The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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Do I need an attorney for an uncontested divorce?
If you and your spouse agree to end your marriage, you may file an uncontested or no-fault divorce in Rhode Island. For the court to grant your uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree on every aspect of your divorce agreement. However, many people seeking uncontested divorces in Rhode Island still benefit from legal counsel.
Four Reasons to Consult an Attorney
Even if you and your spouse agree to end your marriage, there may be some necessary negotiations about how to divide your property, how to share custody of your children, whether alimony will be provided, and whether child support will be provided. An experienced divorce attorney can:
- Advise you of every option, so you’re confident in the decisions you make
- Make sure that all of your legal rights are protected before you sign a legally binding divorce agreement
- Prevent you from making mistakes or creating unnecessary delays in your divorce proceedings by making sure all of the paperwork is filed correctly and on time
- Take the stress out of negotiating directly with your spouse by handling negotiations on your behalf
How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in RI
Rhode Island does not have a special procedure for getting an uncontested divorce. Generally, you will need to file for divorce claiming irreconcilable differences, and you will need to explain to the court that both you and your spouse agree on the reason for the divorce and the specific terms of your divorce.
The divorce process will start when one spouse files for divorce at the clerk’s office at the local court. The other spouse will then have the opportunity to answer the divorce complaint. Then, the court will set a hearing date. You typically must bring witnesses to this hearing who will testify that you have been a Rhode Island resident for at least a year and know that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. After the hearing, additional forms must be submitted to the court. Once everything has been approved, you will be divorced.
The divorce process may be easier when both spouses agree to end the marriage, but it can still be complicated. Now is the time to make sure your rights are protected. Let us help you end your marriage with as little stress and as much certainty as possible. Call our Cranston divorce lawyers today, or reach out to us via this website to learn more.
How can I find the right divorce lawyer for me?
Once you have made the decision to separate from your spouse, you may turn to the internet to search for an attorney who can handle the case. While online research is a helpful first step, it can quickly become overwhelming, as there may be hundreds of attorneys near you. With so many lawyers who could handle your case, how do you find the one that’s right for you?
Finding the Right Attorney to Handle Your Divorce
The most important thing when selecting an attorney to handle your divorce is to choose a family law attorney. All law firms have areas of focus such as personal injury, business law, workers’ compensation, and estate planning. Your chosen attorney does not need to handle divorce cases exclusively, but one who regularly works in divorce and family law has a much better chance of obtaining a favorable outcome for you.
The right divorce attorney for your case will be the one who:
- Has experience in your type of divorce. There are many different ways to separate from a spouse, including mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigating the case in court. The divorce process you use will depend on the specifics of your case and whether you and your spouse can work together during separation. Spouses who divorce amicably may only need an attorney to act as a legal guide to help them file paperwork, discover and divide all assets, and update financial documents and estate plans after separation. On the other hand, if your spouse is hiding assets or threatening to leave you penniless, you will likely need an attorney with trial experience.
- Addresses your specific needs. Ask yourself: what is most important to you in your case? Is it custody of your children, obtaining spousal support, or moving on as quickly as possible? Are you concerned about dividing business assets or getting a fair portion of the marital property? The answer can steer you toward the right person to achieve that goal.
- Communicates well and keeps you informed. The right attorney should never make you feel as if you are a bother or that you are not a priority. When you meet with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask questions about who will be working on your case and how often you will be updated on its progress.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody questions, we can help. Please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.
How can I help someone in my family going through a divorce?
When someone you know announces her divorce, it can be very difficult to know how to respond. Grandparents may be afraid of losing access to the couple’s children, siblings of one spouse may become angry at the other, and friends may simply stay away because they are unsure of how to act. If someone you love has decided to divorce, there are a few things you can do—and avoid doing—to show your support.
How to Be Supportive of Someone Getting a Divorce
Divorce can place an enormous strain on family relationships, and it is often hard for those involved to ask for help. If a friend or family member is going through a divorce, here are some ways you can help make things easier:
- Be a good listener. Couples often hide their problems until they announce a divorce, and as a result, the divorce comes as a surprise. Even if you don’t know what to say, it can be helpful just to listen. If the person is comfortable talking about it, be a sympathetic listener, and if she doesn’t want to talk, let her know that’s okay, too.
