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July 2008

Alleged "Home Wreckers" and Subpoenas - What Can They Do?

In a Rhode Island Divorce a common practice of family lawyers is to subpoena the person their client alleges is "the other woman" or "the other man" who has broken up the marriage.


Todd and Marlene have been married for ten (10) years.  Marlene didn't see the signs that Todd was extremely unhappy in their relationship.  Todd files for the divorce.  Marlene is in shock when Todd files for divorce and instantly forms the belief that there must be "another woman" because she sees no reason why Todd would file for divorce otherwise.  Marlene starts putting together a list in her mind of females that his husband knows from work, little league practice for their son, and friends of hers that have been around her husband.

Marlene hires an attorney and files a counter-claim for divorce.  Eventually Marlene narrows down her list to the one or two people she suspects had an affair with her husband.  She starts following Todd around and finds that Todd is having lunch occasionally with one of those people.  Marlene forms in her mind the belief that this woman must be "the other woman" who broke up her marriage.  Marlene is now angry at both her husband Todd and this woman.  Marlene's attorney subpoena's the woman Todd was having lunch with into court, usually around the time of the trial.


Unfortunately this is an all too common tactic that attorneys take in a divorce matter that causes divorces, in my humble opinion, to escalate beyond control or to immediately settle a case in an inequitable manner.

Let me explain.  The "other woman" as in the example may have no basis what so ever.  The fact is, people grow apart.  The parties in a marriage are often blind to the signs of the breakdown especially if both parties do not have good communication skills with one another. 

Denial is often an initial reaction to the recognition that divorce is taking place or is on the immediate horizon.  The person being divorced does not wish to believe that he or she is unattractive, boring, unyeilding or unworthy or being loved as a spouse in the marital relationship.  That denial, if not tempered with reason, often leads to the conclusion that there must be another person in their spouse's life that caused the marriage to break down.  This is because the spouse cannot, or will not, come to terms with the fact that the marriage simply wasn't a good match or that their spouse was looking for something in his or her life and thought it was present in the other spouse only to find that it wasn't.  Some spouses marry with blinders on.  They see the good qualities of the prospective spouse and then simply hope (or even expect) that over time if they marry the person that the remaining characteristics and qualities they do not see in that person will develop  . . . or they believe that the person will change because of their influence.

Whatever the circumstances, divorce lawyers will not hesitate to subpoena one or more persons that the spouse believes is (or could be) the person that caused the breakdown of their marriage.  This person is seen as the alleged "homewrecker". 

The purpose of subpoenaing the alleged homewrecker is two-fold.  First, when an attorney does this at the wishes of the client (especially without any proof that anything has occurred) it seemingly validates the beliefs of the client that there was in fact a "homewrecker" who ruined the marriage.   Regrettably I have found this to be true mostly in the case of women who feel scorned or rejected when the man files for divorce.

Second, whether the person subpoenaed is a love interest or simply a friend and confidant that the husband has chosen to confide in and is part of his support system to get through the divorce, it puts pressure on the man to keep the love interest, friend or even girlfriend out of the "divorce battlefield" to prevent her from experiencing anxiety, humiliation or any other fallout from the scorned wife.  This in turn has a third effect of leveraging the husband (at least in this example) to succumb to the demands of the wife's attorney even if they are unreasonable and inequitable purely to protect a person who may in truth simply be a friend who is supporting the man through the divorce process by being a listener or sounding board.


He or she can make a Motion to Quash before the court.  A Motion to Quash is a motion asking the court to invalidate the subpoena either permanently or temporarily based upon the circumstances.

The Rhode Island Family Court Judges generally have a good grasp on the reasonableness of a subpoena used in these situations.  A judge will not typically allow the unfettered intrusion into the life of person who is only alleged to be a person who has caused the breakdown of the marriage, especially if the subpoena to the third party (ie the alleged homewrecker) demands the production of documents (called a "Subpoena Duces Tecum") that invade the life and personal finances, etc . . . of the third party.  Without corroboration from the spouse who is alleged to have had the affair, or some other corroboration, there is a very good chance that the court will quash or invalidate the subpoena.

