At the Law Office of Stephen P. Levesque, our experience means that you will know all your options and you will have a lawyer with the experience to represent you no matter how complicated your family law case may be. We fight for you. In a divorce (contested or uncontested), custody dispute, relocation matter, or any other family law matter, we provide sensitive counsel and fight for your best interests. You need a lawyer who understands your family circumstances and the needs of your children. This is not short term but a long term approach. You need Stephen, a lawyer who has been in family court, been in the trenches, and who you know you can count on to stand by you. Stephen’s in-depth knowledge of family law in Rhode Island and his family law experience in the courtroom means we have an extensive knowledge to draw from in finding solutions that fit you. Our areas of practice include:
ABC’s of Divorce
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.
Cost of RI Divorce
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 RI 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.
Intake process and drafting Rhode Island divorce Documents
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.
Should I file a motion for temporary Orders in RI
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 RI 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.
Should I file an emergency motion in A Rhode Island (RI) divorce
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 Family Court judge will only consider the affidavit and documentation before him or her. If the Providence Family Court judge signs the emergency order then 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.
Nominal or Contested Track
When a Rhode Island divorce is filed, the case is put onto one of two tracks, the contested track or the nominal track. The Plaintiff in their initial divorce filing designates the track they desire. The vast majority of divorces filed in Rhode Island are placed on the nominal divorce track. A designation on the “nominal track” does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be uncontested. It usually means that the party who filed believes that the case can be settled relatively quickly or wants the divorce to be settled relatively quickly.
Answer to RI Divorce Complaint
The defendant must file an answer to the divorce within 20 days of service and absolutely no later than the nominal court date or any motion date. If the Defendant does not answer the case he is subject to being defaulted. A default is when the defendant does not answer the case on a timely basis and the Plaintiff will usually get all of the relief that he or she requests.
Nominal Divorce in RI
If the case is put on the nominal track then the clerk will automatically set a nominal divorce hearing upon the Plaintiff filing for divorce. This hearing will typically be scheduled from 65-70 days after the Plaintiff files. In the event that the divorce is not settled by the nominal divorce date then the case will automatically be changed to the contested track.
If the matter is not settled by the nominal court date and both parties want to try to resolve the remaining issues in court and believe it is possible to resolve the remaining issues, then the parties can attempt to settle the case in the hallway or conference rooms in the courthouse and put the case through as a nominal uncontested divorce on that date.
If the defendant has not filed an answer, it is dangerous for the defendant to not appear in court at the nominal court date based on representations made by the other party. I have seen numerous occasions when a souse has assured the other party that it is not necessary to appear in court and not necessary to file an answer and the defendant is defaulted and the other spouse gets 100 percent of the assets of the marriage.
On the date of the nominal divorce hearing, at the call of the calendar, the case will be either ready nominal or the parties will ask the judge to hold the case so they can try to resolve the remaining issues. If the parties cannot resolve the remaining issues they will inform the Court clerk or the judge that the case cannot be settled and the case track will be changed to the contested divorce track. If the case track is changed there will be no hearing that date and the court will inform the parties of the next pretrial conference date.
If the parties ask the clerk to hold the matter they will usually get a substantial amount of time to negotiate the remaining issues in the hallway. Upon settling all the remaining family law issues which may include issues of property division, child support, child custody, child visitation, alimony, contempt issues, restraining order issues etc the clerk should be informed that the case is now ready nominal. At that point the clerk and judge will put you back on the list of cases ready for the nominal hearing.
Pursuant to Rhode Island General Law and RI divorce laws, a divorce cannot be resolved without a nominal divorce hearing. At the nominal divorce hearing certain testimony must be elicited in order for the divorce to be granted. In some circumstances, it is necessary to have witnesses to briefly testify. If you don’t have the required witness your case could be delayed or even dismissed and you may waste your time attending court.
