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Served in an RI Divorce? What do you do next if you can't afford a lawyer?

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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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You find yourself served with divorce papers for a Rhode Island divorce and you don't have the money or don't want to hire a lawyer.  What do you do next?

The next step is to follow exactly what the Summons that you were served with tells you to do.  It advises you that you have twenty (20) days within which to answer the Plaintiff's Complaint otherwise you may be defaulted and the Court may grant the relief that has been requested by the the Plaintiff.

Many laypeople don't know what that means.  

1)  Does that mean you have to file something with the court within twenty (20) days?  

2)  Does it mean that you need to get a lawyer within twenty (20) days?  

3)  Does it mean you have to just tell the Plaintiff that you received the documents or send him or her a letter to let the person know the documents were received?

4)  Does it mean that you have to mail something to the Plaintiff within twenty (20) days?

Or does it mean something entirely different.

We won't go into detail about what it means to be defaulted here.  Suffice it to say, most people don't want to be defaulted.  In fact, you would only "not mind" being defaulted if you have 100% trust in your spouse and everything that he or she might ask for in the divorce if you weren't present.

So what should you do?  

Most family law attorneys would submit an Answer and a Counterclaim for Divorce.  This is common since Answers and Counterclaims must be submitted simultaneously and usually they are included in the same document.

So what does the Answer portion contain.  The top part looks like most court filing.  It is the portion some attorneys call the "Header."  It has the caption of the case.  The first line of the page would generally contain in capital letters the words "STATE OF RHODE ISLAND" flush against the left margin and the words "FAMILY COURT" flush against right margin.  On the next line flush against the left margin in capital letters the county the matter is being heard in would be typed followed by "SC."  Therefore, it would be "PROVIDENCE, SC. for Providence County Family Court.  The "SC." stands for "Sheriff's County."

Under this "Header" is the caption of the case.  The caption of the case consists of the name of the plaintiff in all capital letters flush against the left margin.  Two lines down is typically the capital letters "VS." for versus flush against the left margin as well.  On the exact same line flush against the right margin in capital letters is "C.A. NO.:  P2013-0182."  C.A. NO.: means "Civil Action Number."  The letter and number represent the first letter for the county of the case followed by the year in which the case was started.  The number after the dash is the identifying number for the case.  It is also the number of the case filed as a Civil Action in that County in that particular year.  Two lines down flush with the left margin is the Defendant's name in capital letters. 

Two lines down, centered is the word "ANSWER" in capital letters.

The remainder of the ANSWER is very straight forward.  Look at the Complaint for Divorce.  Each numered paragraph in the complaint except for the paragraph requesting the divorce and other relief should state a fact.  For each numbered paragraph just write the number and whether you say "admit" if it is true and "deny" if it is false.

Then several lines down create a signature line that is flush with the right margin.  Under it you should type your name, address, and telephone number. 

To complete the Answer you would simply sign it.

The second portion of the document, the Counterclaim typically comes immediately thereafter and it is usually avisable to file one.  Essentially it looks just like the Plaintiff's Complaint for Divorce but you reference your own residency.  Just like a Plaintiff's Complaint for Divorce the Counterclaim must state what you are seeking in the divorce and must be signed under oath before a Clerk of the Court or a Notary Public.

Lastly, you would provide a written certification at the bottom of the page which states something to the effect that " I certify that on November ____, 2013 that I served a copy of this document by first class mail to JANE SMITH, at [address of the Plaintiff].

Request for Relief Issues in a RI Divorce Complaint Matter!

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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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In a Rhode Island divorce proceeding the filing spouse is often concerned about the relief that is requested in the divorce complaint itself. 

This is particularly true if the spouse filing for divorce in Rhode Island wants to keep things amicable and is concerned about their husband or wife becoming upset or even fanatical when they receive a divorce complaint that requests something that the other spouse believes is outrageous or unreasonable under the circumstances.

In a divorce complaint many attorneys will prepare a complaint for divorce that requests virtually every form of relief that the filing party might want from the court.  Thus, an attorney may prepare a divorce complaint for filing in the Providence County Family Court that asks for alimony, placement of the minor children, child support and resumption of maiden name.  This may be true even if the attorney has been told by the client that he or she does not want alimony or to resume her maiden name.  

These provisions are often included by the attorney as a precautionary measure to ensure that the client does not waive that relief if something changes and he or she changes their mind after the complaint for divorce is filed.  In truth, it is a good practice when dealing with a client who is undecided or who seems to hesitate about any particular form of relief.

