formally placed upon the record of the court.  In that instance your checklist expands as follows:

10.  You must prepare an Interlocutory Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment that must be checked by one of the clerks of court for the vital case information and then ordered (signed) by the Judge and Entered by the Clerk.  This is the temporary order of the court that governs the parties before the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce and should mirror what the judge orders at your nominal hearing.

11.  After the expiration of the 91 day waiting period by statute the Judge may then sign a Final Judgment of Divorce which again is checked by the clerk, ordered by the judge and then entered by the clerk to finalize your divorce.  The final judgment would, with minor exceptions, mirror the temporary order.

Keep in mind that this is just a basic checklist and details change with each case.  Most assuredly Paragraphs #10 and #11 pose the greatest challenge to those people who are representing themselves as well as attorneys who are not well versed in verbage necessary to protect their clients, to include on the record, and insure are in the temporary order and final decree.

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
PEARSALL LAW ASSOCIATES
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

NOTE:  The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, and DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue.  This site is presented for the convenience of the internet public.

* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in any area of law.


Rhode Island Divorce: Free Consultations . . . you get what you pay for!

There are a few things people should know about consultations.

Sadly, they don't apply just to Rhode Island divorce consultations. . . . rather it would seem that it is a trend that it applies to most free consultations involving any area of law.  So what is it?  It's the lack of good, solid legal advice.

Certainly this blog article sounds cynical.  As a divorce lawyer, I have my own opinion on things and I'm certain there are exceptions to my way of thinking and what I have witnessed . .  . in fact, I am one of those exceptions.  Yet I see very few attorneys who are quite like me.

You've heard the saying..."you get what you pay for", right?!  Well, assuming for a moment that in a Rhode Island Divorce matter or any Rhode Island legal case for that matter that you have a "free" consultation that is given by a  Rhode Island lawyer, what kind of advice do you think you are going to get from the attorney that is not getting paid for giving you valuable advice in the profession that is intended to put money on the table for him and his family and pay the bills.  You can draw your own conclusions here.  My answer is the simple one... you get what you pay for... you pay nothing  . . . you get nothing.

Another consideration is how much time the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer is giving you during this "free consultation".  Is he or she willing to answer all your questions?  Does the attorney provide you with clear cut answers to the questions he or she will answer or do they muddy the waters and say that there are too many "variables" to give you a definitive answer without explaining what those legal variables even are?

Most people get a referral from a friend, family member, the internet or the yellow pages to find a divorce lawyer.  Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?  And there's nothing wrong with that.  The second part of the process is usually to ask if the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer provides free consultations (at least in my experience my clients and prospective clients stated that they asked this during their search).

The bottom line is not only common sense, it is a practical answer.  Attorneys give legal advice and representation to clients for their living.  That is what puts the food on the table, pays for the car payment, keeps the kids in ballet and martial arts and pays the house mortgage.  Now consider that if an attorney gives you legal advice that you rely upon and the attorney is wrong...the attorney has liability and it's entirely possible that they could have a malpractice lawsuit coming their way.

Now think about that.  You are coming in the Divorce Attorney's office for a free consultation.  The attorney is going to get NOTHING from this consultation and you will be taking up his or her time which is used to pay his or her mortgage, car, etc..    AND....if the attorney actually does give you solid legal advice about your legal rights and happen to make a mistake when you rely on it, they have the joy of knowing that you can sue them for legal malpractice.

So what does this tell you about the attorney who offers free consultations if he or she is REALLY going to give you usable information?  It tells you that you have one extraordinary attorney there. 

Why?  Because this attorney is going to take time with you for NO MONEY.  During that time this attorney is going to give you valuable legal advice that should cost you $200 an hour.  Then when you leave that attorney has to be certain that he or she was right otherwise the attorney could end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit for legal malpractice.  And what did the attorney receive for that pleasure?  NOTHING!  No compensation!  No guaranteed client!