Typically the "alleged homewrecker" can orally or in writing, move to quash the subpoena.  It is best that if the person served with the subpoena is going to do this that he or she have more than one basis for doing so. 

REASONS FOR QUASHING A SUBPOENA in these circumstances include:

1)  It is intended merely to harass the person served and/or cause him or her anxiety;

2)  It is believed that it was issued merely to force a party to agree to inequitable terms in order to prevent one parties' friend from being embarrassed and humiliated by even the accusation the he or she was involved in an extramarital affair, thus it is being used to cause undue duress on the party alleged to have been involved in an affair;

3)  That the subpoena demands documents that are invasive of a reasonable person's right to privacy;

4)  That the subpoena was untimely served (requests for documents should provide at least 2 to 3 days for the person served to obtain the documents);

5)  That the subpoena was improperly served (A Rhode Island Subpoena must be served (a) personally, (b) by a person authorized to serve process in Rhode Island, (c) with the State of Rhode Island, (d) with a check for witness fees of  approximately $12 to $14).

6)  That the subpoena should, in the very least be invalidated, subject to the serving party's establishing a foundation for the subpoena and/or the alleged relationship between that party accused before the third party's privacy is violated.  Attorneys call this "quashing the subpoena subject to establishing foundation.";

7)  The subpoena cannot be complied with without undue risk of loss of employment of the subpoenaed individual with explanation as to why there is undue risk (i.e. brand new job and can't take time off);

8)  The subpoena cannot be complied with due to illness with a physician's note, preplanned vacation with proof of same, employment obligations out of state on the time and dates compliance with the subpoena is required.


Persons alleged to be the "other man" or the "other woman" who have been served with a subpoena in a divorce matter do have options of recourse to prevent this attorney's tactic.  Persons served may oppose the subpoena for these reasons and other basis of good cause if they do so timely and do not sit on their rights (i.e. wait til the last minute).  The longer a subpoenaed person waits to oppose a subpoena, the less likely it is that the court may grant the requested relief (i.e. that the subpoena be quashed in whole, in part, or subject to establishment of foundation).

Authored By:

  Christopher A. Pearsall
Money Making Entrepreneur and Attorney-at-Law
70 Dogwood Drive, Suite 304
West Warwick, RI 02893

Call (401) 632-6976 Now for your low-cost consultation.
Rhode Island's Most Affordable Divorce & Family Law* Attorney
100% Digital and Virtual!

Copyright 2008.  Christopher A. Pearsall, Internet Entrepreneur and Attorney-at-Law

*The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.
Pearsall.net | AttorneyPearsall.com | Rhode Island Divorce Tips | ChristopherPearsall.com | GuaranteedWealth.com
| Rhode Island Divorce Attorney | Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer | Chris Pearsall
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RI Divorce Lawyer Says, " Clients Deserve Better !"

I'm Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and the focus of my law practice is on Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law.  I would like to preface this article by stating that what follows is my opinion regarding divorce and family law practice within Rhode Island.  There are countless divorce lawyers in our state that would not only disagree with me but would also prefer to see me disbarred rather than sharing my experience with hundreds of lawyers throughout the state simply because my articles inform the consumer and prospective client.  With that said, let me begin.

My philosophy about the practice of law is what I have come to call "Client-centric." 

What is that, right? 

It is a divorce law practice centered on your needs as the "client."   Now, since clients are the life-blood of a lawyer's practice.  A divorce lawyer must abide by all legal and ethical requests made by the lawyer.  Now, you may be thinking. . "Wait a minute, isn't every divorce lawyer's practice "Client-centric".

My answer is a resounding "No".   Yes, Rhode Island Divorce lawyers like myself rely upon clients in order to put  food on the table for their own families, to pay their own bills, and to provide for their own retirement.  However, the question I put to most Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers is this.  What standard of living are you creating for yourself at your clients' expense?   This is partially what I mean by "Client-centric."

Let me give you an example.  I drive a 1998 Chevy Cavalier with 130,000 miles on it.  I have this car because it fits my goal of maintaining a "Client-centric" divorce law practice here in Rhode Island.

