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silhouette of family
After removing three children from the home of their mother, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) petitioned to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The Rhode Island Family Court approved the petition, and the mother appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the Family Court’s decision, which terminated the mother’s parental rights to her children. If you are concerned that your child or another child is being abused, you should contact the Rhode Island DCYF Child Abuse hotline at (800) 742-4453. If you are unjustly being investigated, your parental rights are in jeopardy, or you are seeking custody of a child you are concerned is being abused, you should contact an experienced Rhode Island child custody attorney as soon as possible.

Requirements for Termination of Parental Rights

The law recognizes that parents and children have a strong bond that should only be disturbed in extreme circumstances. The termination of parental rights can only be granted if the state supports its allegations of parental unfitness by clear and convincing evidence. In order to grant the termination, the state must also prove several things. First, DCYF has to show that the children have been out of the custody and care of their mother for at least 12 months. Second, DCYF needs to prove that they have made reasonable efforts to reunite the family, but despite these efforts, reunification would be inappropriate. Finally, the state must show that the termination is in the best interests of the children. Only once those elements have been proven can the judge grant the petition for termination.

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Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Superior Court upheld the denial of an application for a development in Tiverton, Rhode Island. The developer applied to the Town of Tiverton zoning board to ask permission to develop property. The proposed plan was to construct over 240,000 square feet of mixed use development, which potentially included retail spaces, restaurants, office space, and other kinds of spaces. The application, submitted in 2008, was rejected as incomplete due to the developer not completing the requirement to have a “pre-application meeting.” After the Tiverton Zoning Board denied the application, the plaintiff appealed to the Board of Appeals, who affirmed the decision of the zoning board. The case was then heard by the Rhode Island Superior Court, who affirmed the denial. If you are thinking about real estate development or other real estate matters, it’s crucial that you hire an experienced Rhode Island real estate attorney. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can save you money and headaches by making sure that you follow the correct protocols so that your application does not get rejected for being incomplete, as happened here.

Application Protocols

If you are looking to undertake a major development in Rhode Island, this case underscores the importance of crossing your “t”s and dotting your “i”s. When the developer in this case filed his application in 2008, it was just as the town of Tiverton was planning zoning changes in compliance with their community plan. The proposed changes would have changed the property at issue from commercial property to residential property with minimum lot sizes of 40,000 square feet. Since this change was anticipated, it was important that this 2008 application was approved for the development to take place rather than starting a new application.

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Fighting over moneyEarlier this year, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued a decision that gives further clarity as to what is considered marital property and what is not. In this case a couple was going through a divorce. At the trial court level, the judge divided the property that she found to belong to the couple together, and allowed the wife to keep some of the property as her own since it was determined to be her separate property that she was given as a gift. The Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed with most of the lower court’s findings, but found that the wife’s earnings during the marriage should have been considered joint marital property. Therefore, it should have been divided upon divorce, even though she kept it in a separate bank account in only her name.

As this case illuminates, the determination of what is considered marital property and is thus subject to division and what is separate property is very fact specific. That’s part of why it is so crucial to work with an experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney if you are going through a divorce.

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Grandparents and children
The opioid epidemic is a problem all over the country. Here in Rhode Island, some grandparents are seeking custody of their grandchildren after the parents have become addicted to drugs. However, navigating the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) as a grandparent can be difficult, and some grandparents have gone as far as to call the process “hell.” While dealing with these issues is stressful even under the best of circumstances, an experienced Rhode Island grandparents’ rights attorney can help you through the process.

Which Rights Do Grandparents Have?

Generally, parents are in charge of all of the decision making regarding their children, including whether their grandparents are allowed to see them. However, there are some circumstances in which the court may grant visitation to grandparents even over the objection of the parents.

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GPS Device
Divorces are famous for bringing out the worst in people. Now, with rapid growth and innovation in technology, ex-spouses sometimes use these new products in ways that can hurt them in family court. In an attempt to gather evidence, people going through a divorce or considering one are using apps and programs to track each other and get recordings and other evidence to potentially use in court. However, many of these tactics are illegal, and even the ones that are not may hurt your case in family court.  An experienced Rhode Island divorce attorney can help you with your case and make sure that you have safeguards in place so that your former spouse cannot gather any information without your knowledge. They can also help you stay within the law and refrain from doing anything that will damage your position.

What is Legal?

Divorce lawyers in Rhode Island have noticed that many of their clients are putting tracking devices in each other’s cars or using apps like the “find my iphone” app to keep tabs on each other. The ubiquity and relative inexpensiveness of these devices has made it much more common for divorcing partners to find out information about each other. Parents are also putting devices like cameras or location tracking on their kids when the children are with the other parent. While the separated individuals may think these tactics will give them evidence that will help them in court, that’s often not the case, and it’s easy to run afoul of the law.

