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Unique Rhode Island Divorce Questions: Avvo Answers Clarified

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By:  Christopher Pearsall, Esquire
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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A person wanted some help and posted to the Avvo website for attorneys to provide assistance.

Three Rhode Island attorneys answered this divorce scenario.  My answer and my comments on their answers are included to show the diversity between attorneys.

Each attorney's disclaimer has been removed since it's irrelevant to the answer and the attorneys are not disclosed here.

QUESTION:  I still use the same address.  Is it more complicated to use this as my legal address or changing to my mother's Massachusetts address?

DETAILS:  We have not been together for many years but have not been able to afford divorce. I can not afford to have my own place and pay the house bills so I stay here and there which sometimes includes the house my family lives in. We would like to have the fast track divorce which looks like it will cost about $1,000.00 and can be done within 21 days of filing. It is uncontested the only deal is we need it documented that when the house sells we split the money if something happened to both of us the house would go to our sons (18 & 20). Thank you for this service.

 

Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall's Answer:

To get divorced in Rhode Island either you OR your spouse MUST be "a continuous resident AND domiciled inhabitant of the State of Rhode Island for the one year immediately before the date you file for divorce in Rhode Island.  It is not about "addresses."  You can get a post office box as an address halfway across the country with a simple telephone call but that is not a place where you have been a "continuous resident" AND "domiciled inhabitant." 

Generally speaking to be a "continuous resident" you must continuously reside (i.e. live) in the State of Rhode Island for the one year period immediately before you file for divorce in this state.  Therefore, if during the one year immediately before you file for divorce you live in Pawtucket, RI for 7 months with your spouse and then rent a place in Newport, RI for two months and then live with a friend of yours for the last three months in Warwick, RI immediately before you file for divorce in Rhode Island, then you would have been a "continuous resident" of Rhode Island for the full 12 months immediately before filing for divorce.  In that case you would have met the first prong of the test.

However, before you can file for divorce in Rhode Island you MUST also meet the second qualification, namely you must be a "domiciled inhabitant" of the State of Rhode Island during that time.  The key here is that you may only have one domicile at any give time.  A "domicile" may be generally thought of as a place that you intend to live in for a particular period of time and you intend to come back to it.  For instance, if you have a house that you have lived with in the year before you file for divorce in the State of Rhode Island and you have lived there with your spouse but things start getting tense with your spouse and you come back to the house occasionally but you rent an apartment in Attleboro, MA to stay in for 4 days out of the week to avoid the tension with your spouse, then there will be an issue as to whether you have been a domiciled inhabitant in the State of Rhode Island.  The idea is that you cannot at any given time have two domiciles.  You may only have one domicile . . . namely where you "really" or "primarily" live and do not intend to leave from at that particular time. 

So, you must be both a continuous resident and have your single domicile be within the State of Rhode Island during that year before you file for divorce. 

Using an address to prove residence with the court to file for divorce simply because it suits your purpose of filing because you get mail there or because that's where your license is still listed is a bad idea. 

First, this is important because when you confirm your address with the court you must do so under oath before a Notary Public.  Therefore, if you lie then you have committed perjury before the court which is a crime.

Second, this is important because even if your divorce is granted.  If it is discovered that you or your spouse did not meet Rhode Island's residency requirement to obtain your divorce, then the divorce may be found to be void.  If that is the case then you are still married.  Imagine if you got remarried and had children!!!  Then all of a sudden your wife is no longer your wife and your children would be deemed illegitimate.  On top of this, if authorities really wanted to press it, you would be guilty of the crime of bigamy.

Ultimately, you don't have a choice to play games with addresses here.  You either meet both criteria and you can file for divorce in Rhode Island, or you don't meet the criteria and you can't file or you have to wait until you do meet the criteria.

It is worth addressing the details that you gave following your question. 

There is one way your divorce will take less time.  That "one way" is if you and your spouse have been separated for a period in excess of three (3) years.