- Avoid taking sides. If someone tells you she’s getting divorced, she’s likely hurting and in need of sympathy. However, you should resist the urge to badmouth her spouse. No one except the couple really knows what goes on in a relationship, so try to stay impartial and decline voicing judgments.
- Be careful what you say. When people hear that others are getting a divorce, their first response may be unkind. Many will want to offer advice, give their opinion, or even say “I told you so.” Above all, do not repeat any conversations with a divorcing friend or family member to others. Even if these responses come from fear or shock, your friend is relying on you for support, and these behaviors are not helpful.
- Make an open offer of help. Ask your friend if there is anything she needs (such as financial help, child care, or a temporary place to stay), and work together to come up with a solution. If she declines help, let her know you are available if she thinks of anything she may need in the future.
- Stay present. Many spouses put off filing for divorce because they are afraid that everything in their lives will change. It can be a great comfort to a divorced friend to continue to treat her as you always have, including maintaining your relationship with her children. Friends and family can be of great help in the transition of divorce just by staying in contact and maintaining a sense of normalcy.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody or support questions, please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.
What happens to the ring after a broken engagement?
Even if partners are able to amicably end their relationship, they may have differing opinions about who keeps the engagement ring. Courts have devised a way to determine who is the “rightful” owner—but there may be more than one way to determine who should have the ring.
Courts May Decide Who Keeps the Ring After a Broken Engagement
Courts traditionally view engagement rings as “conditional gifts,” or a gift that is contingent on a future event (marriage). If the condition is not met, the giver has the right to get the gift back. Conditional gift decisions are usually no-fault, so it does not matter which partner broke the engagement. However, there could be extenuating circumstances where returning the ring is not fair to the receiver.
When determining who should keep the ring, the law may consider:
- The ring as a gift. Some courts consider the engagement ring as a gift from one partner to the other. If the ring constitutes a gift, the giver has no right to revoke it, and the receiver will get to keep it. However, engagement rings are only considered gifts in rare cases.
- The ring as compensation. A ring can be considered compensation under the law as long as both parties acknowledged that the ring was being offered as compensation. For example, if a man proposes marriage by offering an expensive ring to a partner who has lent him a considerable sum of money or performed work for him in the past, the ring may be considered compensation.
- Who broke the engagement. Some courts take into account the reason or party responsible for the broken engagement when considering who should keep the ring. This "fault-based" approach is sometimes used to award the ring to the receiver if the giver is the one who called off the wedding.
A broken engagement can lead to awkward and painful situations. Our family law attorneys can take over the burden on your behalf, allowing you to move on with your life as easily as possible. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to learn more.
How long will it take for my divorce to become final?
Many spouses want to know how long it will take to be officially divorced after filing. In Rhode Island, an uncontested divorce may be granted in as little as 75 days—and some divorces may be granted even sooner if they qualify for expedited processing. However, wait times are often longer if the court imposes a waiting period, the parties cannot agree, or there are other complexities.
Factors That Can Affect the Timeline of a Rhode Island Divorce
The biggest factor that will impact the length of a divorce is whether the separation is contested or not. The Rhode Island Family Court allows uncontested divorces to receive a hearing approximately 75 days after papers are filed. If both parties agree that there is no chance of a reconciliation and sign a waiver requesting expedited treatment, the court may grant a divorce immediately.
The amount of time it takes for a Rhode Island divorce to be finalized depends on:
- If you require a temporary court order. Some spouses need a temporary court order to establish which spouse will live in the house, which spouse will have custody, and other terms of the separation. Temporary hearings on these matters are usually scheduled about five weeks after filing.
- The length of the waiting period. Divorces do not become final until after the expiration of the mandatory waiting period that starts after the first hearing. Divorces granted on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences" have a 90-day waiting period before they are final, while "separate and apart” divorces have a 21-day waiting period.
- How long you and your spouse have lived apart. If you and your spouse have been living separately for three years or more, the court may waive the waiting period.
