Judicial Discretion Feed

Why the paperwork in a Rhode Island divorce or separation proceeding is more than just "filling in a form."

Divorce_paperworkAuthored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

You believe your family court proceeding divorcing you from your spouse is straightforward.  You've talked to your spouse and think you have worked out all the major issues.  However, you are a bit apprehensive since you don't know the legal process, so you look into hiring a lawyer.  You meet with a few lawyers and the cheapest one you can find will charge you $2,000 for an uncontested proceeding.

You don't believe it should cost that much money "just to fill out paperwork" when you and your wife are amicable.  So you decide you are going to do it yourself and save the money.  You go to the closest family court in Rhode Island and an assistant court clerk hands you a packet of divorce/separation documents and informs you that you need to return with them completely filled out along with payment of the filing fee.

You get home and look over the documents. You look at the Complaint form.  It provides has a box to check off for the type of proceeding and you must check one.  It gives you two options.

[] - Complaint for Divorce  [] - Complaint for Divorce from Bed and Board

Do you know what the difference is?  Does checking off one box give you different rights than checking off the other box?  Is the result in the legal proceeding different if you check off one box compared to the other box?  If you check the wrong box when you file this document, are you allowed to change to the other legal proceeding if you make a mistake, or do you have to start over and refile all the papers and pay a new filing fee, etc.?

This is one small example why the paperwork is not "just filling out forms."  Ultimately, if it is just a matter of filling out forms then anyone could do it.  You wouldn't need to be a lawyer.  You wouldn't need a law degree.  You wouldn't need to know the law. It would simply be common sense or you would simply know the answer or the answer wouldn't have any detrimental consequences to you.

Looking further just at the Complaint for you see two boxes one labeled "Plaintiff" and the other "Defendant."  You know that the Plaintiff is the party who files the documents and that you will be doing the filing so you know that your name should be placed in the Plaintiff box and your spouse's name will be placed in the Defendant's box.   Then you question yourself.  Does it make a difference who is the Plaintiff in the case?  Does it make the case harder or easier if one spouse files as opposed to another?  You don't know so you continue with the documents.

It asks you to check a box for the proper county family court that the divorce matter is to be heard in.  You live in Kent County and your spouse lives in Providence County.  Which family court do you file in?  Kent County Family Court or Providence/Bristol County Family Court?  Must you file in one Kent County or Providence/Bristol County?  Can you file in either county? Does it make a difference where you file?  If you file in the wrong county do you have to restart the process and re-file the proceeding in the correct family court and pay a new filing fee?  You select your county and move to the first numbered paragraph in the complaint.

In Paragraph Number 1 of the Complaint it states,

"1.  The Plaintiff, _______________________________, of __________________________ (city or town), in the County of __________________________, states that the Plaintiff has been a domiciled inhabitant of Rhode Island and has resided therein for more than one (1) year next before filing this Complaint and is now a domiciled inhabitant of Rhode Island."

It seems fairly straight-forward to put in your name as the Plaintiff and then the name of the city and then the county you live in. However, what if you haven't been a continuous resident in the State of Rhode Island for at least 1 year before filing of this complaint?  Can you still file for divorce?  What if you haven't been a resident in your current county within the state?  Can you still file for divorce in that county?

In Paragraph Number 2 of the Complaint it states,

"2. Upon information and belief, the Defendant resides in the city or town of __________________________ in the State of __________________________ and has resided in that state for _____ years next before filing this Complaint."

Once again it seems straight-forward enough.  You fill in the town and state where your spouse lives and state how many years your spouse has lived in that state before filing this complaint.  Does it matter how long your wife lived in Rhode Island before you filed the complaint?  

Let's assume that you know that because things are amicable between you and your spouse that the grounds for the proceeding are irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.  Let's also assume that you get to the end of the Complaint document and it says that you are asking for a judgment of divorce AND ....

What do you ask for?  Do you know what things you can ask for?  Do you know if there are any things that you must ask for otherwise they might be permanently waived?  If you forget to ask for something do you lose your right to ask for that particular thing in the future? Do you ask for specifics such as the car you drive?  Or do you just ask the court to generally split everything 50/50 if that is what you and your spouse have talked about?  Do you know if Rhode Island is a 50/50 division state or what the legal standard is for property division in Rhode Island?  Does anything happen if you ask for something you aren't legally entitled to even if your spouse has said he or she will agree to it?  How do you word what you will ask for in the divorce so that nothing is missed?

