The first step in obtaining a divorce from your spouse is finding a Rhode Island attorney who you are comfortable with. Many attorneys give free initial consultations while others charge for the first consult. I have always taken the position that the initial consultations will be free.
It is important to ask the proposed lawyer about his or her experience and qualifications to handle your case. It is also crucial to determine the hourly charge and the amount of any initial fee or retainer.
It is often impossible to determine how much a divorce will cost from beginning to end. However, it is a good idea to get an educated estimation of the eventual fee. This will never usually be more than a estimation because the cost of the divorce usually depends on several factors. Those factors could include how quickly a settlement is reached, the number of motions that each party will file, the amount / nature and complexity of assets to be equitably divided, the amount of documents involved in the case, the animosity of the parties to each other, the waiting time while you are in court and many other potential issues.
The Golden Rule is that the longer it takes to reach a settlement the more the divorce will cost because the lawyers will spend a lot more time working on the case. If there is no settlement and the case goes to trial or the day of trial, the divorce could get very expensive. If everything is agreed or nearly agreed to and the parties are relatively amicable then the divorce should take a lot less time and therefore be much less expensive.
Uncontested divorces in Rhode Island should be much less expensive then contested divorces. However, there are many different types of uncontested divorces. There are uncontested divorces with no real assets and uncontested divorces with assets to divide. If the divorce is uncontested and there are assets then the lawyer may need to prepare a property settlement agreement, deeds, qualified domestic relation orders etc. Therefore, the cost of an uncontested divorce could vary depending on the circumstances. For example if a lawyer has to draft a property settlement agreement , the lawyer will devote more time to the case.
I believe that a fair price for an uncontested divorce from soup to nuts in Rhode Island with no assets and no property settlement agreement is about $800 flat fee plus costs. The typical costs are a filing fee of $100 and service of process fees of approximately $40.
After you have retained the lawyer there is typically an intake process in which the lawyer gets the basic information so that he or she can properly represent you. The lawyer typically drafts the divorce documents and you sign them in front of him/her or another notary. These documents include a divorce complaint, DR(6) financial statement, statement of children of the marriage, counseling statement, report of divorce, summons and automatic divorce order etc. It is important that the DR6 form otherwise known as financial statement is accurately filled out.
There are many important decisions that may need to be made before you file for divorce in Rhode Island. Strategy is crucial in many instances!
In some cases, the attorney will file a motion for temporary orders when the divorce complaint is filed. A motion for temporary orders should be filed if the husband or wife is in need of temporary resolution of issues while the case is proceeding. These temporary motions typically request temporary child support, payment / contribution to daycare , contribution to medical bills, alimony, payment of household expenses, payment of the mortgage, taxes and insurance. A motion for temporary orders can also address child visitation and child custody issues related to the minor children as well as issues concerning exclusive use and possession of the marital home. The temporary motion can also request temporary orders concerning: restraining orders both financial and personal and a myriad of other temporary issues. The motion for temporary orders will typically be heard by the Court within 30-40 days of the filing of the complaint for divorce.
If no temporary orders enter then there is no legal obligation of a spouse to pay anything while the case is proceeding until there is a decision by the judge or the parties sign a property settlement Agreement. If there are no temporary orders, the financial issues, visitation and custody issues will be up to the parties to figure out while the case is proceeding without the benefit of a court order.
If there is an emergency in which irreparable harm will be caused if the party has to wait for a court date, then an emergency motion should be filed with the complaint. An emergency motion must either be verified under oath or be accompanied by an affidavit. The attorney will bring the emergency motion to the proper judge and ask for an ex parte order. Ex parte means that the other side is not present to object. The Rhode Island judge will only consider the affidavit and documentation before him. If the judge signs the emergency order than it will be served on your spouse by the constable along with the divorce complaint.
These types of emergency motion typically deal with issues concerning abuse of a child, dissipation or unreasonable spending of marital assets, domestic violence, child abuse or a plethora of other potential emergencies. If there is domestic violence involved in which you are in imminent fear of physical harm or have been abused or threatened with abuse please discuss with the attorney the benefits of filing a separate case called a Complaint Protection from Abuse! Please note that the Complaint Protection from Abuse is very different from an Emergency motion.
The timing of whether the divorce or Complaint Protection from Abuse case is filed first or whether they are filed simultaneously could be crucial to your case.
If an emergency motion is granted and emergency orders enter then a hearing will be set approximately 20 days to determine if the order should stay in effect while the divorce case is proceeding. At that hearing your spouse has an opportunity to contest the motion and tell his or her side of the story. At that hearing, the Court will determine whether the emergency relief will stay in effect while the divorce case proceeds.
Please see part two to be finished later which describes the process from filing the complaint to the nominal divorce hearing.