The car has working air-conditioning for the summer season.  The heat comes on quickly in the winter.  It is comfortable, looks reasonably professional, and it gets me from here to there.  It gets excellent gas mileage and because it is an older car, the automobile insurance costs significantly less than a BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Hummer, and other status symbol cars driven by many of today's Rhode Island's divorce and family lawyers.

In truth, as a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer I am proud to drive this 1998 Chevy Cavalier because it is one of the best examples of my "Client-centric" divorce law practice.  That is why I drive it and that is why I choose to keep it.  Why?  Because it is better for my clients that I do so.

Could I get a newer car that gets good gas mileage, is comfortable, has air-conditioning and heat and looks professional?  Absolutely, but that comes at a price.  More money would have to be spent to get a newer car.  More money has to be spent on insurance.  More money may have to be spent on gasoline at today's outrageous prices.  That money would have to come from where?   My clients!  If it's not a necessity and doesn't benefit my clients then it doesn't get purchased, plain and simple.

Certainly I wouldn't mind a newer car with new bells and whistles, but NOT at the expense of my clients.   When I have a car that does its intended job there's no need to get a new one.  My standard of living and my ego do not require a fancy car.  After all, whatever car I have comes from income and benefits received through my clients . . . and let's face it. . .  when the chips are down it's not a lawyers's fancy car that gives you legal advice or goes into court to argue on your behalf at a divorce hearing.

In my opinion, most Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers are not even close to being "Client-centric."  In fact, most divorce lawyers in Rhode Island seem to be "Lawyer-centric", a practice concept I have chosen to depart from with great haste.  A "Lawyer-Centric" approach does not fit into the philosophy of my divorce practice because I choose not to achieve a higher standard of living if it means doing so will be at the expense of my clients' hard work and hard earned money.

In my humble opinion, as the title states, I believe that "Clients Deserve Better!"

The idea is whether you as a client want to engage or remain with a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer or Family Law Attorney who is "Lawyer-Centric" or "Client-Centric." 

The difference is relatively straight-forward.  In a "Lawyer-centric" law practice, the focus is upon meeting the needs of the lawyer(s).  For instance, the needs of the lawyer include the lawyer's overhead expenses of having an office, telephones, facsimile, internet access, legal reasearch services, office rent, paper, copiers, office supplies, secretarial support, grounds maintenance, electricity, heat, water and sewerage costs, town/city equipment taxes, long distance charges, bank fees and any other expenses the lawyer must pay for before he or she even receives a dime in income. 

Secondarily, the lawyer must consider how much he or she has to pay for his or her own personal expenses for their own family, including a home mortgage, car payment, equity line, credit cards, gasoline expenses, home heating costs, central air-conditioning costs, electricity, telephone costs, high-speed internet costs, cel phone costs, home insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, business clothing, student loan payments from law school, possible daycare/childcare expenses, possible health insurance payments and monthly co-pays for medications, etc... to say little of entertainment, vacation costs, summer homes, boats, even airplanes for those lawywers with a higher standard of living.

If you take all of these financial expenses together (as I mentioned in the previous paragraph), it's fairly easy to see how many divorce lawyers in Rhode Island would focus on themselves as lawyers and their financial burden rather than on their clients.  After all, that's quite a heavy load a lawyer might have riding on their shoulders and they want to make sure they make enough money to cover all the office expenses and home bills from their client fees. 

Where does that money come from?  Where else?  You . . .  their clients!

Now you might be saying, that my analysis is a bit unfair because all divorce lawyers aren't (or can't be) like that.  Certainly I must say that my opinion holds true for most divorce lawyers in Rhode Island who have a practice focused on divorce and family law on a full-time basis.

Ultimately, if you see your attorney driving a Jaguar, a BMW or Mercedes it might be a good exercise to remember that you as the client are paying for that car.

It is certainly not a stretch for me to say that when you sit in a fancy law office waiting room reviewing a magazine until the secretary brings you to your Rhode Island divorce lawyer's office for your appointment that you consider a few things. 