The Complaint is only one of numerous documents that must be filed throughout a divorce case.  The purpose of this article is merely to demonstrate why lawyers don't "just fill in forms".  The forms provided by the court are as close as you can get to a one size fits all document.  Regrettably, it does not fit all cases and, in fact may not fit most cases.  As lawyers we know that we have to be fluid with the form and modify it where the factual circumstances do not fit within the form.

It is certainly true that we as attorneys prepare legal documents and fill in forms, but it is not merely blindly filling in forms because of any general information we have.  As divorce and family law attorneys we do much more than that.  

As you will note from the questions above, we know the difference between a Complaint for Divorce and a Complaint for a Divorce from Bed and Board and that the results are legally different and that each is normally pursued for very different reasons.  We also know that it sometimes makes a significant difference as to which party is the filing party (the "Plaintiff") based on factors such as (1) who wants the divorce and who does not, (2) who is local and who is not, (3) which county each party resides in if both the parties reside in Rhode Island, (4) which spouse has more time to give to the divorce to attend to the filing issues, (5) whether the other spouse plans to get a lawyer or not, and on occasion (6) who the judge is that might hear the case.

As lawyers, when we meet with client's and make sure the complaint complies with the law, we know when and where to modify it and which court has both the proper jurisdiction and proper venue to hear the case so that a case is not filed in the wrong jurisdiction or county.  Mistakes such as these can cause you issues or concerns or cost additional monies and time for re-filing.

When we approach the complaints we have created or prepare to fill-in and/or modify the documents provided by the court we know that the first two paragraphs are not merely filling in the blanks.  Those paragraphs tell the court about the parties and whether or not the court has jurisdiction over them so the case can be properly heard.  Simply filling in the first two paragraphs does not insure jurisdiction unless one of the spouses meets Rhode Island's statutory requirements for residency.   Therefore, what appear to be simple questions about where the spouses live are actually crucial.  Your answers may or or may not establish jurisdiction to invoke the family court's power to grant you a divorce.  Without the knowledge of whether or not what you are filling in for your residency is both accurate and triggers the court's jurisdiction could cause you a lot of wasted time if the court does not have the power to grant your type of divorce.

In the case of grounds for divorce, we have assumed it's amicable and that you would know that the preferred grounds in such cases is "irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage."   This is referred to as a "no fault" grounds for divorce.   However, experienced divorce lawyers know that it is possible to plead more than one grounds in order to protect your client, including both a fault and non-fault (i.e. infidelity) grounds.  Family court lawyers who practice divorce know that there are actually eight (8) fault grounds for divorce and two non-fault grounds for divorce including living separate and apart for a space of time in excess of three (3) years.

Each aspect of the paperwork that is completed by attorneys in any divorce proceeding is done with the knowledge of the law and the court system.  Without this legal knowledge saying a lawyer just "fills in some forms" ignores the fact that each paragraph has legal significance and that if you fill it in incorrectly or fail to modify the court's "blanket form" in a way that complies with the law but still allows your divorce to be processed may cost you time, money or worse yet your legal rights. 

Here is a common example of a person who does not understand their case or what an attorney does.

Last week I received a call from an individual claiming she had an easy divorce .  She said it was uncontested and all worked out with her spouse.  I gave her a quote for an uncontested divorce as long as it remained uncontested and based on her representation had she it all worked out with her spouse.  She took issue with the quote I gave her claiming that it was easy to get married and since they had agreed on everything she didn't think it should cost more than $1,000 "just to fill in a few forms." 

I chose to ask a few questions and this is what I learned.

1.  The spouses hadn't spoken in almost a year and had no written agreement regarding how they wanted to divide their assets. 

2.  She lived in Rhode Island.  Her spouse lived in another country.  It was clear that research would need to be done to see if lawful service in the foreign country could be made on the spouse in accordance with the Hague Convention to ensure that the Rhode Island family court could obtain jurisdiction with allowable service in the foreign country.

3.  The woman's spouse had no intention of coming back to Rhode Island and did not want to  respond to the divorce proceeding.

4.  The foreign spouse had an affair but the local spouse didn't want to bring it up unless the agreement (which didn't seem to exist) fell through. 

