The first step in divorcing your spouse is finding the Rhode Island attorney you are comfortable with. Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation, while others charge for the first consultation. I have always believed that initial consultations are free.
It is important to ask the proposed attorney about his or her experience and qualifications in handling your case. It’s also important to determine the amount of the hourly charge, as well as any initial or upfront fees.
It is often impossible to determine how much a divorce will cost from start to finish. However, it’s best to have an educated estimate of the final cost. This is usually only an estimate, since the cost of a divorce usually depends on several factors. These factors may include the speed at which a settlement is reached, the number of motions each party will file, the number/nature and complexity of assets to be divided equitably, the number of documents involved in the case, the hostility of each party to each other, your presence in court Wait times and many other potential issues.
The golden rule is that the longer it takes to reach a settlement, the more expensive the divorce will be because the lawyer will spend more time working on the case. Divorce can become very expensive if there is no settlement and the case goes to trial or the day of trial. If everything is agreed or nearly agreed and the parties are relatively amicable, the divorce should take a lot less time and therefore cost a lot less.
An uncontested divorce in Rhode Island should be much less expensive than a contested divorce. However, there are many different types of uncontested divorces. There are uncontested divorces with no real assets and uncontested divorces with assets divisible. If the divorce is uncontested and there are assets, then the attorney may need to prepare a property settlement agreement, deed, qualifying domestic relations order, etc. Therefore, the cost of an uncontested divorce may vary from case to case. For example, if a lawyer wants to draft a property settlement agreement, the lawyer will spend more time on the case.
In my opinion, a fair price for an uncontested divorce in Rhode Island with no assets and no estate settlement agreement is about $800 in fixed fees plus costs. Typical fees are a $100 application fee and approximately $40 for processing services.
After you hire an attorney, there is usually an admissions process in which the attorney obtains basic information so he or she can represent you appropriately. A lawyer usually drafts the divorce papers, which you then sign in front of him or her or another notary. These documents include divorce petitions, DR(6) financial statements, declarations of children of marriage, counseling statements, divorce reports, summonses and automatic divorce orders, among others. It is very important to complete the DR6 form (also known as the financial statement) accurately.
Before filing for divorce in Rhode Island, you may need to make many important decisions. In many cases, strategy is crucial!
In some cases, an attorney will file a motion for interim orders while filing a divorce petition. A motion for interim orders should be filed if the husband or wife needs an interim solution while the case is ongoing. These interim motions typically call for interim child support, payment/payment of day care, payment of medical bills, alimony, payment of household expenses, payment of mortgage, taxes and insurance. Motions for Interim Orders can also address child visitation and child custody issues related to minor children, as well as issues related to the exclusive use and possession of the matrimonial home. Interim motions can also request interim orders involving: financial and personal restraining orders and countless other interim issues. Courts usually hear motions for temporary orders within 30-40 days of filing a divorce petition.
If no interim order comes in, then the spouse is not legally obligated to pay anything while the case is ongoing, until a judge makes a decision or the parties sign a property settlement. In the absence of an interim order, financial issues, visitation and custody issues will be resolved by the parties while the case is ongoing without the need for a court order.
If the situation is urgent, an emergency motion should be filed at the time of prosecution if irreparable harm would be caused if the parties had to wait for a court date. Emergency motions must be verified under oath or be accompanied by an affidavit. The attorney will refer the emergency motion to the appropriate judge and request an ex parte order. Ex parte means that the other party is not present to object. The Rhode Island judge will only consider the affidavits and documents before him. If the judge signed the emergency order, the police will serve it on your spouse along with the divorce papers.
These types of emergency motions typically deal with issues related to child abuse, squandering or unreasonable spending of marital property, domestic violence, child abuse, or a host of other potential emergencies. If domestic violence is involved and you have an imminent fear of being physically harmed or abused or threatened with abuse, discuss the benefits of filing a separate case (called Abuse Complaint Protection) with an attorney! Note that abuse complaint protections are very different from emergency motions.
Whether the Divorce or Abuse Complaint Protection case is filed first or at the same time is critical to your case.
If an emergency motion is granted and an emergency order is issued, there will be approximately 20 days of hearings to determine whether the order should remain in effect while the divorce case is ongoing. At that hearing, your spouse has the opportunity to contest the motion and tell his or her story. At that hearing, the court will decide whether the emergency relief will continue while the divorce case is ongoing.
Please see Part 2, to be completed, which describes the process from filing a lawsuit to a nominal divorce hearing.
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