Most Rhode Island divorce and family law attorneys have done these nominal hearing hundreds of times. It is a very bad idea for a person to represent himself or herself in a divorce. As the old adage goes a person who represents themselves has a fool for a lawyer. Since everything you have worked so hard for is on the line it is foolish to go through the Rhode Island divorce process without Rhode Island divorce lawyer. If the case was originally placed on the contested track calendar, then the clerk did not schedule any automatic nominal court date. If the case later becomes settled then the parties can ask the clerk for permission to come on a particular date for the nominal divorce hearing. Otherwise the parties can wait for a motion date or the pretrial date to do the nominal divorce hearing.
How do I get information about my Spouse
After the divorce is filed the Plaintiff and or the defendant can at their option proceed with “discovery”. Discovery in general is the process by which the parties get information or admissions from the other party. Discovery is most important and perhaps crucial in a case when a spouse is unaware of the nature and extent of the marital property and estate. Discovery can be also useful to obtain documents or other tangible evidence that is needed for settlement or trial.
The Rhode Island discovery process also can be used to obtain admissions of certain allegations. While it is unethical and perhaps immoral for a person to lie about cheating or an affair to their spouse it is not illegal or criminal for a person to lie to their spouse about an affair. If a person lies under oath either in testimony or in a written document under oath they may be committing the crime of perjury.
Also if a judge believes a party is lying under oath there could be stiff sanctions and penalties including a referral to the attorney general for prosecution. However, in reality, most incidents of lying in family court are not prosecuted as crimes. Many attorneys use request for admissions or interrogatories to force the other party to state under oath whether or not they had an affair and the extent and details concerning the extra-marital affair or cheating or infidelity.
There are several discover mechanisms that can be used: interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions, depositions, subpoena duces tecum, subpoenas etc.
Interrogatories, what are they
Interrogatories are written questions that a party may sends to the other party. Each side is allowed up to 32 interrogatories. Interrogatories can be helpful in obtaining lists of assets, allegations that will be made by your spouse or other useful information. This information requested can run the gamut from child support to marital infidelity and may include: child custody issues, child visitation, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, alimony, health insurance issues, real estate issues, estate planning and trust issues, personal injury claims, domestic violence / restraining orders, criminal history, valuation of assets, mental health history and any Rhode Island family law issues.
Interrogatories must be answered in the time frame set by the Rhode Island Domestic Court Rules. Interrogatories are usually partially written and also reviewed by your husband or wives’ lawyer. Therefore, while a valuable tool in a RI divorce there are some limitations to the usefulness of the information received.
What are Request for Admissions in a RI divorce
Requests for admissions when used appropriately can be a powerful discovery tool in a RI divorce. Request for admissions are written requests usually prepared by the attorney, which the other party must reply within a short period of time. If the party does not reply to the request for admissions within the applicable time the allegation will be deemed admitted.
Should I take the Deposition of my spouse in a RI Divorce
A Deposition is when a party usually through their lawyer can ask their spouse questions under oath in front of a court reporter. In Rhode Island family Court, a party must obtain leave of court and/or permission from the court in order to take a deposition. Motions to take deposition of the other party are almost always granted by Family Court Judges. Depositions are powerful yet expensive discovery tools. A deposition usually is effective because the attorney can ask the other party questions face to face. The attorney can ask follow up questions and can ask questions in different ways. This is particularly effective if a party is being evasive or less than forthcoming. There is very little the other attorney can do to help their clients answer the questions during a deposition.
Depositions are very expensive because the Court reporters transcript could cost several hundred dollars. Also the attorney doing the deposition will need perhaps several hours to prepare for the deposition. Also both attorneys will need to attend the deposition, which could take up to several hours. Depositions are usually better ways to get information about sensitive topics then interrogatories.
What are Request for Production of Documents
Request for production of documents is a list of requested documents that must be responded to within the applicable time period. I find this discovery tool to be particularly successful in obtaining documents and records concerning: pension plan documents, 401k records, retirement accounts, health insurance records, stock accounts, estate planning documents, bank statements, real estate documents etc.
