One of the most contested issues in any Rhode Island divorce is the division of property. While the concept of dividing up a couple’s assets may sound straightforward, in practice the process can be quite complicated.
Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state. Thus, courts employ a three-step approach when dividing marital assets. First, the court will determine which of the couple’s assets should be considered marital property subject to equitable distribution and which assets are an individual spouse’s separate property. As a general rule, marital property consists of the assets that were acquired during the marriage. However, certain exceptions exist. For example, inheritance and gifts from third parties are not considered marital property, even if they are assigned or received during the marriage.
Once a court determines which assets are marital property, the court will then consider a list of factors to determine how to divide those assets. These factors are set out in Rhode Island General Laws § 15-5-16.1, and include:
- the length of the marriage;
- the financial contributions of both parties;
- the contributions of either party as a “homemaker”;
- the income of the parties;
- whether either party engaged in the “wasteful dissipation” of marital assets, transferred assets, or took on additional debt in contemplation of divorce;
- the “occupation and employability” of each of the parties;
- the health and age of the parties; and
- any other factor the court considers to be “fair and proper.”
After the court has considered each of the following, the court will then formally divide the assets. The division of assets must occur before the court determines whether either spouse will be awarded alimony, because the court’s decision regarding the couple’s assets will almost certainly affect the needs of each party moving forward.
Once a court determines how a couple’s assets should be divided, that decision is final and cannot be reviewed by another judge of concurrent jurisdiction. This is even the case if the financial situation of one of the spouses significantly changes after the court’s order. Thus, a party who believes that the court was wrong in how it distributed marital assets must appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court. A judge’s decision regarding the equitable distribution of marital assets will only be reversed on appeal if the spouse who filed the appeal can show that the court abused its discretion. While this is a high standard, it can be met under certain circumstances.
Are You Going Through a Rhode Island Divorce?
If you are currently going through a Rhode Island divorce, or are considering filing for divorce, the sooner you contact an attorney the better. Certain steps can – and should – be taken to ensure that your rights are protected, even if you believe the separation to be an amicable one. At the Rhode Island family law firm of Bilodeau Capalbo, we have over 35 years of collective experience assisting clients with all types of family law issues, including divorce, child custody issues, and estate planning. To learn more, call 401-300-4055 to schedule a consultation with a dedicated Rhode Island divorce lawyer today.
See Related Posts:
Rhode Island Supreme Court Case Looks at Hidden Assets During Divorce, Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Blog, September 28, 2018.
Rhode Island Supreme Court Upholds Post-Employment Compensation Split in Divorce, Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Blog, August 29, 2018.