There is an uncontested divorce but there is nothing called a "fast track" divorce.  Also, there is no divorce that you can get in 21 days.

If you have not been separated for more than 3 years, then even if things work like clockwork with the court the fastest you can possibly get your divorce completed is 5 1/2 months if it is uncontested. 

If you have been separated for more than 3 years, then if things work like clockwork with the court the fastest can can usually get your divorce completed is 3 1/2 months if it remains uncontested.

You mention that you have a house that is to be sold and that you need certain provisions.  Whenever there is a house involved you should make sure you have a Property Settlement Agreement that is written and contains all the terms regarding the house and is signed by both you and your spouse under oath before a notary public.  It is never a good idea to have a house involved and NOT to have a written Property Settlement Agreement to present to the court for approval.  If you do not have such a written agreement it is possible that you could have a problem with what is known as the "Statute of Frauds" which essentially requires transactions regarding real estate to be in a signed writing.  A thorough description of the Statute of Frauds is unfortunately too detailed for answering a single question.

You also bring up what you want to happen if you and/or your spouse die.  I'm certain it sounds simple to you to so this, but you then run into not only provisions in your Property Settlement Agreement being added but also taking into consideration whether either of you has a Last Will and Testament and, if not, what the laws are relating to intestacy in the State of Rhode Island (assuming for your question that the property you are talking about is within the State of Rhode Island).

Please be aware that this answer is provided as a courtesy based only on the facts and/or circumstances given and any assumptions I have had to make to try to assist you based on the way you worded your question and the details. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This is not legal advice.  Also, this is NOT a substitute for sitting down with an experienced Rhode Island divorce and family law attorney and providing all the facts and circumstances surrounding your case and affording the attorney the opportunity to ask questions which could substantially change any information you may be given.  Never act on any information you find on the internet. The only way to be assured that you receive competent, accurate and comprehensive advice regarding your legal situation is by meeting with a qualified legal practitioner who has the opportunity to fully evaluate your case and ask questions relating to your situation.  The information on this page does not constitute specific legal advice to any person, nor does it create an attorney/client relationship with this attorney.

AVVO.COM OTHER ATTORNEY ANSWERS

Below are the actual answers provided by the attorneys on Avvo.com.   Avvo.com only allowed 3 attorneys to answer the question.  Above is the answer that I wanted to provide but was unable to due to the limited number of attorneys they allow to respond.

1)  Do you notice the difference between my answer and their answers?

2)  Do you notice any mistakes they made when informing the person asking the question?

3)  Do you notice any misunderstandings the person had that they did not take the time do clear up?

 

Answer by Rhode Island Attorney No. 1:

I find this question a bit unclear. You must live in RI for one year if you want to get divorced here. If you want to be legal separated here you must only live in RI for one day. Residency is, in part, a matter of intent.

 

Answer by Rhode Island Attorney No. 2:

Do not lie to the court about which state you live in.

Is the house mortgage on both your names? If so, keep in mind that if the bank can report late and missed payments on both of your credit reports.

 

Answer by Rhode Island Attorney No. 3:
 
This question will best be answered by the attorney you are paying to represent you in your "fast track" or nominal divorce on the grounds of living separate and apart for a period exceeding three (3) years. They might also explain that as long as one of the parties has lived in Rhode Island for one year or more before the filing, you should be able to proceed.
 
 
Before you make a decision about any lawyer you may consider hiring... you need INFORMATION.  Without good solid information and legal advice, how can you even know whether you should consider hiring a lawyer or how to tell whether the lawyer you are considering knows what they are doing? 
 
The answer.... you can't.
 
All Rhode Island Divorce lawyers are not the same. 
 
I'm Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall.  CAP isn't simply my initials.  You see, I've been making a difference by Caring About People like you for over 16 years practicing exclusively Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law.
 
For solid and comprehensive legal advice that you can rely upon.  Call me to set up a lower-cost advice session.  Give me a call at 401-632-6976 . . . you'll be glad you did!

