« March 2012 | Main | October 2012 »

September 2012

Three Big Rhode Island Divorce Mistakes by People who Represent Themselves!

When you want a cheap divorce and you decide to represent yourself be prepared for the for these five (5) major mistakes that most people who represent themselves make.


Expecting the Rhode Island Family Court Judge to Lead You Through Your Divorce Hearing! 

It is not the judge's job to lead you through your divorce hearing.  It is your job to know what you are doing when you represent yourself.  That includes making sure you are prepared for the court hearing, subjects you need to cover, and what you need to say.


Expecting the Rhode Island Family Court Judge to Protect You at Your Divorce Hearing!

You divorce is about your legal rights.  Naturally, if you didn't hire a lawyer and you are going through your divorce proceeding without one then you should be aware that it's your job to protect your own rights at the hearing.  If something is not covered by the judge, or the judge doesn't state it, or you forgot to mention something, or you wanted to ask for something, or you wanted your hearing to end everything in your divorce and you didn't testify about something important, then don't expect the judge to make sure it has been covered.  So, not only is it not the Judge's job to help you through the divorce hearing, but the judge's job doesn't include protecting your legal rights either.  When you represent yourself, it is entirely your obligation to protect your own legal rights.


Expecting Someone to Help You Fill Out the Paperwork for Your Divorce!

Every divorce is different, therefore everyone will have different information to put into even the most basic of Rhode Island Divorce forms you may be given at the Rhode Island Family Court.  

As a courtesy, the Rhode Island Family Court has put together a few basic instructions that come with a Rhode Island divorce packet.  While these instructions may help you, they actually serve a greater purpose of trying to help the clerks and judges who have to deal with these files and all the people who may be trying to represent themselves.  Don't assume that simply because the court prints some fundamental forms to be given to the public that the court staff or anyone at the court is there to help you fill out the paperwork and understand it.  Filling in legal forms has been deemed to be "practicing law."  The clerks at the court are there to take care of proper filings.  The family court clerks aren't there to instruct you on the forms and how to fill them in.  They aren't there to tell you what is right or what is wrong with your forms either.  Even if you are helped by a person at the Rhode Island Family Court, don't assume that they got it right or that you understood them correctly.  They are not lawyers.  They may get it right, they may not.  However, whatever answer you put in those forms, you are responsible for it.  

Everything has its risks.  If you don't get legal advice from a licensed professional and you represent yourself then you do so at your own peril.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™ 

I'm an Affordable Lawyer who practices divorce exclusively and I am here to help you when you need me.

Call me for your reduced-cost advice session at (401) 632-6976. 

Orders in Rhode Island Family Court - When is an Order Really an Order?

Some people will think this is a ridiculous title for a RI Family Court Article, yet those attorneys in Rhode Island who read this will know that it's not as simple as it sounds.

What is a Pleading in Lay Terms?

It has been said that a Court speaks through it's "pleadings."  Once as an average Joe many years ago I had no idea what a pleading was.  So let's demystify it.  A pleading in it's usual sense is any document filed with the Court that asks for some type of relief from the Court.  It is also includes in its more common usage in lay terms with the Family Court in Rhode Island the written "Order " which is a document that tells the Court and anyone who physically reviews the physical file what the Court actually granted and what it did not grant.

How A Court Speaks . . . 

A Court speaks through it's "pleadings" because it is those physical documents that are contained in the court's file the history of the case and what was asked for, what was objected to, what happened and what was ordered.  Without that "paper trail", the court is silent and doesn't say anything, even if there were hearings, etc....  In other words, the things that happen in court need to be documented.

Hearings and agreements are usually documented by "Orders" which are either made by the Family Court Judge, or are agreed to by the parties and then verified and approved by the Family Court Judge to create an Order of the Court.

Talk is Cheap

Yet here is the issue many people miss if they represent themselves and even lawyers miss if they are not on the ball.  A judge may state what the Court has ordered based on a motion filed by one of the parties or by the judge's own discretion. . . And yes, the Court's Stenographic recorder may type down every word that the Judge says he or she is ordering.  You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you?  

If you bet on that, you would be wrong.  A court speaks through its "pleadings."  Always remember that.  What it really means is this.  The parties need to take what the Judge stated and submit a formal document called an "Order" to the Court that must be approved by the Judge and Entered by the Clerk.  That is how any clerk, and any judge, any mediator and even any person of the public will know what has truly happened as the case went on.  Without the paper trail, the court looks silent!

When an Order REALLY becomes and Order!

So when does and Order really become an Order?  Well, if a Court speaks through its pleadings and the pleadings are the paper documents that make it into the file, then guess what the important part is!  Yes, you guessed it... according to our Rhode Island Supreme Court as of the date of the publication of this article, an Order is truly an enforceable Order when the Order has been presented to the court and Approved with the Judge's signature and then Entered by the Clerk's signature so that it becomes an official part of the court's file and the history becomes part of the files docket.

The Burning Question

So, if you go to court on your Motion to Compel Production of a Computer and the Judge Orders that the Computer be produced "immediately", when is that Order in effect?

Lawyers Have a Different Standard 

As lawyers I'll be honest and say that the more reputable family court attorneys respect the statements of the judge immediately because we are officer's of the court.  However, what if the person who is supposed to produce the computer doesn't do so for four (4) days?  What if awritten order has been presented but not signed by the judge yet because the other party has 7 days to object to the wording in the Order by the Rules of the Rhode Island Family Court.

What does the law have to say about that.  Can you hold the person in violation for not producing the computer immediately?  Actually, no you can't ...unless the opposing party doesn't object to your Order and the court then signs it and the clerk of court approves it.  Once that happens, can you hold the person responsible?  Absolutely!  In fact, you can even hold them responsible all the way back to the day the judge said the Order in court because the opposing party had agreed with your Order but didn't abide by it.

What to Take With You from This Article.

So what is the long and the short of this article?  If you are going to take anything from this at all then it is THIS!  An Order is an Order when it is signed by the Court and Entered by the Court Clerk.  Once that is done, then you can take action to enforce it even as far back as the date the Judge Ordered it in court because it becomes retroactive to that date.  In Court, paper documents are everything.  The faster the Order is processed, the faster it is set in stone (at least until it is modified by the Court) and the faster it is legally enforceable if the other party is not complying.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™ 

I'm an Affordable Kent County Family Law Lawyer serving Coventry, West Warwick, Warwick, and the surrounding Kent County Area and I am here to help you when you need me.

Call me for your reduced-cost legal advice session at (401) 632-6976. 

Discover the difference and experience why so many divorce and family law clients have been so happy with me for more than a dozen years.