5.  Both spouse's expected to simply sign a settlement document ad have the court sign off on it without testimony.  She was not aware the court has the power to approve or deny settlement agreements but only after testimony by the parties.

6.  The foreign spouse did not speak english and would require an interpreter.

7.  Since they expected a signed agreement the court would have to give permission for the foreign spouse to testify telephonically.

8.  It was not a short marriage and involved five (5) pieces of real estate in two (2) different countries.  There were also retirement accounts, bank accounts and personal property all of which were held in two (2) difference countries and were at least partially marital assets.  

In short, the court's form didn't apply and would have to be modified.  However modification could not occur until the issue of service of process had been researched.  Once service was researched, jurisdiction had to be confirmed for the proper location based upon whether legal service was allowed and in what form based on the Hague Convention and the laws of the foreign country.  Assuming Rhode Island had jurisdiction and service could effectively be performed, a concrete settlement agreement would have to be created for the parties not only because it involved real estate and assets in different countries but because the matter was likely to go before a judge that would not approve a verbal agreement between a bilingual individual and foreign spouse who required a translator. 

Based on what I had learned, the agreement would have to be drafted in both english and spanish and it would have to be approved in both forms by the parties in writing and under oath.  If that all went well, approval would have to be obtained from the judge hearing the matter for the foreign spouse to be allowed to testify by telephone and a court translator would have to be arranged for that telephonic hearing.  Since the foreign spouse did not speak english it was also likely that this particular judge might require all court documents to be drafted in spanish as well as english to insure the foreign spouse received proper notice of every aspect of the proceeding.  This was especially true because the foreign spouse presumably did not want to retain an attorney for the matter.

Even when these things were explained to the caller, the caller insisted I was attempting to make this more difficult than it needed to be in order to make money and claimed it was just a matter of filling out a few forms and would do it herself.

Regrettably, people often think lawyers complicate things unnecessarily. However, the fact is that the law is complicated and it is always changing. In the end, I was disappointed that the woman didn't realize the complexity of the matter she was dealing with.  I was, however, glad that I didn't have to explain to her that she did not have a simple flat fee uncontested divorce and that I would not undertake representation for the flat fee I had quoted her based on the her initial representations.

In closing, I have learned from numerous Pro Se individuals who handled their own divorces that one wrong word can cost you thousands of dollars in time and legal fees repair the damage caused by an incorrectly written document.  In some instances it has been difficult to inform a Pro Se individual that he or she filled in a divorce document incorrectly and as a result they lost something vital that cannot be undone.

It is always best to sit down for an advice session with a competent and experienced family law attorney in the state in which you have your issue before taking any kind of action.

For people within the State of Rhode Island, feel free to call me to set up your comprehensive low-cost flat fee legal advice session. Know what your options are before you act.

Call today and be on your way to getting the answer you need!  (401) 632-6976

In A Divorce it's Important to be Optimistic but also Realistic in the Division of Marital Assets.

Screen Shot 2016-10-23 at 5.11.26 PMBy:  Christopher A. Pearsall, RI Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Divorces come in all shapes and sizes.  Some spouses are still talking to each other while others are at each others throats.  In some marriage relationships one party made the money while the other party took care of the household and may have been the primary caretaker of the children.  Still others find both spouses working with one being a spender and another person being a saver.  The differences between marriage relationships are just as diverse as the divorces that arise out of those relationships.

Yet, even in divorce it is often important to be practical, realistic and optimistic.

For instance, in Rhode Island you need to understand that there are realistic standards that govern many divorce situations such as the division of assets.  Though Rhode Island is an equitable division state (not to be confused with an "equal" division state), the law is fairly practical when it comes to many situations. 

One such instance is when two people have separate bank accounts with their own separate funds in them.  Then, those two people get married.  Upon getting married, many spouses often put their monies into a joint account that has both of the parties' names on them.  Those funds then become "marital funds" in the event of a divorce and they are divisible by the court in their entirety regardless of the length of the marriage, unless the judge does not find the division after a trial to be equitable. 

For this example we will use funds in bank accounts.  Bill has $23,000 in his own account.  Tina has $5,000 in her own separate account as well.  They get married.  Bill puts Tina's name on his account.  Tina moves her $5,000 into what is now their joint account and she closes her separate account.  Unfortunately Bill and Tina may have jumped the gun and married too soon and they quickly find that they are incompatible and file for divorce within two (2) years.