If you are a client of that lawyer, consider that you are paying for that secretary, you are paying for the central air conditioning that keeps your lawyer and his or her other clients and staff cool during the summer.  You are paying for the heat in the winter that keeps your divorce lawyer and her or her other clients and the lawyer's staff warm in the winter.  You are paying for the lighting in each room that you pass by as you are led to your divorce attorney's office. 

There may even be a direct correlation here.  The fancier the office, the bigger the building, the larger the parking lot, the larger the grounds that need to be maintained, the nicer the car your lawyer drives, the more your lawyers the law firm has intheir office, the more you pay as a client to cover those expenses.

There may even be a correlation between your Rhode Island divorce lawyer's hourly rate and retainer and his or her desired standard of living.  In either event, you . . . the client . . . pay for all that!

People often complain that lawyers "charge too much."  Well this might explain it.  If you add all of this together for any lawyer, it's a fairly huge financial burden to bear.  Yet this is what people have come to expect.  Clients expect that it will cost "too much" to retain a good divorce lawyer.  Client's want to have an attorney with a fancy office, free parking, nicely kept grounds and a sharp looking outfit when you meet the lawyer in their office.  Ultimately, clients cringe as their initial meeting comes to a close and they wait for the financial bombshell to drop as the Rhode Island divorce lawyer states how much it will cost you for his or her services and what the initial retainer will be.

There you go.  The amount you pay a lawyer is not necessarily determined by your divorce lawyer's time, skill, competence or experience.  What you are really paying is dependent upon the lawyer's building, car, lifestyle, summer home, boat, airplane, vacations for weeks to the Bahamas, Hawaii or some other exotic place, private schools for their children, etc... 

What does it cost you to retain the lawyer?  It depends upon the lawyer and everything the lawyer has to bear financially.  That's what I refer to as a "Lawyer-Centric" approach to Rhode Island Divorce practice.  Everything revolves around the lawyer in the "Lawyer-Centric" approach.

Now let's change gears for a moment and consider a more modern approach.  We're in a recession and most divorce lawyers continue to do the same thing they've always done for decades, with few exceptions. Yes, you guessed it . . . the Lawyer-Centric approach to divorce practice.  Why?  Because that's what they are used to.  Noone likes to sacrifice or compromise anything from their law office or from their lifestyle.  Everyone wants to move ahead and make more money, including lawyers.  Everyone wants to do everything without reinventing the wheel.

Yet here is the rub.  Times have changed.  Just about everyone has affordable access to the internet, servers, computer programs and technology that now allows us to take projects that once took two and a half hours and compress them into one hour or less.  Though we are in a recession, we also have access to newer, more advanced technologies that enable us to do things faster and more easily, the rates of lawyers not only in Rhode Island divorce proceedings but in many other areas of law have not budged.

The theory behind this is that many lawyers believe that simply because they have taken advantage of these new technologies to speed up their work, that they should not be deprived of the income that they would have received if the lawyer had chosen not to use the new technologies.  So what happens?  Lawyers end up billing the client for 2 1/2 hours of work when, in fact, the lawyers time may have been reduced to 1 hour due to new advances in technology and new software run on highly advanced computer systems.

Now certainly there is a cost to the lawyer for purchasing the technology, perhaps maintaining the technology equipment and such, and that needs to be paid for as well, yet at some point that should be considered "paid for" and the client should reap a benefit from that in the form of a reduced hourly rate, doesn't that make sense?

It reminds me of a toll bridge that pays for itself in its first two years of use but goes on collecting revenues for the state for another 20 years without any reduction for taxpayers.  Why?  Because now the monies are used to pay for other things in the state that the "powers that be" see as essential to the Rhode Island lifestyle.  Just as the monies collected from clients that have more than paid for the technologies used by the lawyers will go to pay for higher incomes, better cars, longer vacations in Arruba, etc...  Yet it's rare that the client gets the financial benefit of these advances in technology even if they are talked up as a selling point by the lawyer to get your business.