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Calculator and paper
If you are thinking about what will happen to your assets after your death, one of the things that you may have to consider is the estate tax. There is both a federal and state estate tax if your assets are above a certain amount. However, there may be ways for you to avoid certain taxes and fees if you consult an experienced Rhode Island estate planning attorney. A skilled attorney can help you preserve as many of your assets as possible for your heirs or any other beneficiaries you designate.

Estate Tax Basics

Estate tax is an often misunderstood area of the law. The vast majority of people are not subject to an estate tax because the sum value of their assets fall under the limit. However, the tax is still important for everyone to be aware of so they can plan appropriately. Just like you pay both federal and state income taxes, you could be subject to both state and federal estate taxes.

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couple on bench
After twenty three years together, an East Providence couple decided to separate. Now that they have broken up, a court is trying to determine if they were in a common-law marriage. We tend to think of marriage in black and white terms: either you’re married or you’re not. But it may not be that simple in Rhode Island.

Common-Law Marriage

In most states this would be pretty straightforward, and the court would look to whether there was a marriage license. However, Rhode Island is one of only a few states that recognizes common law marriage. In order to determine whether a common law marriage exists, many people think there is a specific number of years together that must be met. That’s not true. Rather, the court looks all the relevant factors to determine whether there was a “present mutual intent to be married.” In other words, do both parties consider themselves married to one another? Do they live their lives like they are married and hold themselves out to others as a married couple? A Rhode Island family law attorney will be able to explain all the ins and outs of this unique area of family law.

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In the mid-1980s, an ex-husband challenged the trial court’s finding that he was at fault for the dissolution of his marriage and the court’s award to the ex-wife of his interest in the marital home, rehabilitative alimony, and her attorney fees. This Rhode Island Supreme Court case is an important holding regarding rehabilitative alimony, and in Rhode Island family law.

love over
The trial court awarded the wife an absolute divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and the husband’s extreme cruelty. The court further awarded the wife custody of their minor child, assigned to the wife the husband’s interest in the marital residence, ordered the husband to pay child support, and required the husband to pay alimony and his wife’s counsel fees. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in part but remanded the case for further consideration with respect to the award of alimony. It further vacated the award of counsel fees.

The husband and the wife were married in the summer of 1959 and then had three children together. One of the three children was a minor at the time of the divorce proceedings. According to the testimony, the marriage started to fall apart in 1980. The wife filed for divorce and the parties separated pursuant to an ex parte restraining order issued against the husband.

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In 1989, the Rhode Island Supreme Court decided an important case in Rhode Island family law, particularly within the realm of admissible evidence. Petitioners appealed a family court decree granting a petition to terminate parental rights filed by the Department of Children and Their Families (DCF). The petitioners had three children, but their parental rights were terminated exclusively in regard to their eldest child. The state high court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

In July 1985, the mother placed her three-year-old daughter in the DFC’s care, stating that she was unable to care for her due to the daughter’s aggressive behavior. In foster care, the daughter alleged that she had been sexually abused by her parents, whom she called the “bad people.”

In August 1985, the mother told DCF that she did not want visitation with her eldest daughter. Based on the eldest child’s allegations of sexual abuse, the Family Court issued an ex parte order of detention, placing the daughter and her two younger sisters in temporary DFC custody. That November, a DCF caseworker established a plan for the parents to have visitation with their eldest daughter. The parents refused to sign the plan at the request of their lawyer.

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In a recent Rhode Island estate law case, six trust beneficiaries (collectively, ‘respondents’) moved to dismiss the petitioner’s petition for declaratory relief or, in the alternative, to either amend the trust or allow the other beneficiaries to disclaim their interest in the petitioner’s share of the trust. Petitioner sought to permit his adopted son—whom he adopted as an adult—to succeed to his interest in his grandfather’s trust. The court had jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 9-30-1.

The trust was established in 1928 by the settlor. Rhode Island Hospital Trust served as the initial trustee, and thereafter replaced by its successor entity, Bank of America. Following the settlor’s death, the trust directed the trustee to equally divide the remaining net income from the trust to the benefit of his wife, three daughters, and their issue. The trust further provided for its termination 21 years following the death of the settlor’s wife and daughters and two other named individuals (collectively, ‘the R. family’). At the time the case came before the Rhode Island Superior Court, members of the R. family were the only surviving named individuals, both in their nineties.

Petitioner’s mother, one of settlor’s daughters, became a beneficiary of the trust following the settlor’s death. Petitioner and his three sisters succeeded to their mother’s interest in the trust upon her death. In 2001, at the direction of the superior court, the daughter’s interest in the trust was divided into four separate shares—one for each of her children. The 2001 judgment further provided that “[i]f, at any point, a child of [the daughter] is deceased and no issue of that child survives,” then the deceased child‘s share of the trust will be divided evenly among the surviving siblings.

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