Affordability Doesn't Come Cheap When Trying to Find a Rhode Island Divorce 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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There is a huge PRO SE movement going forward in the Rhode island Family Courts.  The court schedules have people representing themselves in their own cases every day.  Beside each listing for those people it says "PRO SE."  The listings used to be few and far between on the Rhode Island divorce and family court calendars but today they are everywhere.

I started wondering why this newer "PRO SE" movement had grown so large when your legal rights relating to your family law matters are so very important such that even one mistake can cause irreparable harm. 

So months ago I began listening to people more intently at court, in my office, and in public commentaries in print and online.  For my result I focused on three (3) questions that might help understand this PRO SE trend on the family court calendars.

QUESTIONS

1)  Is it that all divorce lawyers are viewed as being too expensive? 

2)  Is it that people simply don't have the money to hire a divorce lawyer in any capacity? 

3)  Or could it be that the Rhode Island family court is making divorces easier and people don't see the perils of representing themselves?

The answer related not to one or two of the questions but to all three (3).

The vast majority of people I listened to and considered related mostly to Rhode Island divorces but still I kept my ears open about comments by people talking about lawyers, their consultations with other lawyers, editorials and other materials.  I found that the vast majority of people in the middle class viewed lawyers as being drastically overpaid, expensive and not worth the monies they would be paid and so they would rather go PRO SE and save themselves expensive attorney's fees.

A good many people also believed that representation in a divorce or family law matter was the only option available to them and therefore concluded that since they simply didn't have the money to hire a lawyer to represent them to protect their rights that they were forced to go forward PRO SE and represent themselves.

Lastly, there were quite a few people who didn't want to spend any money on getting divorced and heard through a friend or relative that not only was the court giving out the questions that they should be prepared to answer at the hearing but that the judge's were, in fact, leading them through the divorce and therefore a lawyer was unnecessary.

The reasoning used by most of the people who were part of my private study was interesting but flawed for two reasons. 

First, people need to understand that representation is not the only form of legal assistance available in the Rhode Island legal community.  Coaching in divorce and other areas of law has been around for years.  This is legal assistance that lawyers provide to clients on an "as desired basis" or "as affordable basis" to clients who cannot afford full-service "in court" representation but who must represent themselves due to the cost but still need to know their rights and the proper procedure for asserting those rights. 

The challenge of finding one of these "Coaching" attorneys is that many of them still focus on full-service in-court representations and they do not openly promote their "coaching services" which brings in a small amount of income and a greater level of liability exposure for what they are paid.  As you can imagine then, this is not the focus of many practitioners and this option is often only revealed when a prospective client discloses that he or she cannot afford the full-service representation.  Yet coaching has become a substantial way to exercise your constitutional right to represent yourself, save a considerable amount of money compared to full representation and yet still have access to an experienced lawyer to learn about your legal rights as well as the procedure you can use to press those rights before the court.

Yet coaching and it's affordability doesn't come cheap.  It's price?  It can take substantial time and effort to find an attorney who offers coaching in the area of law that you need assistance with (family law or otherwise) and therefore if you want the affordability it comes at a sacrifice of your time and effort to find such an attorney.

Second, people need to understand that the questions provided by the court in the divorce papers are merely general questions that can relate to many divorces.  They were not created necessarily to help the public but to help the judges by providing a guide that PRO SE people could follow, regardless of whether it was right or not for your divorce.  However, that particular determination is yours to make because you are acting as your own lawyer and the protector of your own rights when you are PRO SE.  The judges may even ask you the questions on that sample sheet.  Litigants look at this as kindly helping them through the process just as they should be going through it.  This presumption is dead wrong.  The judge asks you questions that the judge knows apply to most divorces because the judge needs to make findings of fact and a decision affecting the parties' rights at the end of the hearing.  Without specific content the judge can't make the required findings of fact and the decisions in the case.  The judge's job is to give you your day in court and to clear his or her docket properly and legally of the cases on it.  It is your job to protect your own rights.  The sample questions you are given DO NOT protect your legal rights.  If the judge asks you the sample questions or other questions during the divorce proceeding, this is not designed to protect your legal rights.