- If the case goes to trial. Only divorces where both spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce will qualify for expedited treatment. If you and your spouse are not in agreement by the hearing date, your case will be classified as a "contested divorce," and you will be given a date to meet for status conference. At the conference, the spouses, their attorneys, and the judge will meet to settle the unresolved issues. Once the parties agree, the judge will schedule the divorce hearing. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to trial, and the divorce can last for several months or even a year.
Our family law attorneys can advise you on your best options and ensure you settle your divorce in the most beneficial manner. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to learn more about your options.
What is a property settlement agreement?
A property settlement agreement (PSA), sometimes called a marital settlement agreement, is the document that itemizes what each spouse will receive when a divorce is final. The document is customized to the needs of the divorcing couple, and it can include a division of furniture, property, savings accounts, trusts, and/or life insurance proceeds. It also outlines each spouse’s financial responsibilities in a divorce such as paying shared debts or alimony obligations.
What Should Be Included in a Property Settlement Agreement?
Under Rhode Island law, PSAs are considered a contract between the divorcing spouses. This means, the court may not be able to modify portions of the agreement, including those regarding alimony and property division. For this reason, it is important to be thorough when creating a PSA, since any oversights or vague language can cause legal disputes in the future.
A property settlement agreement should provide clear information on:
- Distribution of assets. The PSA should clearly indicate how much each party will receive of all marital funds, real estate, trust funds, and personal property.
- Division of debt. The document should divide shared debt (for example, credit cards and car payments) and assign each debt to the spouse who will be responsible for paying it.
- Alimony. The document should state how much a spouse will receive in support payments and the length of the obligation. If there will be no spousal support, the PSA should acknowledge that the support has been waived.
- Insurance concerns. A PSA should address who will be covered under each spouse’s health insurance, as well as who will remove proceeds from life insurance claims.
- Tax payments. Each spouse may be assigned a portion of federal and state taxes on property that will be divided or dissolved during the divorce.
- Retirement accounts. Spouses may be entitled to a portion of a partner’s pension, 401k, or other retirement account distributions.
Our family law attorneys can draft a property settlement agreement that will provide for you and your family for years to come. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to learn more about your options.
Will I still get child support from my first spouse if I remarry?
While alimony payments to a spouse are unlikely to continue after a supported spouse’s remarriage, the same is not true of child support payments. Under Rhode Island law, a former spouse must continue his financial obligation to his children whether or not either spouse has remarried. However, there are instances when remarriage could change the amount of these payments.
Courts May Modify Child Support Orders Based on Remarriage
The Rhode Island family courts use certain guidelines to determine how much child support a parent must pay, but they are allowed to order a different amount of support based on all relevant factors in a case. Remarriage may be considered relevant to a support order, especially if the new marriage includes:
- The birth of new children. In the past, children in a new marriage were not considered a valid reason for changing a support order for children from a prior relationship. Today, Rhode Island courts may consider the increased costs of new children when deciding on an amount of child support.
- Increased expenses. Marriage can increase a couple’s income, but it can also increase their expenses. A parent who remarries and takes on shared debts (such as house and car payments) or provides care for a new spouse with a disability may see a change in the amount of income available for child support.
- A new spouse’s income. Although Rhode Island courts agree that a new spouse has no duty to support children from a prior relationship, they have ruled that a new spouse’s income may be considered in some cases. For example, if a parent paying child support remarries, the new spouse is likely contributing financially to household bills, utilities, and groceries. This essentially causes an increase in income for the parent and leaves more of his income available for child support.
In order to change the amount of child support after remarriage, a parent must petition the court for a modification of the order. It’s up to the court to decide whether remarriage has resulted in a significant change in circumstances needed to make the modification. If you need help with your divorce, custody, or child support order, fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Will my alimony payments continue if I remarry?
Although it is possible for spousal support payments to continue after remarriage, it is extremely rare. Unlike child support payments, spousal support may be discontinued for any number of reasons, including the recipient’s reliance on a new spouse. In most cases, the best option for divorcing spouses is to secure an amount during the separation that will last the rest of their lives, whether they decide to remarry or not.
Collecting Alimony Payments After Remarriage
Alimony is supposed to provide rehabilitative payments to a spouse who may not have the ability to earn a sustainable living. These payments are meant to offer temporary support, allowing a spouse to get a degree, search for a job, or otherwise become self-sufficient. As a result, Rhode Island law states that a spouse’s obligation to pay alimony terminates when a recipient spouse remarries, since the new spouse would presumably be able to offer financial support.
