A lot of things have changed in Rhode Island family law, especially when it comes to alimony. For example, property division and spousal support are now considered together. After a decision is made about the division of assets and debt, then the family court judge decides whether support is needed. (Of course, parties can also decide this issue for themselves.)
If you have questions about property division in a Rhode Island divorce case, whether you are likely to get spousal support, or whether you can end a previous spousal support order, talk to Warwick divorce attorney Jennifer Hoopis D’Ambra.
Call 401-823-6266 to schedule a free consultation.
Alimony is not dead in Rhode Island, but family court judges do not automatically order support and it is ordered in fewer and fewer cases. When a judge does order spousal support, it’s typically “rehabilitative” support to help spouses who have been out of the job market or never held a job to get back on their feet. (In Rhode Island, either spouse can receive alimony.)
Rhode Island family law does not have alimony guidelines or formulas a judge can use to decide how much support to order. Instead the judge will look at each party’s needs and the income-earning spouse’s ability to pay. The judge will also consider the length of the marriage.
Recent changes in Rhode Island divorce law mean that cohabitation after divorce, by the person receiving support, could end or reduce the amount of alimony an ex-spouse receives.
Division of Marital Assets
Early in the divorce process, you will be asked to provide an accounting of all of your assets and debts. In order for your property settlement agreement to be fair, it’s important that this be filled out accurately and completely.
The issue of property division is the most common topic at pretrial conferences.
Assets and debts that are “shared,” will be divided in the settlement agreement, but what about property that “belonged” to only one party? Usually an asset owned before marriage or inherited by one person will remain personal property, but if it was used by both parties or was comingled with family finances, it may have become joint property. Bring this question up with your divorce lawyer when you meet.
Your property settlement agreement will also divide marital debt – credit card debt, mortgage debt, car debt. If your house is under water, this can be problematic. We’ve seen an increasing number of short sales in Rhode Island. Jennifer can explain how short sales can be addressed in a divorce case.
Pensions and Retirement Assets
Although only one party earns a retirement asset — like a pension or a 401K plan — it is considered a marital asset and will usually need to be divided between the two parties. This must be done in the right way or there could be negative tax consequences.