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Can my ex-spouse sign me up to be billed for childcare without my permission?

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 4.51.24 PMBy: Christopher A. Pearsall, RI Divorce and Family Law Lawyer*

QUESTION: 

Can my ex-spouse sign me up to be billed for childcare without my permission?

DETAILS:

My ex and I have an order to split child care 50/50 for her work and education. She has gone and signed me up to be billed directly by the child care provider without my permission. She refuses to provide me her schedule of work and school. But the bills provide no information other than payment amount. 1. Is it legal for her to sign me up for a payment account without my signature?  2. What is my recourse if she decides to use the childcare for personal reasons and they bill me for half?

ANSWER:

Under Rhode Island law, your ex-wife has no legal right to commit you to any payment agreement with the childcare establishment based on the family court order as you describe it.

The answer to your first question is "No."  If she actually signed your name to a contract or to some other document to bind you to payment to the childcare provider without your authority or knowledge, then your ex-wife committed the crime of forgery and she can be prosecuted for that.

The answer to your second question is that your recourse is to take your ex-wife back to family court and file something such as a motion for credit for any monies you paid for one half of whatever time was spent on personal time rather than for work or education. 

You will need to keep in mind that if you take your ex-wife back to court on the motion I suggest above then you will have the burden or proving by clear and convincing evidence that your wife used the child care for strictly personal purposes and that you overpaid as a result and should be entitled to a credit.  You would likely have to prove when it was personal, how you know it was personal and what the personal activity was, how much was charged for that personal usage and how much you were overcharged for that personal usage on each occasion.


Rhode Island Divorce: Debt Issues Can be Tricky!

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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.


What does my Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Need to know about my life?

If you have chosen to be represented by a Rhode Island lawyer in your divorce proceeding, you need to get your brain pumping and shift it into gear.

Do not expect the lawyer to really know your life by telling him or her a few details.  Disclosure needs to be 100%.  Only YOU know your life well enough to inform your attorney of everything that he or she needs to know to represent you properly.

Many people think that a good lawyer who practices in divorce will ask all the necessary questions in order to represent you.  This is a myth.  A lawyer will try to do his or her best to ask about your marriage, your children, your life, your work, your assets, your debts, your relationship, etc... 

Yet the truth of divorce is that even the smallest detail may have a substantial impact on your case.  Or rather, a detail that you may consider to be "small" and you don't inform your divorce attorney about may make a huge difference not only in your case, but in the manner in which your divorce lawyer represents you.

As a RI Lawyer I focus my practice entirely in the area of divorce and family law with the vast majority of my cases are actual divorces.  Yet with years of experience practicing in this one area I could list literally thousands of questions and still not ask a question just right to trigger your brain to give me everything you know that is important in your divorce.

The fact is that in any Rhode Island divorce it is a bad idea to simply hire a lawyer and then trust that your lawyer will discover everything.  Therefore, to protect your own best interests and to help your attorney it is best to always keep in mind that while you know every detail about your life, your lawyer only knows what he is told.

I could give you a sampling of divorce questions that good attorneys would ask you, but it would be a meaningless exercise for the purposes of this article.  

The point is this.  Don't just hire a lawyer for your Rhode Island divorce and then turn your brain off and expect your lawyer to do a good job for you.  Divorces are about information and facts.  You are the one that has those in your head.  Therefore, you can't afford to be a "deadhead" and leave your lawyer hanging without the information needed to protect your interests in all or even part of your divorce.  

Without the correct factual information about your life, your lawyer is like an accountant who has to prepare your tax return but the accountant isn't given any information at all about you in order to prepare your return.

Ultimately, it's harder for your lawyer because everyone's lives are different and one fact may affect another fact in your case and change with the fluidity of water flowing over a waterfall.  At least the accountant preparing your return has exact rules set forth in writing on paper by the IRS to rely upon and he or she has specific information that is needed for your return.  Many things in domestic relations law are not exact.

RULE OF THUMB

Don't just hand over your life to a divorce lawyer and expect him or her to protect you.  Prepare a summary of your life with your spouse, about your assets, about your children, about your debts, about your home, cars, student loans, education, friends, a girlfriend or boyfriend you may secretly have on the side, an affair you had two years ago, how much you make, whether you make money above or below the table, if you have your tax returns, who you work for, how long you have worked, whether your spouse works, any childcare you use, medical issues, mental health issues, costs of everything, flirting, websites, pornography, who pays costs in your home, medications anyone takes, counseling and counselors, cel phones, texting, sexting, email addresses, phone numbers, employment complaints, military record, pensions, disabilities or applications for disability, whether you are part of any businesses, criminal records, vehicle registrations, hidden monies, credit cards, fraud, lawsuits, computers, internet accounts, forgery, bank accounts, where you have lived, where you have worked, and so on.

The list is infinite.

You MUST kick your brain into gear and brainstorm anything and everything about your life at the moment you hire your attorney and during the course of your whole marriage.