It is YOUR JOB and ONLY YOUR JOB to know your rights and to protect them during any divorce or family law proceeding in the Rhode Island Courts.  So, if you represent yourself, PRO SE, and you miss something, forget something, mis-state something, or misunderstand something then you should understand that you should not expect that you should or even can sue the State of Rhode Island or the Judge who presided over your proceeding.

If you want a cheaper or more affordable divorce and you feel up to representing yourself, then by all means you have the constitutional right to do so but you should most assuredly get some coaching from an experienced family law practitioner who offers coaching and can inform you about your rights, the procedures, etc...  Naturally your level of protection and safety in the proceeding relates to the amount of coaching and advice you are willing to engage the attorney for, but it is better than thinking that you know as much as a lawyer who has been doing this for many years and has read the law, or than thinking that the court is already protecting you so you don't need a lawyer at all. 

If you don't know your legal rights in a divorce and how to protect them, you might as well not have them.


A Call to RI Divorce Lawyers to Push Uncontested Divorces to Help People!

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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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When I started the development of the RI Divorce Coaching program other attorneys said it wouldn't work. No one was behind me except my wife. 

Primarily, attorney colleagues consistently told me they would not participate in the program because they wouldn't make enough money promoting the program. 

 Secondarily, my fellow Rhode Island attorneys said it would not be effective because people in Rhode Island would not be receptive to the fact they they could actually understand the process and take themselves through Rhode Island's Uncontested Divorce/Nominal Hearing process to the Final Judgment because they were too ingrained in traditional legal representation.

Well, after 5 1/2 years of coaching the program speaks for itself.  While I had projected and even hoped for an 85% success rate of the program over the 4 year period, I have been amazed to find that upon reaching a milestone of 4 years of continuous coaching for laypeople of Uncontested Divorce Coaching, the plan itself and my coaching clients have achieved a 99.9% success rate.

No, that is not a misquote.  99.9% of those who engage in all aspects of the program have achieved their Final Judgment of Divorce with minor adjustments in only 2 instances with countless successes, each of which were handled with ease by the client after the appropriate coaching.

Rhode Island attorneys I'm asking you to give me a call.  Pro Se filings for Divorces are on the rise but these people need guidance. I have created a detailed explanatory program that is helpful to people who can't afford the cost of representation.  It's more affordable and works in stages.  Sure, it's not the big money you might like.  Yet if you spend your time helping more people in coaching aspects of your practice the money adds up and believe it or not your liability is reduced.

If your law practice is slower and you need to supplement your law practice income stream, I welcome you to contact me.  This concept is growing and already two attorneys in other states have not only picked up on it but they have expanded it into other areas of practice.  People call me directly seeking my coaching services and most of my coaching clients who aren't excessively busy are more than happy to provide me with a great testimonial for my legal services and particularly the coaching services.  

to lawyers to bring it to the public to improve their practices and help people with their uncontested divorces.  While for some attorneys it is not the most profitable service compared to representation.  

RI Divorce Coaching is a valuable service to afford us as attorneys the opportunity to assist people in their uncontested divorces when th.  Payment is at the time of the service and coaching clients are informed about how to go about presenting their own rights and claims in court in an amicable manner.

I will be releasing a complete program together with the structure of my program for a fee similar to a franchise.  I have followed this structure and improved it for over 5 years with the input and construtive criticism of my uncontested divorce coaching clients and though continuing to develop it is a way to expand your practice using a new and effective system for attorneys to market themselves from a new prospective.

I welcome lawyers or coaching clients interested in learning more about how client's can handle their own uncontested Rhode Island divorce cases as if they were their own attorneys.

Whether you are interested in purchasing the program as an attorney to offer it to clients, or a client who needs the help from this program to save the money because of limited financial resources, feel free to call me at (401) 632-6976 for an attorney's briefing on the program or to get a client's first affordable Coaching & Advice Session to get a real solid grasp on what to expect from the RI Family Court System as it relates to your circumstances.


