A Rhode Island divorce attorney can make the divorce process sound simple or complicated. Whether the attorney makes it sound simple or complicated may depend upon whether the attorney has a particular goal in mind or whether he or she simply is addressing a person with a different level of education who does not want to be spoken down to and therefore is comfortable with the more technical jargon or legalese used in the legal profession. For my part, I believe that it wastes the clients and the attorney's time by complicating the process merely to justify the fee that is usually requested after the process is explained.
The process of divorce itself is simple. Here it is with all the technical jargon stripped from it.
A) You prepare the Divorce Packet which consists of these completed documents:
1) 2 Summons
2) 1 Divorce Complaint and 1 Copy (after it has been signed and witnessed).
3) 2 Nominal or Uncontested Track Notice Forms
4) 2 Automatic Orders
5) 1 Family Court Counseling Forms
6) 2 Children of the Marriage Forms
7) 1 Report of Divorce
8) 1 Notice of the Parental Video Requirement (if there are minor children of the marriage)
9) 1 Certified Copy of your Marriage Certificate on file with the Bureau of Vital Statistics
B) You file all these documents with the Family Court Clerk's Office in the county in which you reside or in which your spouse resides together with a check for $100 for the filing fee. In Providence County you may have to wait a day or two before they completely file your divorce because of the immense volume of domestic matters they handle.
C) Once filed you get back various certified documents rom the court which need to be served upon your spouse.
D) You contact the sheriff's department or a constable ("process server") where your spouse lives and have them serve the certified documents upon your spouse. The process server will report that he or she has or has not served your spouse on the back of the original summons. Usually your spouse has been served.
E) You mail the Summons that has the Process Server's Notice of Successful service on the back to the court where you filed your divorce action making sure to note the "Nominal Date" that appears on the Summons.
F) You try to reach an agreement with your spouse regarding all aspects of your divorce, including placement of children, visitation, division of assets, division of debt, health insurance, child support, alimony and all other things relating to your marriage.
G) You appear at the court on the Nominal Date. If you have an agreement, or if your spouse does not show up and is defaulted, then you place on the record a short hearing . . . called a Nominal which requires you to place on the record those things that are required by law to establish jurisdiction, a marriage, a breakdown of the marriage, inability to reconcile, alimony or waivers of alimony and the items needed for a proper waiver of alimony and any elements of your agreement with your spouse that you want the court to include in any court order.
H) Within thirty (30) days after your Nominal Hearing you submit to the Court an Interlocutory Decision Pending Entry of the Final Judgment which outlines the courts findings of fact and decisions as set forth by the judge immediately following the Nominal Hearing and specifically states that all the orders of the court are effective but that the parties are not divorced until the entry of Final Judgment of Divorce is signed by the court.
I) On the ninety-second (92nd) day after the Nominal Hearing, a Final Judgment of Divorce may be submitted to the Court for approval by the judge and then filed and entered by the court clerk to make your divorce official. The Final Judgment may be submitted within the 92nd day and the next 30 days thereafter to the judge for approval. It should be noted that this is a bare bones nominal procedure. It does not sound difficult or particularly astounding to a person looking at it from the outside who is reading this article.
However, as it has been said, the "devil is in the details."
Questions you need to ask yourself are:
1) What happens if we don't agree on everything by the Nominal Date?
2) Do you know the effect of incorrectly preparing the Divorce Filing Documents?
3) Do you know what questions must be asked at the nominal hearing to establish jurisdiction?
4) Do you know how to ask your spouse questions in order to effectuate a valid and permanent waiver of alimony?
5) If you had an agreement on a subject but did not put it on the record of the court, is it still part of your agreement with your spouse?
6) Do you know what you are entitled to in the way of marital assets? Or even what is a marital asset and what isn't?
7) Do you know how to prepare an Interlocutory Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment?
8) Do you know how to prepare a Final Judgment of Divorce?
9) What happens if you miss the 30 days for entry of the Decision Pending Entry of Final Judgment?
10) What happens if you miss the 30 days for approval of the Final Judgment of Divorce?
11) What happens if you accidentally file the documents in the wrong order?
12) If you reach an agreement with your spouse, should it be formalized? If so, how? These are only a few of the questions that should be running through your head if you are thinking about handling your own divorce.
These questions don't even take into consideration the tons of legal questions that you may need to consider, especially whether the court would approve your agreement with your spouse or whether the court would disapprove of the agreement or your requested relief if the judge believes it to be unreasonable or more specifically against existing law or contrary to public policy.
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NOTE: The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue. This site is based on Rhode Island and is presented for the convenience of the internet public.
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Copyright 2008 - Christopher A. Pearsall and Pearsall Law Associates (All Rights Reserved.)