Can I Subpoena a person in a RI divorce
A Subpoena Duces Tecum can be very effective in obtaining documents from third parties such as bank records, stock records, employment and wage records and other documents. The third part of this three part series which is coming soon addresses preparing for a Divorce trial to the actual divorce trial to the entry of Final Judgment.
A RI Divorce Trial
If a case cannot be settled, the Court will send the parties a notice of a pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference the Judge may make some effort to help the parties settle the divorce. If the case is not settled then the judge will schedule the matter for a trial.
Marital Asset Division
If you are getting divorced in Rhode Island, you need to know what property you should get to keep and what you have to split with your spouse. You may also be wondering who will be responsible for the debts. Here are the basics of property division at divorce.
When your marriage is ending, it is usually worth the effort to work with your spouse on a marital settlement agreement (MSA) – a written document that tells the court how you have agreed to divide your property (and deal with issues involving your children). If you can’t work with your spouse to come up with an MSA, or if you’ve resolved some issues but there are certain assets that are in dispute, then the court will distribute the property for you based on a system called equitable division. Equitable division means that the property will be split between spouses in a way that is fair. The court decides what’s equitable, or fair, based on a set of factors designed to show the complete picture of how each of you contributed to the marriage (and how you may have harmed it) and what each spouse will need to move forward after divorce. The division does not have to be equal to be fair.
Will All Marital Property will be Divided
Before the court can divide your property, it needs to know which property belongs to the marriage, which belongs to you or your spouse separately, and how much there is of each. Marital property is property acquired or earned during the marriage. Property used for the benefit of the marriage or shared with the other spouse, even if it started out as separate property, may also be considered marital property. All the marital property must be divided between the spouses when the marriage ends.
Generally, non-marital property is property that belonged only to one spouse before marriage, including gifts that were given only to one spouse or an inheritance upon the death of a relative. In Rhode Island, the court could include your non-marital property in the division, but only under certain circumstances.
If the property was yours before marriage and you have not transferred it to a joint account or otherwise commingled it with another marital asset, then it will remain in your hands after divorce. Likewise, you get to keep any gift or inheritance you received during marriage. However, if the property you owned before marriage increases in value because of efforts made during marriage, then the amount of that increase is marital property and may be split between you and your spouse. Also, any income derived from your property during marriage is also marital property and subject to division.
What about the Division of Debt
The most common types of property divided at divorce are real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry, and intangible property like income, dividends, and benefits. You must also assign all of your marital debt. Just as is true with property, before dividing a debt the judge will have to characterize it as either marital or non-marital based on when it was acquired, who acquired it, and how it was used.
For instance, imagine that your spouse runs up a high credit card debt by making foolish stock transactions during the marriage. If that were the extent of the problem, you might be on the hook to pay at least part of this debt because it was acquired during marriage. On the other hand, you might not have to share this debt burden if as a result of the bad investments, your spouse also wiped out most of a marital investment account. In this second scenario, although the debt occurred during the marriage, it was caused by one spouse who wasted marital assets in the process. Whether a spouse wasted marital property is one of the factors the court looks to in dividing all of your marital property, including your debt.
Factors Considered in Dividing Property
The court must consider the following factors when dividing the marital property and deciding whether any non-marital property should be included:
the length of marriage
the conduct of the spouses during marriage
contributions to the acquisition, preservation, and appreciation in value of property
contributions and services of either spouse as a homemaker
the health and age of the spouses
each spouse’s income
each spouse’s occupation and employability
each spouse’s opportunity for future acquisition of assets and income
the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, licensure, business, or increased earning power of the other spouse
the best interests of the children and need of the custodial parent to own or occupy the marital home
a spouse’s wasting of assets or any transfer or encumbrance of assets made in contemplation of divorce, and
any factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.
