Did you know that under Rhode Island law, if the parties to a divorce cannot reach agreement on the division of their assets, a Family Court judge will make the decision for them? Under a process known as "Equitable Distribution", the Family Court may assign either spouse a portion of the property of the other. The property assigned may include not only real estate, investments, business interests and other personal property, but also pension and retirement accounts earned during the marriage and the appreciation in value of assets owned prior to the marriage. The Court's decision is based upon the following factors:
1. The length of the marriage; 2. The conduct of the parties during the marriage; 3. The contribution of each of the parties during the marriage in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates; 4. The contribution and services of either party as a homemaker; 5. The health and age of the parties; 6. The amount and sources of income of each of the parties; 7. The occupation and employability of each of the parties; 8. The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income; 9. The contribution by one party to the education, training, licensure, business or increased earning power of the other; 10. The need of the custodial parent to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects taking into account the best interest of the children of the marriage; 11. Either parties wasteful dissipation of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce without fair consideration; and 12. Any factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.
At Sayer Regan & Thayer, we help clients faced with the challenge of divorce and the resulting division of assets. We first meet with our clients to determine their goals and objectives, and to analyze the marital estate. We then work together to develop a strategy to achieve those results in a timely and cost effective manner. In most cases, particularly where marital assets are small and the marriage is of limited duration, an equitable division of assets can be reached through negotiation and settlement. This has the added benefit of preserving assets, as the cost of a trial may greatly reduce or eliminate the marital estate.
Unfortunately, there are cases where an equitable settlement cannot be reached. These often involve marriages where there are substantial assets, where valuation questions need to be determined (as with business interests or professional degrees acquired during the marriage) or where one party suspects the other of hiding assets. In these difficult circumstances, our experienced trial attorneys are prepared to go to court to fight for our clients' rightful share of their marital assets. Regardless of whether your marital estate is large or small, Sayer Regan & Thayer is ready to help you with these trying issues of law and life.
This article contains general information and is not intended to give legal advice. If you have specific questions, you are encouraged to contact an attorney. The R.I. Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law. The court does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.