Uncontested RI Divorces - You are the Magic in your Rhode Island Divorce!

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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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Rhode Island uncontested divorces in my estimation have their own divorce recipe.  

What is that uncontested divorce recipe in Rhode Island you ask?

Here is my RI Uncontested Divorce recipe for those who represent themselves in a nutshell.  

1. Your own common sense.
2. Your willingness to get some professional coaching.
3. Your ability to follow directions.

Many Rhode Island lawyers will tell you ALMOST exactly what I will tell you.  Most RI lawyers who handle a moderate amount of divorces will tell you something like this:

"It's never a good idea to represent yourself in your own Rhode Island divorce matter."

But ALMOST isn't good enough for most people.  It isn't good enough for me, and it shouldn't be good enough for you.  So what I will suggest to you is this:

"It's never a good idea to represent yourself in your own Rhode Island divorce matter unless you've got some divorce coaching."

Rhode Island divorce coaching is the second ingredient in the recipe I mentioned above.

Notice the common thread in the Rhode Island uncontested divorce recipe.  It's not a divorce lawyer.  It's YOU!  

Your common sense, your willingness, and your ability will determine if your divorce is and will remain uncontested and go from beginning to end without substantial challenges.  This works for both the husband and the wife in each uncontested divorce.

To the extent that there is any magic at all in a trouble-free uncontested divorce in Rhode Island, it's YOU! 

The purpose of this short article is very focused.  If you don't realize that YOU are the magic in any uncontested divorce then you've missed the point.

You can give the credit to a divorce lawyer if you want to, but in the end you are the one who has the power to call the shots, make the decisions, settle your case and either keep it uncontested or make it contested.

If manage to get through the divorce procedure on your own without any professional coaching or legal guidance then I won't be patting you on the back.  Why, because chances are better than good that you just lost property, waived rights, or gave up something that was perhaps even more valuable regarding your child(ren), visitation, placement, custody, healthcare benefits, etc. . . that you will never get back.  You may have had that one chance and you blew it because you didn't want to get that divorce coaching.

It is your marriage.  It is your divorce.  An uncontested divorce is your chance to make the decisions and reach a resolution.  Sure, get some professional guidance for your divorce regarding the law and the procedure.  It's essential.  

Yet if you get nothing else from this article, realize the truth.  

YOU are the magic in your Rhode Island uncontested divorce!


What is a Rhode Island Uncontested Divorce?

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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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Many people call me simply to price shop over the phone for the cheapest lawyer.  People usually just say "I have an uncontested divorce. Everything is agreed upon.  How much do you charge for a simple divorce like that?

I have never asked a caller if they know what an uncontested divorce is because I have no intention of embarrassing or insulting them.

Yet many people don't know.  From my perspective, an uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses have agreed on every aspect of a divorce that must be agreed upon in a divorce proceeding including all of those that must be stated to the judge in the courtroom.  Additionally, an uncontested divorce is one in which no motions are filed by either by party and the case is resolved at the Nominal Hearing date.

The Nominal Hearing date is the first hearing date scheduled in a divorce proceeding.  It is, in essence, a Marital Agreement friendly divorce hearing between parties who have agreed how to resolve all of their issues regarding children, support, marital assets, marital debts, insurances, medical expenses, etc.

I strongly suggest that you don't presume you have an uncontested divorce.  Many people do not know the things that the court requires to hear from them, nor do they know what they should do to properly protect themselves even when they do agree upon things.

In 2013 there has been a trend where about 70% or more of people are representing themselves and handling their own cases by themselves (Pro Se).  Now in the mid to later part of 2013 I am finding myself attempting to fix what was (or was not) done by these people in their divorces.  Many times I am unable to do anything because of the way in which the person represented themselves.  

I urge you to think twice before representing yourself without the advice of an experienced family law lawyer after you have fully informed him or her about your entire marriage circumstances.