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Adverse possession is a real estate concept under which one party can take ownership of the land that another person owned by occupying it for a certain amount of time and meeting certain criteria. Adverse possession allows the person who is actually occupying the property to have official ownership after a period of time. It also gives landowners an incentive to keep an eye on their property and eject anyone who should not be there. If you are concerned about a piece of property that you own, you should contact a knowledgeable Rhode Island real estate attorney to help you understand your rights to the property.boundary line

Adverse Possession 

In order to prevail on an adverse possession claim, a plaintiff must prove all of the elements by clear and convincing evidence. The requirements for adverse possession are that the possession of the property is actual, open, notorious, hostile, under claim of right, continuous, and exclusive. What this means is that the party that is trying to assert a claim to the land through adverse possession must treat the property as their own, without the permission of the original owners of the property. They also need to be continually occupying the property for 10 years. Once the plaintiff has proven that they have fulfilled these requirements, the court can officially grant them the property.

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Rhode Island is one of the minority of states that recognize common-law marriage. However, there are certain things that are required in order for a court to decide that a couple is in a common-law marriage. One requirement specifically was recently found to be determinative in a case before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. They held that a couple that had been together for 23 years was not deemed to be in a common-law marriage because at different times they represented their relationship in different ways. If the court had found the couple to be in a common-law marriage, it could have affected the rights of the parties upon separation. If you live in Rhode Island and are considering divorce or separation after a common-law marriage, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island divorce attorney today.bills

Lower Court Ruling

The lower court had held that the couple was in a common-law marriage. They based their reasoning on the fact that the couple had been together for 23 years and had frequently told others that they were married. The court heard evidence that the couple would sometimes wear wedding rings, and they raised a child together. The man in the couple referred to the child as his son, even though they were not biologically related. In 1991, the couple became formally engaged but never had a wedding ceremony. The judge held that there was “clear and convincing proof” of the couple having a mutual and present intent to be married.

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billsThe United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently held that the ex-spouse of a deceased man was entitled to the proceeds of his IRA account. This case is informative for people who are going through divorce and having their soon to be ex-spouse named as a beneficiary on their investment or insurance accounts. If you are considering divorce, you should consult a knowledgeable Rhode Island divorce attorney to make sure that all of your designations are as you want them.

Facts of the Case

This case revolves around an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”), which is a type of investment account intended to help finance retirement. A man was married and opened an IRA account through his employer. At that time he named his wife as the beneficiary of the account in the event of his death. A couple of years after the account was created he got divorced. However, he never removed his now ex-wife as the beneficiary of the IRA.

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Rainbow Balloons
There is a long history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people both adopting children, but also being discriminated against in the adoption process. Even though Rhode Island has a state law that prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation, they may suffer consequences if this law passes. If you are looking to adopt or foster a child in Rhode Island, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island family law attorney to help you with the process whether you are LGBTQ or not.

Proposed Amendment

This proposed amendment is part of a funding bill that the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed. The amendment would withhold federal funding from states that “discriminate” against child welfare agencies that disallow LGBTQ foster care or adoption due to “sincerely held religious beliefs.” That means that if this bill passes, all states – including Rhode Island – will need to license religious child welfare agencies, even if they choose to deny LGBT individuals and couples the ability to work with their agencies.

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damaged car
The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that discusses when an arbitration award is allowed to stand. This is important for accident victims because many insurance policies include an arbitration provision. Arbitration may be required instead of traditional judicial proceedings under your policy. The difference between traditional legal remedies and arbitration is that generally arbitrations have more relaxed rules and are more informal. However, the most notable difference as shown by this case is that it is much more difficult to appeal an arbitration award than it is to appeal a judge’s verdict. In fact, that is one of the selling points of arbitration since the case comes to a final conclusion much sooner and thus it is usually much less expensive than traditional litigation. Even though arbitration is less formal than courtroom proceedings, it is still important to hire a knowledgeable Rhode Island insurance attorney to handle your case.

Facts of the Case

An employee of the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) was driving her employer’s vehicle when she got into an accident. The other driver was determined to be at fault. Since Rhode Island is a fault state, the driver who is responsible for the accident is required to pay damages to the other driver.

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Currently, pets are treated as property in divorces. However, a bill proposed inCute puppy last year’s legislative session of the Rhode Island state government would change that. Though it has stalled in committee, the bill would allow judges to consider the best interests of the animal when pets are involved in a divorce. If you are considering a divorce and there is a pet involved, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island divorce attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you argue that you are entitled to the pet under state law, whether under the current law or this one if it passes next session.

Pets in Divorce

Many of us consider our pets part of our family. Rhode Island (and other state courts) take a different approach, however. The current law considers pets as property, not much different than a car or painting. Occasionally, judges presiding over a divorce will look at who is more bonded to the pet and more capable of taking care of it to decide who should keep the pet. While judges have the discretion to take this approach, in many cases the judge will use a traditional property analysis to determine who gets to keep the pet.

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Moving boxes
In a recent decision, the Rhode Island Supreme Court denied a mother’s relocation request. The couple was divorced, and the mother wanted to move with the couple’s four children to Australia. However, the children’s father was staying in Rhode Island. If you are a divorced parent who wants to relocate with your children, or your ex is trying to relocate with the children and you do not want them to move, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island Family Court attorney to help you make your case to the judge.

Facts of the Case

The mother is a citizen of Australia and a legal permanent resident in the United States. The father is a citizen of the United States, and the children have dual citizenship. The parties were married in Australia, but currently live in Rhode Island. After the divorce, the children lived with the mother, but the father had frequent visitation.

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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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