Although Rhode Island is a no-fault state, the judge can still consider bad behavior like an affair or abuse during the marriage when dividing the spouses’ property. Evidence of fault could shift the distribution of property, sometimes significantly, in the innocent spouse’s favor. For example, in one Rhode Island case (cited below) the court gave the wife 80% of the marital property where her husband was abusive and had extramarital affairs. Consequently, a spouse who causes the marriage to fail may end up paying for their infidelity or abuse, if such a distribution would be just and proper in the court’s opinion.
What about Alimony
Alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other to help the recipient spouse become financially independent and self-sufficient. The court divides property first and then will evaluate your need for support. The court has the option to give you more of the marital property or some of the non-marital property instead of alimony. If you are worried about your financial situation, Rhode Island courts have the ability to order alimony, also known as spousal support, under certain circumstances. Attorney Stephen P. Levesque can ensure your rights are protected throughout the alimony process, which can be one of the most difficult parts of a divorce action. Many situations justify the payment of alimony and many do not. It takes an experienced divorce attorney to be able to counsel clients what to expect when alimony is an issue. Stephen helps clients throughout all of Rhode Island know what to expect when alimony is in question. There are several way to approach alimony in a divorce, and every family deserves to find what best fits their needs. Stephen will help you take whatever action is necessary in order to make sure these important issues are presented to the court in a persuasive and timely manner. Alimony issues will have long lasting consequences, and it is important to prepare the case the right way in order to succeed. Many times alimony can be offset or credited against other assets or liabilities. The court determines the amount of alimony due based on many of the same factors used above to divide property, but it also looks at situations where financial independence might be particularly difficult to achieve. It could be that you are the primary caregiver to a young or sick child, or you may have taken substantial time off of work to stay home with your children, among other things. The amount and duration of alimony the judge orders can attempt to meet these additional needs, but ultimately, any order for alimony must be just and mindful of the supporting spouse’s ability to pay.
Motions to Relocate
We live in a mobile society and after divorce, the custodial parent may reasonably want to relocate out of Rhode Island. However, the non-custodial parent may also have good reason to object to a move that interferes with visitation rights. The court decides which action is in the children’s best interest; whether to relocate or remain in the jurisdiction close to the noncustodial parent.
I have been guiding families for 20 years. I represent parents on either side of the issue and, when appropriate, facilitate mediation as an option for reaching fair custody and visitation modification agreements. We help you protect your children, while also doing what is best for your personal growth and advancement.
In Rhode Island, interstate custody disputes are governed by RI’s version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA contains procedures for courts and lawyers to determine whether a custody case should be decided in Rhode Island or another state where the children currently reside. One of the most important factors for a Court to consider in determining whether to exercise jurisdiction in a custody dispute is which state is the “home state” of the minor children. As a general rule, if the children have resided in a certain state recently for more than six months, that state will be considered the “home state” of the children. However, there are also certain other factors which must be taken into consideration such as whether the children or one of the parents has a significant connection with Rhode Island and whether substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships. The UCCJEA also contains mechanisms for the enforcement of a custody or visitation order which has been issued by another state.
When deciding whether to permit or deny a petition for relocation, the court considers several important factors, including:
Best interest of the children
Parents’ reasons for either petitioning for or objecting to the move
Relationship between the children and the relocating parent
Relationship between the children and the non-relocating parent
Likelihood of financial enhancement for the children and the parent
Emotional benefits and educational opportunities the move is likely to provide to parent and children
Children’s physical, emotional and educational development needs
Feasibility of preserving relationship between non-relocating parent and children including the logistics and financial circumstances that allow for visitation arrangements
Extended family and other types of support for children in each location
If the custodial parent plans to move to an international location, the court reviews crucial issues regarding the country where the parent intends to live especially whether it is a signatory to the Hague on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Rhode Island law does not impose the burden of proof on either parent. Both parents are required to present evidence to the court that supports their individual arguments regarding what is in the children’s best interests. The petitioner should seek to show all of the positive advantages the move will have on the children’s lives and futures, whereas the respondent should offer evidence as to the strain on visitation and potential harm to the child arising from their damaged relationship, as well as how the children benefit from staying put.