You are your Rhode Island divorce lawyers best asset and your own best protector of your own interests whether you represent yourself or whether you are hiring a lawyer to protect your interests in a divorce.

What does your Rhode Island divorce lawyer need to know about your life?  Answer:  Everything.


All my Best to All Who Go Before the Rhode Island Family Court,

I am Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach."


The New Rhode Island Divorce DR-6 Form: Is it a RI Lawyer's Friend or Foe?


Rhode Island and its divorce lawyers as well as those who intend to represent themselves in Rhode Island’s Family Court are being pulled into the mainstream of modern divorce law. 

Is it my intention as a Rhode Island Family Law lawyer * to confuse you?  Absolutely not.  It’s my intention to call your attention some very important changes that have occurred in the Rhode Island Family Court System that were bound to occur at some point in time.  After all, Rhode Island could not remain the old fashioned, unchanging state it has been for an unlimited duration of time. 

 Effective October 1, 2011, a new DR-6 Statement of Current Assets, Liabilities, Income and Expenses has been created.  Pursuant to Rhode Island Administrative Court Orders 1987-2, 2011-4, and 2011-5, the RI Family Court’s new DR-6 is required at the time of filing Rhode Island divorces, Motions for Temporary Support, Motions for Custody, and Motions for Counsel Fees.

This form is also required from a party who opposes a divorce filing, a Motion for Temporary Support, a Motion for custody, a motion for attorneys’ fees.  The RI Family Court’s new DR-6 form must also be updated and completed in full, signed under oath, and filed with the Court by the filing party or the opposing party if either of them has a financial change of circumstances. 

To be on the safe side you may want to take the position that I have that the degree of significance of the financial change need not need be sizeable.  If you have an addition to or subtraction to your assets, an increase or decrease in your expenses, an increase or decrease in your income, or an increase or decrease in your liabilities, AND that change amounts to even as little as $100, then it is best to be safe and to fill out a new DR-6 Form and update the court on the status of your financial situation.

The purpose of Rhode Island’s new DR-6 Form in the Family Court System provides for substantially more “upfront” disclosure of finances between the parties in a cases where finances are at issue.  This financial form provides both for detailed disclosure of finances for the benefit of both parties but also for the benefit of the Family Court judges involved in the case so they will have access to fundamental information regarding the finances of each party without having to compel a partys’ compliance with additional orders under the threat of contempt. 

The new DR-6 form is shown below.  As you can see it requires extensive voluntary disclosures of your assets, debts, income and liabilities.  These disclosures which go well beyond the DR-6 form previously used by the family court.

Is this a good change?  The answer is clearly debatable.

Why?  Well, it depends upon your perspective.

Let’s assume that Mr. Trump, a very old-fashioned 82 year old Rhode Island gentleman who has amassed significant assets wants to divorce his wife. According to the RI Family Court’s Administrative Orders Mr. Trump must file this new DR-6.  To his shock, Mr. Trump is told by his attorney that he is required to disclose every aspect of his gross income, his expenses, his assets, his business interests, his liabilities, his bank accounts, his investments, his rental incomes and essentially every aspect of his financial life. 

Mr. Trump doesn’t want to provide the information but his attorney explains to him that is required by the Court to file for divorce.  Mr. Trump begins having the information provided to the attorney believing it will only be available to the court. 

Prior to signing the DR-6 under oath Mr. Trump is informed by his divorce lawyer that his financial information will not only be available to the Court but also to his wife and to anyone who reviews his divorce file, including the general public. Mr. Trump refuses to sign the DR-6.  The attorney informs Mr. Trump that without this form the divorce cannot be filed.  Mr. Trump is furious. 

Why does personal and private financial information that would not otherwise be known to the public have to be disclosed to the public in a divorce? 

Mr. Trump is not happy.  He does not understand why he should have to make his private and personal financial information available to the public in order to divorce his wife.  The only thing his lawyer can tell Mr. Trump is that it is a required form for filing a divorce and he can either complete the form or dismiss the idea of filing for divorce.

Do you consider your finances and income private? 

Would you be upset if you were in Mr. Trump’s shoes?

If Mr. and Mrs. Trump signed a pre-marital agreement and they have both already agreed how they are going to resolve their divorce, should Mr. Trump still be required to make such an extensive public disclosure of his finances?

Now let’s change the situation and look at the requirement from a different perspective.

Mr. Johnson has moderate income and he and his wife have fairly well over their 23 year marriage as a result of Mr. Johnson’s self-employment as a subcontractor.  Mr. Johnson is a very shrewd man and he takes care of all the bills and has had complete control of the finances.  Mrs. Johnson hasn’t worked in 18 years and she is very scared about how she is going to survive.  Mr. Johnson files for divorce.

Can you imagine how Mrs. Johnson and her attorney might feel about the new DR-6 form when Mrs. Johnson knows nothing about the finances at all and Mr. Johnson had to fill that form out at the time of filing?  The word “thrilled” might just about summarize it, or in the very least Mrs. Johnson probably feels a little bit relieved when she can see what the financial picture is from Mr. Johnson’s DR-6 form.