While a property settlement agreement created during a divorce may allow alimony to continue after remarriage, this can create further difficulties, including:
- Tax considerations. Alimony is taxed differently than other payments received from a former spouse. After remarriage, spousal support payments do not qualify as “alimony” and are no longer eligible for federal tax benefits.
- Ability to pay. If an ex-spouse loses the financial ability to continue to provide alimony, a court may find that the obligation is not necessary and discontinue payments.
- Other concessions. A provision in the property settlement agreement securing future alimony after remarriage may come at a cost such as relinquishing family heirlooms, investment accounts, or other items of value.
Since alimony payments depend on so many unpredictable factors, the most effective method of protecting your future is to make provisions during the divorce that end your reliance on your former spouse. If you need help determining how much you are owed or drafting a fair property settlement agreement, fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Do grandparents have visitation rights after a Rhode Island divorce?
There are many ways a grandparent may be separated from grandchildren after a divorce is final. One spouse may prevent the other spouse’s relatives from seeing the children, or visits with surviving grandparents may stop after one spouse has died. If visitation is suspended, grandparents can petition the Family Court to seek "reasonable visitation rights" for the grandchild.
Grandparents May Request Visitation Rights
No matter who gets custody of a child after a divorce, it is expected that the child will be able to enjoy access to both parents (unless there is some legal reason the other parent should not interact with the child). However, there is no guarantee that grandparents will be able to visit the grandchildren of a divorced spouse. If a grandparent wishes to ensure visitation of a grandchild after a divorce, he must make an official request through the Family Court.
The Court will consider a few factors in order to determine whether the child should be allowed to visit the grandparent(s), including:
- Whether visitation is in the best interests of the grandchild
- Whether the grandparent is fit and responsible to be granted visitation rights
- Whether the grandparent has attempted to visit the grandchild within the previous 30 days before petitioning, but he was prevented from doing so
- Whether court intervention is the only way the grandparent would reasonably be able to visit the grandchild
- Whether the grandparent has clear evidence that a parent’s decision to refuse visitation was not reasonable
Once the Court grants visitation rights to the grandparent, it can also take action to enforce the visitation rights if the parent is unwilling to accept the ruling. In addition, the law requires that any further custody or visitation petitions be provided to all parties that have been granted visitation. This allows grandparents to remain a presence in the child’s life unless the Court issues an order removing visitation rights.
If your visitation rights have been suspended after a Rhode Island divorce, we can help. Fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a divorce and family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Do all estates have to go through probate in Rhode Island?
When a person dies, his property must go through probate proceedings before it can be passed on to named beneficiaries. Probate is typically a long and expensive process, and in some cases, it does not make sense to make heirs wait before inheriting a relative’s property. This is why state law allows some smaller estates to be exempt from probate in Rhode Island.
What Are Rhode Island’s Small Estate Laws?
If a person dies with less than $15,000 of personal property, probate may be shortened under the "small estate" provision. The executor of the estate will have to file the necessary forms with the probate court, but the waiting time for the closure of these estates is typically much shorter and far less costly.
In order to close a small estate, an executor must:
- Complete a schedule of all known assets and the estimated value of each one
- File the decedent’s original will with the probate court
- Present the deceased’s death certificate to the clerk of the probate court
- Pay applicable filing fees
- Make payments from the estate to creditors
- Pay any necessary final medical and funeral expenses using estate funds
- Distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the will
The person who is named an executor should be willing and able to discharge all necessary duties that are required to close the estate. If an executor does not perform these duties to the letter of the law, family members may hold the executor liable for mishandling the estate.
Learn More About Rhode Island Probate Law From Our Attorneys
Even when the estate is small, probate proceedings can be frustrating and an arduous process. The best way to avoid unnecessary costs and confusion is to enlist the help of an estate planning and probate attorney. Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you protect your assets and avoid going through probate in Rhode Island by retitling your assets and creating a living trust. Call us today at 401-946-3200 or fill out our online contact form to set up your initial consultation.