This is part two of a two part series on the Rhode Island divorce process including divorce strategy. Part one, pertians to the initial stages of a divorce from finding a Rhode Island Attorney to filing for divorce. Please see below for a link to part one of this series.
This article discusses divorce strategy and the divorce process after filing for divorce. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is a very bad idea for a person to represent themselves in a Rhode Island divorce without a lawyer.
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 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.
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.
There have been many 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 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 and family law lawyer.