I personally don't disagree with the idea of including every possible form of relief in the request for relief regarding a client so as to make certain that the client has not waived any relief he or she may want after the complaint has been filed.  However, it's best to strike a balance here and discuss the matter with the client.  If the client expressed identifiable uncertainty to the attorney about the specific type of relief requested, it is better as a practitioner to request it in the complaint and ask the client for permission to include the provisions he or she expressly stated were not desired.  If the client is opposed to requesting, for example  "alimony" in their divorce complaint because he or she is afraid that the other spouse will take action to retaliate, then it is a better practice to listen to the client and exclude that provision it the divorce lawyer determines that it would be a marginal alimony case and simply make sure that you include for the client a sentence in the relief requested area of the divorce complaint that you also request "and any and all relief that this court deems fair and just."

You as the client should be aware that in practice things may be a bit different than a strict application of the law.  When the little clause just mentioned above is included in the complaint, then Rhode Island family court judges will generally allow an amendment of the complaint to include the requested relief later in the proceeding if there is a justifiable basis for doing so.

Ultimately, you are the client and you are in charge. If you don't want particular language in your Rhode Island divorce complaint then it is up to you to tell your Rhode Island divorce attorney that you want the language removed.  You may do this even if your attorney advises you that the language should remain for your protection.  This does not mean that your attorney must agree with you, nor does it mean that your attorney must continue to represent you if he or she thinks you are making a grave mistake. 

On the rare occasion an attorney may even refuse to proceed as your counsel if you want to exclude certain language that your divorce lawyer finds is crucial to your case.  Though this may be merely a precaution against any potential malpractice claim against the attorney later, it should be taken as a strong indication that if your attorney is willing to go this far to ensure that the language is included, that you, as the client, should probably defer to your attorney's advice.

In the end, a good attorney will advise you of the various considerations involved but ultimately defer to your wishes on the vast majority of issues even if he or she finds them to be contrary to your best interests.

It is good for the lawyer and client to reach an understanding on all family law issues in order to strike a balance between your personal and non-legal concerns as the client and the advice of an experienced and licensed legal practitioner. 

When in doubt, it is always best for you as the client to make the extra effort necessary to retain a lawyer with a dedicated family law practice who practices regularly (weekly if possible) before the Rhode Island Family Courts.

You are the client.  It's your life.  A good divorce lawyer who cares about your case will discuss all related matters with you and work with you on them to do what is best for you regarding your legal and non-legal concerns.  Once again, it is your life.  Don't settle for anything less than what you want and what you determine is in your best interests.

New Family Court Administrative Order 2012-2 Effective June 4, 2012

Rhode Island Lawyers and Pro Se Individual's Take Notice

Effective June 4, 2012 all Decisions/Orders/Decisions Pending Entry of Final Judgment and Final Judgments filed in the Rhode Island Family Court System must be typed or typewritten as those created by a computer or word processor system before being signed by the Chief Judge / Judge or Magistrate.

The Confusing Rhode Island Family Court DR-6 Form - New RI Family Court Form!

Anyone wishing to file for divorce in the State of Rhode Island must fill out a financial form known as the "Statements of Assets and Liabilities" otherwise known as the DR-6 Form.

Quite some time ago I wrote about this form to assist people in understanding it, because it was less than clear what the form was intended for, what it was actually used for, and to try to eliminate to at least a small degree some of the mystery surrounding the confusing Rhode Island DR-6 form.

In October of 2011, Rhode Island's DR-6 Statement of Assets and Liabilities form was completely overhauled and a new DR-6 form is now required.  The previous DR-6 form consisted of the front and back side of a single page.

 The new and improved DR-6 form is now nine (9) pages long and has been created in the form of an Excel spreadsheet which is available for download from the Rhode Island Family Court's website.

The new DR-6 is substantially more extensive and requests more specific information about virtually every form of asset, debt, income, expense and investment.

Whether Rhode Island's new Statement of Assets and Liabilities is actually an improvement is an issue that remains up for debate.  However, in the very least the form requires a substantial amount of disclosure from all plaintiffs and to the extent the DR-6 filing is enforced by the court, a subsequent disclosure to the same extent by a defendant.

As with its predecessor form, there are no specific instructions for the completion of the Rhode Island Family Court's new DR-6 form.  Though the detailed nature of the form might suggest that it is no longer confusing. You might change your mind though once you try to fill one out on your own.

The confusion lies in the fact that it is entirely possible for an item of income to also just as easily fit into a subcategory of asset.  The same concept applies to a debt item which might also fit into a category or subcategory of liabilities.  Common sense would seem to indicate that inclusion of the same item in both the debt section and the liability section would create a double entry and that the form's creators would have no reason to create a form which duplicates information.  