Custody and Visitation
Child custody is probably the most emotional and important issue for parents facing divorce. Attorney Stephen P. Levesque is extremely knowledgeable on Rhode Island family laws regarding parenting and custody. He has experience successfully representing clients in Rhode Island in divorces and other family law actions involving contested and complex child custody cases. He understands that child custody cases are often highly emotional, and specializes in providing strong but sensitive representation to help families quickly reach resolution in these difficult matters. Stephen has extensive experience developing, preparing, and negotiating parenting agreements that are in the best interests of the child or children and that protect the rights and best interest of the client. We provide representation in private negotiations, divorce mediation and litigation of disputes related to a variety of child custody issues throughout RI, including living arrangements, relocation, visitation, parental decision-making regarding education, medical care and financial considerations.
Attorney Stephen P. Levesque has extensive experience developing, preparing, and negotiating parenting agreements that are in the best interests of the child or children and that protect the rights and best interest of the client. He can provide representation in private negotiations, divorce mediation and litigation of disputes related to a variety of child custody issues throughout RI, including living arrangements, relocation, visitation, parental decision-making regarding education, medical care and financial considerations. Issues of joint custody, shared custody, or split custody for children may arise also.
Having legal custody of your children means that you are responsible for making decisions about the important things in their lives, like where they go to school, what religious instruction they receive, whether they need academic tutoring or psychological counseling, and when they go to the doctor.
During your marriage, you and your spouse probably made these decisions together, and when you divorce, judges want to keep it that way if at all possible. The default preference in the majority of states is for parents to share legal custody and continue to make decisions together for their children.
This is called joint legal custody. It can take many forms. Just as in an intact marriage, it’s not uncommon for one parent to be the primary caregiver, the same can be true after divorce even if the parents have joint legal custody. For example, a parent who is the primary caregiver might make many decisions that are part of legal custody, like authorizing routine or emergency medical treatment, or choosing a tutor for a child who needs academic help. While the other parent has the legal right to participate in those decisions, it’s up to the parents to decide how to make this work as a practical matter. They may agree that it’s easier and more efficient for one parent to have greater day-to-day responsibility.
Joint legal custody can become a battleground for parents who aren’t able to agree on things that might seem simple, like where the children should get medical care or whether they should take piano lessons. It only takes one parent to create ongoing conflict over this type of question, and it can make life miserable for everyone if every decision becomes a fight.
Judges find that type of decision making miserable, too. If parents fight over every question related to their kids, the most common solution is for the judge to give one parent sole legal custody. That parent then has the sole right to make decisions about the children’s health, education, and welfare. A judge might also grant sole legal custody if one parent: lives a great distance away; is abusive or neglectful, or isn’t involved in the child’s day-to-day life and doesn’t spend time with the child.
It’s also possible for a judge to order joint legal custody, but designate one parent as the tie-breaker in the event the parents can’t agree. This isn’t that different from the parent having sole legal custody, but it does encourage both parents to be involved, at least in attempting to come to a resolution.
Physical custody refers to where the children live on a regular basis. It can be shared by both parents or granted to just one. How custody is ordered at the time of your divorce can affect you later. For example, in some states, a parent with sole physical custody has a presumed right to move away with the kids. To prevent a move, the noncustodial parent must go to court and show that the move would be harmful to the kids. So if the other parent’s attorney tries to tell you that it doesn’t matter whether you let the other parent have sole physical custody even though you spend significant time with the kids, don’t buy it. Check with a lawyer about whether the decision could come back to haunt you later.
There’s a strong preference among judges to order joint physical custody, in order to guarantee that children have regular contact with both parents. Some states direct judges to assume that joint physical custody is better, and require any parent who disagrees to provide evidence about why it’s not a good idea in that particular case. Shared physical custody means that the kids get to have two engaged and involved parents and two real homes—not one home and one place they go to visit their other parent.