As I said, it’s a matter of perspective. 

One thing that certainly needs to be considered is today’s technology.  Would you have concerns about your financial information being a matter of public record?

Is identity theft a concern that you have?  You aren’t the only one.

It’s a concern every person in a divorce should have right now!

However, that’s an article for another day.

I am The Rhode Island Divorce Coach and I’m here to help you!

Give me a call to set up your affordable legal advice or divorce coaching session Now at 401-632-6976.


A Rhode Island Divorce Lawyering and Coaching Tip for RI Divorce Self-Defense

 

As a Rhode Island Divorce lawyer I can tell you that if you disregard the emotions that divorce brings on and the irratic behavior that results from those emotions then you are setting yourself up for a world of hurt.

Divorce brings about the worst in people and while I'd prefer not to dwell on the negative side of divorce litigants and the tragedy they cause to others, I cannot ignore that they exist, nor should you.  In fact, ignoring the emotional fallout of a Rhode Island divorce is a mistake. 

Do not underestimate what a scorned or upset spouse may resort to in order to hurt you emotionally or to get in your divorce.  I could tell you stories that chances are you would not believe.

I myself as a divorce lawyer have had to take protections from clients and opposing parties who "went off."

So take the following minimal divorce coaching advice with the degree of seriousness it deserves. 

Protect Yourself! 

This includes your children, your home, your computer, your cellular phone, your automobiles, your home phone, your bank of accounts, your place of employment and yes even your garbage!

You are a person.  You have your privacy.  You expect it to be free from invasion.  Often it is not!  Hackers and surveillance specialists are everywhere.  Now whether you care to believe it or not, there are people in and around Rhode Island who are available for hire to break into your home, track your car, hack into your computer or bug it, use audio devices to overhear your conversations, and violate both your state and federal rights. 

Yes, people will resort to ciminal acts get at every aspect of your life because they are angry.  If you think that your spouse's overzealous attorney is the devil incarnate but you don't believe they would do anything illegal, unethical or underhanded for their client then think again.

You cannot take too much care to protect your privacy.  Your spouse who was calm for years can turn into your worst nightmare because he or she is a bubbling teapot just waiting to blow off years of steam that you never saw coming.

I will write more articles on specifics, but let me emphasize the importance of this. 

You CANNOT take too much care to protect your privacy. 

Your privacy is your personal space.  It is where you believe you are secure and safe.  Yet make no mistake about it . . . it can be invaded and you can be victimized in less than 20 minutes.

Yes, 20 minutes or less.  Take this tip to heart. It only takes minutes to create destruction, phony emails, false phone records, forged documents, fraudulent bank records, bogus child pornography and more. 

It can occur at work in your desk drawer, on your laptop, in your car, on your personal computer at home or on your cel phone or PDA.

If you don't look out for these things and your Rhode Island Divorce lawyer does not take them with the level of seriousness they deserve and keep up to speed by knowing about the fundamentals to advise you, then you could be a victim who gets less than you deserve in a divorce. 

If you are portrayed as a pervert you may not get to see your children for weeks on end.  You may lose  your right of legal custody.  You may even be ordered to attend rehabilitation or even sent to the ACI because of fraudulent documents brought forth in your divorce that show you to be addicted to drugs or a child pornographer.

Don't let it happen!  Be aware.  Remain vigilant and know that it can happen.  Protect yourself.  If you don't, you have no one else to blame but yourself.

I'm here to help you be aware of these things and to coach you on protective measures.  Many attorneys don't know these things or don't care because directly that is not their JOB.  I understand that. 

Yet they are dealing with YOUR LIFE!  And your life IS their job in my personal opinion!  The law isn't going to protect you, even with the best lawyer, if you don't know the protective measures to take against people who are willing to violate the law.

I will be happy to have a Coaching Session with you for 1 hour for $135 to help you with these issues and make you aware of them.  Too much money?  The consequences could be tens of thousands of dollars.  It could mean the loss of your privacy.  It could mean criminal charges.  It could mean supervised visitation with your children. 

The time to pay attention to these things is before you become a divorce victim, not when it's too late.

I will not live or die on $135.00 for that hour.  It will not make me or break me.  It is not worth anything to try to screw anyone out of $135.00 since people seem to believe that every lawyer is just out for your money.  If you think this is too much, that's okay.  Don't call and know that I wish you the best.

With what I have seen and what I know, if $135 isn't worth it to you to know what can happen, how it happens and how to protect yourself from it, then I wish you the best.  Too many people could have used my help before it happens.  Too many people contact me too late.

I'm here to help and just make a living.  Good lawyers who truly care about people do exist in Rhode Island.  I do not hesitate to say that I'm living proof of it and I'm here for you if and when you need be.

Just remember, protect yourself.  Awareness that your privacy is at risk is crucial in every Rhode Island divorce.

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law

Rhode Island's Full-Time Divorce* Lawyer is Now
Rhode Island's Only Divorce and Family Law Coach
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* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.  The court does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any particular field of practice.

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