Here's where I come in.  You see, I don't like the "Lawyer-Centric" approach.  The reason I don't like it is simply because it continues to promote the notion that lawyers are all money hungry, greedy, overpaid, scam artists who are only out for themselves and everything they can get from you. 

The fact is, there are good attorneys out there who give their clients the benefit of everything financially possible.  Some lawyers are generous to a fault with their time and have harnessed every economical technology, software, product, and service for your benefit as a divorce client. The ultimate result that you get is either a lower rate or faster service reflected in the lawyer's billing.  That's the "Client-Centric" approach. 

The Client-Centric approach to the practice of divorce law (or any specialized area of law for that matter) is focused on the needs of the client.  The lawyer's focus then shifts to serving more clients for less income and less rewards in order to reach his or her own financial needs.  Yes, it means the lawyer may have to work harder and longer hours to achieve his or her personal financial goals.  However, with the Client-Centric law practice you end up paying for your divorce lawyer's time, skill, and experience and the maximized resources he or she uses.

I heard the term "Client-Centric" used by attorneys in a large firm as far back as two decades ago.  Unfortunately, the term was used in a different context.  As used at that time and by that firm, it meant to network further into a client's existing ties in the community to bring in more clients.  In otherwords it was a networking technique which continued to benefit the law firm by wining and dining the client and by using financial resources of the firm to essentially "schmooze" the client to build trust and get more client referrals, etc... 

I will not say that this was a bad business move.  After all, businesses (particularly law firms) are out there to make money and to continue to network and therefore survive.  Yet at what point does the client get a true financial benefit from today's technologies?  The use of a "Client-Centric" approach as I initially heard it used was merely a means of manipulated marketing.  It is not a wonder why lawyers do not have a good name today if this is a marketing method being circulated nearly two decades ago?

Well, it is a new millenium and perhaps I am a new pioneer and advocate for the client.  Money is not the "end all" and "be all" of things.  Personally I would rather make considerably less money and reap the rewards of a child properly returned to his mother being falsely accused of being a drug addict and of abusing the child.  A reasonable payment for my skills and hard work, a thank you card from the mother and the hug from that child were payment enough.

Yet here is the problem?  These Rhode Island divorce and family law lawyers are hard to find.  I will not say that I am a dying breed.  I will say that I am a growing breed and I hope that I can convince more divorce attorneys to go the way of the true "Client-Centric" practitioner, especially in divorce and family law.

Families here in Rhode Island are in need of help and healing.  In my humble opinion, most of the damage done today to our Rhode Island families is within the divorce and family law practice.  It can be helped financially by taking a Client-Centric approach in a divorce law practice and focusing on the needs of the client and the family unit.

I urge my fellow Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers and Family Law Practitioners to adopt a practice philosophy focused on the needs of their clients and not upon their bank accounts.  Material possessions are not the measure of a person's worth or the success of a person's life.  Though material possessions may provide enjoyment for a time, they do not provide the happiness and fulfillment of living a good life and helping our fellow men and women.

Turning around the idea of the stereotypical divorce lawyer will not happen overnight.  It will take time and the diligence of more than just myself and a few other practitioners.  In time I am hopeful that the black eye that lawyers have with the public will dissipate and people will see us for what we truly are and who we were truly meant to be  . . . servants of the people.

Authored By:

  Christopher A. Pearsall
Money Making Entrepreneur and Attorney-at-Law
70 Dogwood Drive, Suite 304
West Warwick, RI 02893

Call (401) 632-6976 Now for your low-cost consultation.
Rhode Island's Most Affordable Divorce & Family Law* Attorney
100% Digital and Virtual!

Copyright 2008.  Christopher A. Pearsall, Internet Entrepreneur and Attorney-at-Law

*The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.
Pearsall.net | AttorneyPearsall.com | Rhode Island Divorce Tips | ChristopherPearsall.com | GuaranteedWealth.com
| Rhode Island Divorce Attorney | Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer | Chris Pearsall
| Legal Scholar | Pearsall Law Associates | Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys | Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers | TheModernMom.com| WholesaleQuiltBatting.com | Mesothelioma-Cancer-Articles.com