The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the form's creators only intended you to include any item which might fall under both areas into one of the areas.  

So what is the confusion, right?  Which area should it be included in?  Should you include the item in the first section that seems appropriate and leave it out from the second section that applies?  Or should you do it in the reverse order and wait until you come to see if you come to a second section that might apply and place it there?

One would think that there would be appropriate direction for this question.  I tried to use common sense and my analytical mind to determine the best category and/or section that should be selected when working with various debt items.  I found that even if I wanted to discern the best category and/or section to put an item in, I found that numerous items applied equally well to two categories and/or sections on the DR-6 form.  I found, in the course of analyzing the form with actual information that there were even three semi-common items in many divorce financial structures that might fit equally well into three (3) sections of the DR-6 form.
So I made inquiry to one member of the committee that created the form about this problem. I was told to just put it in one of the spots.  So I inquired further as to whether instructions were going to be created for Rhode Island's new DR-6 Statement of Assets and Liabilities Form. Unfortunately, no instructions are anticipated for the form to assist either attorneys or the general public.

Regrettably, this article may raise more questions than it actually answers.  Yet, if anything, it will confirm for you that you are not the only one with concerns about this form and the confusion it creates for attorneys and the general public as well.

If you look closely at the form, there is one thing I am thankful I can clear up for you.  If the intention of the form is to provide calculations for the parties and the Rhode Island Family Court that are reliable, then you cannot merely put an item in one category or section of the form and leave it at that.  The fact is that the form makes numerous calculations when used in its original Excel format.  

If an item is not included in the category or section that the form creators "intended" on this new DR-6 form, then the resulting calculations performed by the DR-6 spreadsheet will be incorrect.  One number might be overly inflated while another might be understated.
It would only take two or three items placed in an "unintended" category or section to substantially throw off the resulting calculations in the spreadsheet.  Depending upon how the parties and/or the family court judge relies upon or interprets the DR-6 calculations, this confusion created by the new DR-6 form could prevent settlement between the parties or mislead the court unintentionally into believing the finances of one party are different than they actually are.

Rhode Island's new and improved DR-6 Statement of Assets and Liabilities is more detailed and extensive than ever and has positive possibilities toward resolving family law cases, yet without instructions for this new form, the confusion nevertheless remains.

Texas-based paralegal illegally offering law services

Texas-based paralegal illegally offering law services
01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 1, 2011


By Tracy Breton
Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — The state Supreme Court has determined that a Texas-based paralegal service that advertised on the Internet to drum up business has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Rhode Island.

David Curtin, the court’s chief disciplinary counsel, said Low Cost Paralegal Services, whose last known address was in San Antonio, Texas, and its owner, Dominique M. Salazar, also known as Michelle Salazar, were advertising low-cost legal services on craigslist and other Internet sites.

Curtin said Salazar is not an attorney and although she had an e-mail address of attorney2be2012, “I don’t think she ever was in law school.”

Curtin said Salazar was trying to solicit business in Rhode Island by offering “a complete divorce for a $400 flat fee” and other legal services in the areas of adoption, child custody matters, name changes, living wills, wills, power of attorney and deeds.

“We don’t know whether anyone in Rhode Island used her services, but they were certainly offering their services in Rhode Island,” Curtin said Tuesday. He said this was an example of a “nonlawyer document-preparation service” trying to mask itself as a legitimate provider of low-cost legal services.

Curtin referred the matter in April 2010 to the court’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, which conducted an investigational hearing late last year.

[Re-Published only in part from as a matter of public interest.]

To read the entire article go to Staff Writer Tracy Brenton's Email:

*Note: Neither Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall,, nor the Rhode Island Divorce & Coaching Institute claim any rights, title, or interest whatsoever in and/or to the contents of this article which is the property of The Providence Journal and/or Tracy Brenton.  The article has been republished here in part to assist in making the public aware of the illegal practices that may take place my non-lawyers in the areas of Rhode Island divorce and family law.  Please see the link above for the complete article published by The Providence Journal.

Consistent with Rhode Island law and the Professional Rules of Ethical Conduct the practice of assisting any person in a Rhode Island divorce and family law matter in completing paperwork, providing legal advice or otherwise should only be undertaken by a lawyer in good standing before the Rhode Island Supreme Court who is licensed to practice law in the State of Rhode Island and is reasonably experienced in the areas of Rhode Island divorce and family law.