Bill files for divorce.  The law is practical and realistic when it comes to the bank account which has $38,000 at the time of the filing.  It is in a joint account and therefore it is marital money to be divided between the parties. 

The law in Rhode Island provides that when you enter into a joint account with someone, unless it can be shown that the name of one of the spouses was placed on the account purely as a matter of convenience that in fact, by having a joint account each person is gifting half of the money they contributed to the account to the other spouse.  Thus, the entire account actually belongs to Bill AND it belongs to Tina.

In a divorce situation, if Bill and Tina are reasonable with one another and are still talking with one another then it would be an optimistic mindset and position to take that Bill should get back the $23,000 he had before this short marriage and Tina should get back her $5,000 and the parties should split the remainder equally.

However, if Bill and Tina are not getting along and either Tina or Bill intend to be vindictive that they are not bound by that optimistic perspective.  Either one of them can endeavor to enforce the practical laws of Rhode Island and demand that the entire account of marital monies be divided equitably.  Many times, equitably will turn out to be an equal division of monies absent some mitigating factor such as an infidelity that caused the breakdown of the marriage or dissipated the marital assets.

It is important, however, that even though it is good to be optimistic in a divorce situation, it is just as important to be realistic.  If you have placed monies in a joint account, then you have created marital funds and you have no right or entitlement to get the monies you had before you married your spouse back.  They are no longer premarital once they enter a joint account.  Acceptance of the fact that this may be a realistic decision that a judge might easily come to because of Rhode Island's laws regarding divorce, marital assets and joint bank accounts will help you prepare for an outcome you may not be happy with but which you may have no choice about.

In your divorce, be practical and realize that laws govern what you have done with your assets, by getting married, and during your marriage.  You need to be realistic and accept that laws will govern many situations in your divorce that you may not agree with and may be out of your control.  No doubt if you were Bill and you expected to get your $23,000 back, you might be extremely unhappy if the judge were unconcerned about the short length of the marriage and simply applied the principle of a joint bank account to your case giving Tina half of everything in the account. 

What may not seem fair to you in your divorce may be a situation that has often been spelled out by years of law not just regarding divorce but regarding banking or property law as well.  The judge is bound by the law to be applied and unfortunately what may seem an unfair result to you or I in any particular divorce case often has a broader rule of law behind it that is being applied.

Marriage is an important decision as are what we do with our assets and debts during the marriage.  It is a contract with repercussions that we often do not appreciate until we are in a divorce and it is too late.  If you are contemplating marriage, it is not a bad thing to be aware of what may happen in the event of a divorce and how the law may treat what you do.  

Be optimistic but practical and realistic!  In the end, for all of us ignorance of the law is never an excuse... even in a divorce.

RI Family Court Judges - Is Your Eye on the Ball in each Rhode Island Case?

Picture of Attorney Christopher Pearsall
Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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Published on Google+

Within the past few months I've had several calls from people who had the same problem and I was able to identify it simply by asking a few questions.  Unfortunately it's something that I've seen happen dozens of times over the years.  Though I wouldn't call it an epidemic I would certainly say it's something our newer judges could do well to focus on.

So what is the problem?  In a nutshell it is the failure to keep their eye on the ball.  What does that really mean?  

Judges have a coinsiderable amount of latitute and discretion in the Rhode Island Family Court System.  They can continue motions over and over.  They can defer to family court investigators.  They can rely on a Guardian Ad Litem's recommendations without question.  They can shuffle a matter off to mediation even if it is a matter in which mediation makes no sense.  It's there.  Discretion is part of our family court system and we count upon our judiciary to use it wisely.

Yet ultimately, it isn't used all that wisely when a judge doesn't keep his or her eye on the ball.  For instance, I had one case where my client filed one motion.  Remember that number now.... just one motion!  The motion had such substantial merit that the opposing party and the party's attorney could do nothing other than to try to prevent it from being heard.  In the case, the judge was not "on the ball" as I call it.  Though I brought this to the court's attention at each and every hearing, it was ignored and the judge diverted on tangents as the opposing party filed countless and meritless motions that were titled as "Emergency Motions."  In the end, the judge fell for it every time.  At one point after 2 1/2 years of bogus motions from the opposing counsel I literally lost my temper and said to the Judge, "Judge, with all due respect you are doing my client and these children and injustice.  We have had one motion pending for  2 1/2 years while this court has allowed itself to be pulled off on tangents by the 118 motions filed by the opposing counsel in an attempt to bury the one meritorious motion we filed to start all of this."