Joint physical custody doesn’t always involve an exact 50-50 time split, but it’s usually something close. This only works, however, if the parents live near enough to each other that the kids can move easily back and forth between houses and can maintain their regular activities no matter which house they’re in. Shared physical custody isn’t always best when the parents really don’t get along the many transitions between parents create too many opportunities for conflict.
Sole Custody and Visitation
If one parent has the kids most of the time, that parent is usually granted sole physical custody, while the other parent gets the right to regularly schedule time with the kids. A very common arrangement is for one parent to stay in the family home with the kids. The children spend most of their time there and see the other parent at regularly set times. In legal terms, the parent with sole physical custody is the custodial parent and the other is the noncustodial parent who has visitation rights. For a long time, lots of folks had a fairly standard “Wednesday night dinner and every other weekend” arrangement. Commonly, the mother had sole physical custody, and the father had visitation rights for one dinner a week and every other weekend. That schedule is still used regularly, but so are a lot of other schedules.
Tips for Co-Parenting
The divorce is over, but if you have kids, your relationship with your ex is not. As you’re undoubtedly well aware by now, your relationship with your ex does not end just because you’re not living together anymore. In fact, some of the stresses you may have experienced during your marriage, especially conflicts over parenting styles and beliefs, can be exacerbated when you separate. However, your divorce is an opportunity to achieve greater clarity about what you can and can’t control, and to let go of the latter in a way that will improve the quality of your life.
One of the most important things to remember is that you cannot control or change your ex. The only behavior that you can control is your own. It’s possible, and entirely likely, that if you begin treating your ex-spouse with respect you will eventually get more respect in return but you shouldn’t do it for that reason. If you choose to behave reasonably, to always put your kids first, to try to focus on appreciating positive things your ex does, and to communicate respectfully, do it because you think it’s right, not because you hope it will cause your ex to do the same.
Remember that your children observe everything that you do. You can’t tell them to solve their problems by using their words and their inside voices if they see you scream curses at your ex when he doesn’t meet your expectations. That doesn’t mean you can’t set healthy boundaries in fact, it’s a great lesson for your kids when they see you doing that. For example, letting your ex know, calmly and without anger that you’ll no longer intervene in conflicts between her and your nine-year-old son during your ex’s parenting time will give both of them the important message that they have their own relationship and they’ll have to work things out for themselves.
Here are some concrete tips for working toward a productive and reasonably harmonious relationship with your kids’ other parent.
Make sure your children understand that even though time is not shared equally, they still have two parents. This may be a challenge, especially if you are the primary (and therefore, you may feel, superior) parent. It may be even more challenging if you’ve lost custody and feel that you’re being shut out of your children’s lives. But kids need both of their parents, and most important, they need to know that both parents love them. Whether you are the primary caretaker or have limited contact, make sure your children know that their relationship with you is secure and that you will be there for them.
Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your kids or in front of your kids.
It is truly harmful to your children to hear that someone they love and rely on for their care is a loser, a louse, or whatever other pejorative you want to lay on your ex. And don’t think that the kids aren’t listening while you complain about your ex to your best friend on the telephone. If you must express your frustration, do it when you know the kids are nowhere to be found. Better still, try not to do it at all. Every minute you spend putting down your ex-spouse is a minute you don’t spend thinking about how to be a better parent yourself, or considering all that you have to be grateful for in your own life, or simply doing something you consider fun. Keeping that type of negative thinking out of your daily life will improve it.
Never ask your kids to take messages to the other parent or to inform on the other parent. There’s always a way to get information to the other parent without asking the kids to carry it. There are a number of effective ways to communicate with your ex-spouse, including websites that allow you to deal with scheduling changes and information-sharing. Better to practice the ways that don’t involve the kids. And never ask your kids to tell you anything about the other parent’s life. They will feel trapped and confused about what’s the right thing to say. If they volunteer information, respond as neutrally (or positively) as you can.
Don’t ask your kids to lie about or keep secret anything that happens in your house.
