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.