So what is the moral of this article?  Shop around. It is a very bad idea to cast attorneys aside who charge a fee for a consultation.  If they are going to charge you a fee don't you think that the attorney expects to give you valuable information you can bank on?  Absolutely!


Finding The Right Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer for You!

In your Rhode Island divorce proceeding I am absolutely . . . positively certain that the most crucial decision you will make throughout the entire divorce process is the selection of the person to represent your interests.

As a husband, father, layman and now an attorney for men and women I make this statement from almost every perspective you can imagine.  Your decision on whether you present yourself or which attorney you retain to represent you in your divorce will make a monumental difference.

Selecting the right Rhode Island lawyer to represent you in your Rhode Island divorce matter is not the easiest thing to do so here are just a few things you want to consider.

1.  How many divorce cases does the attorney handle in a year?

2.  What is the focus of the attorney's practice?  For example, is it divorce and family law or does the attorney handle a good volume of personal injury cases?

3.  How much does the attorney charge per hour and what expenses does that include? 

4.  Does the attorney have available references to divorce and/or family law clients who would be willing to speak with you about his or her services and what is the relationship of those clients to the attorney (i.e. brother-in-law, friend, etc... or a referred client).

5.  Does the attorney address fees and costs first before even discussing your issues with you?  (i.e. does he or she seem more interested in money issues than in working with you regarding your case...)

Choosing the right attorney for your divorce matter is CRUCIAL!  It is the single most important thing you will do in your divorce proceeding.  By the end of the interview / consultation you should assess whether or not you feel like you got a good sense of the attorney and that he or she is a genuine yet knowledgeable practitioner that you could see representing you.

Generally speaking, I call this the "KLT" Test.  At the end of the interview do you feel that based upon the length of the meeting that you "Know" . . . . "Like" . . . . and "Trust" the divorce attorney such that you can see him or her representing your interests in a knowledgeable and positive manner before the Rhode Island family court.

If your answer to the KLT Test is yes . . .yes . . .and yes . . . and if the retainer and fee arrangement to retain the attorney are comparable to other attorneys you have interviewed and the attorney regularly practices before the Rhode Island family courts then it's very likely that you have a good attorney to represent your interests.

Having the Right Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer on your side makes ALL the difference!


Costs in a Rhode Island Divorce Case? What costs and expenses should your Rhode Island lawyer make you aware of?

To file a Rhode Island Divorce Complaint you need to pay to the State of Rhode Island a standard filing fee of $145.32 for the opening and administration costs of your divorce case and technology fee.

To serve a divorce complaint you must obtain (or rather retain) a county sheriff or constable who is authorized to make service upon parties in family court matters and have the complaint and any attachments served upon your spouse if you are the party filing for divorce.  Constables typically charge $45.00 for a standard service of a complaint and it's attachments.  The county sheriff may charge anywhere from $45 to $55 in Rhode Island for the same service depending upon the number of attempts the sheriff's office needs to make in order to serve the person.

You should note that either the constable or the county sheriff may charge additional fees for service of process that requires numerous attempts, requires extensive travel or requires the service of additional documents that are not part of each and every divorce proceeding.

During your divorce it may be necessary to obtain documents by use of a subpoena.  The service costs of a subpoena are similar to those for the divorce complaint mentioned above except that the witness being subpoenaed will have to be paid a statutory fee for attendance as well as round-trip mileage costs for his, her or its attendance at court.  Because Rhode Island is a small state you can plan that the subpoena fees (exclusive of the constable or sheriff's fees) will not exceed $15.00 for a single day's attendance.

If documents are required from a business establishment, usually a bank, then the bank is allowed to charge a reasonable fee for the copying and research of account documents that are required to be produced.  This bill from the bank can range from $0 to hundreds if not thousands of dollars if you have a multi-million dollar marital estate and neither party can provide a clear financial picture of what is going on.  Clients are best to anticipate that a comprehensive bank subpoena for documents may run as high as $500.00 or more depending on the length of time and extent of the records requested.