“Don’t mention to your mother that we had ice cream before dinner” might seem harmless, but it will stress your kids out to have to think about what they can and can’t say in each household. You might think that certain things, like whether your new love interest spent the night at your house, is your business alone but while your kids are young, you are still sharing your life with your ex-spouse. The only way to keep events in your personal life private is to make sure you do them when you’re not with the kids. Let your kids contact their other parent any time they want to, privately.
These days, many kids have constant access not only to a phone, but to texting and email; all good ways for them to be in touch with their other parent. Feel free to monitor your kids’ use of electronic devices in general, but don’t interfere with their regular, reasonable contact with the other parent. If your kids are young and have to rely on you to make contact with the other parent, don’t be stingy. It will only backfire on you when you find them ever more anxious to speak to your ex.
Try to have a good attitude about sending your kids to the other parent. It can be hard to deal with the transition between households—either because the kids want to go or because they don’t. Most kids do look forward to spending time with their other parent and in their other household. Let them have their anticipation and their appreciation of the other parent. It’s possible they might not have the best dental hygiene when they’re there, or that they are allowed to stay up later than you think is appropriate. But no matter how frustrating you may find the other parent, there is absolutely nothing you can do about that. Unless there’s something truly dangerous or abusive going on, let it go. Acknowledge that the kids have a relationship with their other parent that is separate from their relationship with you, and also separate from your relationship with your ex-spouse.
Adoption can be a wonderful experience for all involved. Stephen Levesque knows that the legal side of things can also be very stressful. Our lawyer can answer your questions and protect your rights during this tough time. Types of Adoption Adoptions can be cooperative, contested or even “open.” Our firm has effectively represented many couples, individuals, and step parents through the adoption process. We spend time with each client, and offer counseling and advice based on each unique situation. Past clients have appreciated how much our adoption attorney listens. Attorney Levesque can effectively represent you with the following adoption issues: Filing for an adoption; Contested adoptions; Open adoptions; Enforcement of open adoption agreements; Modification of open adoption agreements; Preventing the loss of parental rights Reasons for Adoption in Rhode Island. The most common adoption in RI is cooperative in nature, where all parties agree on the results. There are several common grounds to grant a “contested” adoption in Rhode Island. Whether a parent is abusive, has abandoned a child, or has failed to pay meaningful support for a child for several months is relevant. You have the ability to participate as much or as little as you choose. If needed, we will diligently represent you at trial, or aggressively negotiate an agreement on your behalf. The ultimate decision of negotiating or making an agreement is always yours.
Taking out a restraining order against a spouse, former spouse, or a boyfriend – girlfriend is a relatively easy process. Typically, when a person is in fear for their immediate safety, they can request a restraining order by filling out an affidavit at the courthouse. A temporary restraining order will be issued and a hearing set to determine if the order should be extended. We represent clients who are in need of a restraining order, as well as those who suddenly find themselves with an order against them. Since evidence and eye-witness testimony can be introduced at the second hearing, it is especially important to have a skilled restraining order lawyer present who can defend your interests, protect your rights, and explain the options available to you. Getting a Restraining Order While a restraining order may not be hundred percent effective in providing total protection, it notifies law enforcement and the court of your situation. Should a restraining or protection order be violated, the authorities can immediately arrest and detain the person threatening you. Additionally, violating a restraining order can result in criminal charges, jail, fines, a permanent criminal record. While a restraining order may not ultimately prevent violence, they have the advantage of involving law enforcement early on, making it more difficult for someone to harm you. Facing a Restraining Order It’s not unusual for an angry ex-spouse or boyfriend / girlfriend to use one to make someone’s life difficult. Since they are issued without prior notice, they can cause substantial disruption to your life. Not only may you be unaware when one is issued against you, once it is in effect you can be arrested if you are alleged to have violated the restraining order. As a result, a restraining order has the potential to turn into a serious criminal charge and create further legal problems especially when child custody or visitation is involved. Stephen will take pre-emptive action in cases where a restraining order is clearly being used to complicate our client’s life and leverage certain issues in a divorce or family law dispute.