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July 2008

RI Motions for Contempt - What Clients Need to Understand!

In my opinion, family lawyers in Rhode Island need to do two things for the benefit of their clients. 

First, a good family lawyer needs to distinguish between technical contempt and willful contempt.  The two are fairly easily to distinguish.

Willful contempt occurs when admissible evidence can be proven before the family court judge demonstrating that a party knew of a court order and despite the ability to comply with that order chose not to do so or opted to do something that the party felt was in his or her own best interests or the best interests of his or her family despite an order to the contrary.

Technical contempt occurs when the evidence presented to the court proves that a party subject to an order of the court does not comply with that order because he or she does not have the means or the power to comply with the courts order. 

It is the nature of the non-compliance that designates what type of contempt it is.  Does  the person have the ability to comply with the Order or not?  If the person has the ability to comply with the Family Court Order but does not do so then the contempt is likely to be found to be willful.  If the person accused of the contempt did not have the ability to comply with the order as a result of circumstances outside his or her control then the Order should normally be one of technical contempt.

The distinction is more than nominal.  The distinction is often very significant as is the manner in which your Rhode Island Attorney deals with it.  In most cases, clients will not know, understand or appreciate the distinction between these types of contempt and how they may be viewed by the court.;

In cases of willful contempt, the court is more likely to award attorneys' fees to the prevailing party if in the court's discretion such an award is warranted.  In cases of technical contempt, awards of attorneys' fees are rare.  In some instances if it appears clear to the judge that the party pressing the contempt motion was aware it was a technical contempt, the judge may be upset with counsel for wasting the court's time or may be upset with the attorney's client if it becomes clear from the evidence presented that the party pressed this motion knowing it was merely a technical violation and did not create a risk of harm that the Order was designed to protect.

In most cases I believe it appropriate to identify for the client the pros and the cons of proceeding with a motion for contempt when it may be seen by the court as purely technical.  Insistent clients who try to force their counsel to proceed on a matter that may damage the client's credibility with the court and perhaps damage their attorney's reputation for the remainder of the case are best read the riot act and the consequences clearly explained to them.  An outright refusal of an attorney to proceed under such circumstances is understandable and justified, though many attorneys will not do so for risk of losing the client's business.

In the end, despite the good judgment of counsel, sometimes clients need to give direction to their counsel, have their day in court, and take their lumps before they catch on to the fact that their attorney may know best what to do in a particular situation as a result of his or her experience and expertise.

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.
from
Rhode Island's Most Affordable Divorce & Family Law* Attorney
now
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.
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Rhode Island Marriages and Engagement Rings

Engagement rings in Rhode Island Divorce proceedings are not typically a source of contention between the spouses.   Typically an engagement ring is not considered a marital asset. Therefore it is not subject to the Rhode Island family court's power of equitable distribution (i.e. power to divide the marital portion of assets between the divorcing parties).  In fact, the vast majority of cases where the wife's engagement ring is seriously debated occurs usually when the engagement ring has a substantial value and something changed about to the ring after the marriage.

The theory is understandable.  A marriage is a contract though it is seldom seen in that light by the parties.  For instance, when a man asks a woman to marry him and offers an engagement ring, the ring is the consideration for one contract.  In that case, the man is asks the woman to marry him and offers the ring to essentially "seal the deal" so to speak.  However, it then falls to the woman to decide if she will say "yes" and accept the offered ring.  If the woman says "yes" and accepts the offered ring, then a contract has been formed.  The man has made and offer and in return for that offer has asked for a promise that she will marry him and an acceptance of the ring.

Let's assume that the man no longer wants to marry the woman and changes his mind.  The man has now broken the engagement contract.  If he demands the ring back, the woman has no obligation to return the ring so long as she has still been prepared to marry the man and hold up her end of the "bargain."

However, if the woman no longer wants to marry the man and changes her mind, she is obligated to return the ring because she has broken their engagement contract and she is generally not allowed to profit from her own breach of the engagement contract which is exactly what would occur if she were to break the engagement contract AND keep the man's offered ring as well.  If it were otherwise, this would lead to women accepting men's proposals just to get the ring and not because they even intended to marry the man and simply tell the man she has changed her mind shortly thereafter and keep the ring.

When a marriage occurs, it is a separate and distinct contract made at the time of the ceremony where both parties perform as they promised rather than simply exchanging an offer for a promise.  In that case the wedding rings themselves seal that contract of marriage as well as the promises they make to each other for the duration of the marriage. 

Therefore, if nothing happens to the engagement ring during the marriage, it should be considered pre-marital or at least non-marital in nature because it existed and belonged to the woman before the marriage contract was formed.  Thus, it should not be within the power of the Rhode Island Divorce and Family Court to distribute it.  It was the woman's property before the marriage and simply wearing the ring during the marriage does not make it marital in nature.

The issue arises when something happens to the ring during the marriage.  Consider for example that a stone in the ring becomes chipped and as a result it loses value.  Let's say that marital income from either the husband, wife or both is used to purchase homeowner's insurance.  Now, if an insurance claim is made for the damage to the ring and funds received from that claim are used to replace that stone (i.e. diamond, etc. . ) now, marital funds have been used to repair or replace a part of the ring.  Once marital funds are used in any way on the ring, the previously pre-marital ring now is commingled with marital income (which is a marital asset) and they now convert the character of the ring from pre-marital to marital.

Other arguable examples that would change the ring to a marital character are:

1)  Adding new stones using marital income.
2)  Fixing the setting using marital income.
3)  Pledging the ring as collateral for something marital being purchased as a couple.

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.
from
Rhode Island's Most Affordable Divorce & Family Law* Attorney
now
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