If an expert is needed for tax issues, home valuations or business valuations, do not expect to get the expertise of these professionals for free even if they have done work for you after being paid a fee.  Unless specifically stated in your agreement with any expert, his or her professional expertise and time is not paid for if he has to go to court.  Experts attending court or preparing for a court proceeding are entitled to be compensated for their services.  These  experts generally cost from $2,000 on the lower end to tens of thousands on the high end for extensive work.  Generally speaking most divorces that involve a house as a marital asset will require an appraisal at current rates (currently about $400 to $500).  Testimony at court by the appraiser will generally run about $1,500 per day for a decent appraiser with sufficient skills and experience to qualify as an expert before the court.

Clients should also expect that if matters need to be handled in an expedited fashion or if voluminous documents need to be copied or produced to someone that these are costs the client will be expected to pay for.  These things are, unfortunately, case specific and therefore there is no way to approximate them.

Lastly, if there is a pension or retirement plan that needs to be divided by virtue of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, the client should expect that most divorce attorneys will engage a specialist attorney to prepare this document.  Qualified Domestic Relations Orders are a document that divides a pension or retirement between the parties either as agreed to or as determined by a judge after trial. However, these Orders must not only comport with state and federal law but must also be acceptable to and approved by the benefits coordinator for the administrator of the pension and/or retirement vehicle and in accordance with the rules, regulations and documents governing the plan. 

Combine the foregoing factors with a client's long-term tax and retirement planning and you end up with a very technical and rather intricate document that people will be relying upon in the future for the benefits they are entitled to.  The Order, therefore, must be so specialized as to fall within the parameters of all of these various guidelines, rules and statutes and take into account the Client's future needs and desires.  This being the case it is not hard to understand why this is not a task that some divorce attorneys choose to undertake.

There are several attorneys whose practices are focused almost exclusively on the creation of these Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs).  QDROs are a specialty item and are generally prepared by attorneys who specialize in such orders.  Absent express agreement with your attorney that the cost of one or more QDRO's will be included in the monies you provide to the attorney for a retainer and expenses in your divorce, you should NOT expect that your divorce lawyer will be arranging your QDRO for free. 

QDRO preparation is an additional expense that every client dealing with a pension or retirement plan that may have to be split in their divorce should expect. A decent attorney will prepare a QDRO for between $450 to $600 and insure it is approved by the pension and/or retirement plan administrator.

Absent other significant aspects such as a business valuation, the foregoing are the consistent costs that most lawyers will make you aware of in your Rhode Island Divorce and/or family law proceeding and they are foreseeable although not always predictable at the outset of any case.

The challenge?  Be aware of these costs but be knowledgeable that they do not exist in every case but could still occur in yours.  An attorney's expectation and/or prediction about what you may reasonably expect in the way of costs and expenses in your case should NEVER be taken as a guarantee that your costs and/or expenses will be limited to those representations.  Unless your attorney makes a written guarantee about the amount of expenses and/or costs you will have to bear, you should hope for the best but plan for the worst financially.

A good attorney will try to avoid unnecessary costs if at all possible but not at the risk of your legal rights or at the risk that you might claim that he or she committed malpractice by not insisting that an expense be made.  Those of us who try to resolve matters without the additional costs and puffery of attorneys who prefer to bill their client for "unnecessaries" to get a few thousand dollars in fees before the case ends continue to combat those who needlessly bill clients, but keep in mind there aren't as many of us out there who are truly fighting for the clients.  We're hard to find but you'll see us if you take your time and look closely.

I invite you to consider having a low cost consultation with me to discuss your divorce and/or family law matter.  If nothing else, I can guarantee that you will understand your rights and the family court process much better by the time we are done our meeting so that you can make an informed choice about what can and perhaps will happen in your divorce situation.