Factual determinations that are made by family courts in Rhode Island divorce proceedings may be the subject of much dispute and differing interpretations, but appellate courts usually grant lower courts great deference by accepting a family court’s factual findings unless there is overwhelming evidence of a mistake. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently decided an appeal from a judgment by the Newport County Family Court in a divorce case determining the division of marital assets and child support.
The appellant in the recently decided case was the husband in a divorce that was finalized in September of 2016. The disputed issues in the divorce included the custody of the couples’ child, the division of certain retirement and bank accounts, child support, the propriety of withdrawals made by each of the parties during the divorce proceeding, as well as the application of the parties’ 2007 premarital agreement to these asset division questions.
The most significant claim in the appeal was the husband’s claim to an equal share of $373,400 in gains to the wife’s 401(k) account that accrued during the marriage. The parties’ premarital agreement stated that the husband was entitled to half of the total contributions to the account during the marital period, which the trial court found to be approximately $79,500. The husband claimed that he was entitled to the actual contributions, as well as the interest earned on the account during the marital period, which would total $156,700. On appeal, the Rhode Island Supreme Court accepted the family court’s interpretation of the premarital agreement language and didn’t disturb the ruling.
A second issue on appeal was the husband’s challenge to the amount of child support awarded to his ex-wife. Using a formula and child support calculation worksheet, the family court calculated the husband’s child support amount based on his earning capacity, and not his actual income at the time of divorce. As a result of these findings, the husband was ordered to pay an amount that he claimed he could not afford at the time of judgment. The Rhode Island Supreme Court accepted the family court’s findings, and ruled that the husband could afford to pay the amount of child support ordered, although he may have to go out of early retirement to make the payments.
Rhode Island family courts are given great deference by appellate courts when considering their factual findings in divorce and custody cases. It is much more difficult for a party to successfully challenge a ruling on appeal than it would be to obtain a favorable ruling in the early stages of a proceeding. Because of this, Rhode Island residents seeking a divorce should consult with and obtain a skilled Rhode Island divorce attorney as soon as possible after a divorce becomes likely. Additionally, premarital agreements can be drafted in ambiguous ways, and should be reviewed by a qualified divorce attorney before they are entered into.
Contact a Rhode Island Divorce Attorney Today
If you are considering a premarital agreement or seeking a divorce, having the right attorney by your side is the best way to protect your rights and interests. The experienced Rhode Island divorce lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC understand prenuptial agreements and have the skill and experience that you need if a divorce becomes necessary. Don’t wait until it’s too late, contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your case with a qualified family law attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo today by calling 401-300-4055.