The truth be told, my client and I had been patient over and over as bogus motions continued to fly in and cost my client money and time.  In the end I represented the client for the last 8 months for free because I was so disgusted at the way the matter was being handled by the court.  All that was needed was for the judge to take a clear look at the file and see what was going on.  It was as plain as the nose on your face that the opposing party was trying to bury his manipulation of the children and his failure to pay child support.  

No matter what motions are filed I have learned one thing from countless judge in family court in Rhode Island.  The judge's discretion controls everything!  If the judge sees that the underlying problem is that a child needs counseling then the judge will act and go right to the route of the problem.  When a judge does that, I applaud that judge.  He or she does not end up being controlled by motions which may or may not have validity or even valid foundation (though they are supposed to if counsel is involved).

I think the greatest thing I have learned is that a good RI Family Court judge will see the crux of the issue and then focus on the ball to resolve it.  Judge's who loose sight of the real issue usually do so because they listen to a lawyer who is spouting or whining or arguing about something to throw the judge off on a tangent so he or she will not see the REAL ISSUE and keep their eye on the ball.

A constant flurry of motions is not only a sign of a lawyer that may be trying to make more money but also a lawyer that may be trying to bury a key fact about his or her client  that he or she doesn't want the judge to see.  It is also a good way for some lawyers without scruples to abuse the system by requiring the opposing party's attorney to have to spend more time and money to respond so the responding party will be drained of resources as quickly as possible so he or she can't afford counsel to defend himself or herself.

These are all things that a judge can see from the file.  The motions tell the story.  The orders tell the story.  Sometimes a brief review of the file will help them keep their eye on the ball.

A good judge can keep his or her eye on the ball in most cases and keep the case on track.  No matter how many cases may be in the system, a case that is prolonged for no reason or is decided unfairly or inequitably because justice was not done because the judge was distracted from the main point (the ball) is merely a case that might be closed by frustration or one party becoming broke or defenseless

In the end, it is not justice!  Once a judge fails to keep track of the ball on a case.... justice falls between the cracks.  It is my sincere hope that our judges take a few minutes in each case to look, to listen, and to find the ball once again!

Must Witnesses keep showing to Court if a Family Court judge Continues all Subpoenas in Full Force and Effect?

Picture of Attorney Christopher Pearsall
Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  The Rhode Island Divorce Coach℠ 

Author and Publisher Making the Most of Google+

Here is a legal snippet that many lawyers and witnesses who have been subpoenaed in family court cases might have wondered.  After being asked about it I believe I have found the answer.  Or at least I haven't found any statute or case law that says that my answer is incorrect which is a good sign.

There you are, you've been subpoenaed to court and you've been paid a lousy $12 to $15 as a miniscule witness fee to attend on a particular hearing date and give testimony.  This includes a fee of $10.00 for the day and 10 cents per mile round trip from your home for your attendance.

So imagine that you get through the day or whatever part of it the court hears and the judge doesn't have time to hear any more of the case so it is continued to another date.  Do you have to attend the next time?

It's actually a loaded question because family court judges do this all the time.  Practically speaking it makes sense, otherwise the party who subpoenaed you would have to do so each and every time the matter was continued and would have to pay the constable or sheriff all over again in order to get you to attend.  Therefore, as a practical matter it makes sense.

Yet my thoughts are from the perspective from the person who has to return to court 3, 4, 5, 12, 15 or even more times and they feel they are bound to do so because the judge keeps saying, "All subpoenas shall continue in full force and effect."  Naturally the lawyer who issued the subpoena makes sure that language appears in the Court's Order otherwise they believe they have to re-subpoena you all over again.

However, have you ever questioned whether a Judge has the power to continue all subpoeanas in "full force and effect" just by saying those words?  I mean, we want to respect the judge and generally speaking, what the family court judge says is considered law in that case.  Plus, people are afraid to be found in contempt of a subpoena by the court for disobeying it.

There is one exception where the Judge's word or Order is not necessarily law and that is when the legislature has spoken on the same issue in the statutes.

Here's where I think many judges are "out of bounds" but they don't know it when it comes to this little addition to the orders.  Or, at least, they are out of bounds if the attorney issuing the subpoena doesn't follow through on what the statute requires.

Payment of Subpoena Witness Fees Under Rhode Island General Laws § 9-29-7 the Witness Fees for a Subpoena are spelled out as follows:

The fees of witnesses shall be:

For every day's attendance before the supreme or superior court, or before any other tribunal

or magistrate, including attendance in giving depositions $10.00

For every mile's travel .10

For every day's commitment in jail upon default to enter into recognizance with surety 2.00

In addition to the fees above provided, witnesses summoned and testifying as experts in behalf

of the state, or any person acting as an interpreter, before the supreme, superior, or district

court, may be allowed and paid such sum as such court may deem just and reasonable.


The statute is fairly straight-forward as to how much a witness gets paid for each day's attendance before the tribunal including mileage.  

Yet here is where the issue arises.  What if the judge keeps continuing "All Subpoenas in Full Force and Effect" so you have to keep coming back over and over and over again and you are missing work, spending mileage, jeopardizing you job, finding a babysitter, etc....

It's no secret that it is a tact of many unscrupulous attorneys to try to arrange for continuances with just that language from the judge so that eventually any witnesses friendly to you will "bow out" or they will, in fact, ignore the subpoena because they can't afford any more personal time from work, can't get a sitter or don't want to lose their job.  Then what happens?  A person's case goes down the tubes.  Usually the person who subpoenaed the people to begin with.

So, does the judge have the power to do this or not?  Let's look at another statute.  

Rhode Island General Laws § 9-17-5 Duty to Attend When Subpoenaed states:

Every witness who shall be duly served with a subpoena in behalf of any party to a suit or

proceeding, civil or criminal, and shall have his or her lawful fees tendered to him or her for his or

her travel from his or her place of abode to the place at which he or she shall be summoned to

attend, and for one day's attendance, shall be obliged to attend accordingly. [Emphasis Added.]


Here's where the issue raises it's ugly head.  When you are subpoenaed the law says that you must be paid the lawful fees which are essentially stated in Rhode Island General Laws § 9-29-7.  Now note the last line in 9-17-5 that is underlined.  "[h]e or she shall be summoned to attend, and for one day's attendanance, shall be obligated to attend accordingly."

Do you see the problem?  The law says you are to be paid for at least that one day's attendance and you must attend accordingly.  How would you read that?  If you have been summoned for ONE day, and paid for ONE day, then aren't you obligated to attend for ONE day accordingly?  That's my professional interpretation based upon the plain and unambiguous reading of the statute itself.

Court Order on Witness SubpoenaSo, let's answer the question.  Can a judge or magistrate in the family court continue in full force and effect a subpoena issued by a party?  It is unclear without any further word from the Rhode Island Supreme Court or the Rhode Island General Assembly by a new law.  However, I believe that as a matter of caution that you take the position that they CAN do so.

What's the catch?  If the attorney who subpoenaed you does not follow the law and pay you $10 plus statutory mileage for each and every day that you are expected to return to court because of that statement "All subpoenas are continued in full force and effect." Then  the law has not been met by the lawyer issuing the subpoena and therefore you do not have to attend.

That's right.  As petty as the amount may be, if you are not paid that amount before each time you are supposed to be required to appear at court it is just as if the lawyer served you with a subpoena for a single day without paying you.  No payment and the subpoena is worthless.  

So what do you do if you are a witness and the party who subpoenaed you keeps dragging you back into court by having it put in the Order, "All Supoenas are to remain in full force and effect."  If you don't get paid before the next time you go to court, then according to the laws by the 'Rhode Island General Assembly of our state you have not violated the subpoena.  Also, since you are not a party to the action then the judge does not have authority to compel you to be in court unless you have been paid by the attorney who originally subpoena you.

This is a problem attorneys have been dealing with for years.  Myself included and I am happy the a recent inquiry caused me to analyze this problem to give attorneys and witnesses, and judges what I believe to be the correct answer under the law.  I am happy to be able to provide a solution that makes perfect sense and is consistent both with a judge's discretitionary power as well as the Rhode Island General Laws.