If you’re about to go through with a divorce, you probably have a few questions. There are a lot of ways that your life can change after a divorce, and there’s a lot at stake. One of your main concerns might be your property. Without knowledge of Rhode Island property division laws, you won’t know what to expect. Before you finalize your divorce plans, here are a few things you should know about Rhode Island property division.
How does Rhode Island property division work?
When two people enter a marriage, they combine their assets. Each individual comes into the marriage with their own property. After the marriage, they often buy property together. It can be difficult to keep track of who owns what property. And it’s even harder to decide who gets what after a divorce.
If you and your partner can agree on how to split your property, then there’s no work to do. You can come up with your own agreement and include it in the terms of the divorce. However, many couples have a difficult time doing that. They end up coming to an impasse, and neither party is willing to budge. When the negotiations come to a standstill, it’s time for a judge to step in.
In Rhode Island, the Family Court decides how the division of property works if you and your partner cannot. You end up putting your property in the hands of a judge, and that can be a scary thing. While the court needs distribute assets in an equitable way, it does not to be equal. Specifically, the property does not get divided in half. Instead, the court chooses an arrangement that seems fair to them. Depending on your situation, this could be either good or bad news.
How the court decides
Although there is no formula to determining Rhode Island property division, there is a general guideline. First, the court decides what is marital property and what is separate property. The distinction is simple. Marital property is any property that you bought after your marriage. Everything purchased prior to your marriage is separate property. If you or your spouse used a separate property for the benefit of your spouse, it becomes marital property. The court mostly focuses on marital property. While there are scenarios in which they might give separate property to the other spouse, it’s uncommon. For the most part, separate property remains in the hands of the person who bought it.
Then, the court looks at your situation. They consider many different factors surrounding the couple. After considering all the important factors, the court decides what an equitable division might look like. Here are a few details that they think about:
- How long you and your partner were married
- The behavior of you and your partner during the marriage
- Each partner’s contribution to the property and to the home
- You and your partner’s income, occupation, and employability
- The age and health of you and your partner
- You and your partner’s potential for future income
- Each individual’s contribution towards the education and training of the other partner
- The custodial parent’s residential needs
- The debt collection of each party
The court doesn’t limit itself to this list. Instead, they consider any factors that may be important in your case. After they look at the situation, they can come up with an equitable division.
Because Rhode Island is a no-fault state, property division does not occur based on who was at fault. However, they do consider your behavior. Something that a court might consider as bad behavior, like abuse or an affair, could change the outcome of the property division. They may decide to award the victim of the bad behavior most of the property. In fact, this has happened several times in the past.
What happens if you have a prenup?
When you and your partner sign a prenup, it dictates what happens to your finances in the event of a divorce. Usually, this includes your property. If you do go through with a divorce, you need to stick to the terms of the prenup. A court will enforce it.
There are a few scenarios which could allow you to fight the prenup and change the terms of property division. For one, the prenup needs to be signed before the marriage. If you signed it after, the prenup is not valid in court. It’s also important that both parties signed the prenup voluntarily. Otherwise, it may be void. The agreement cannot be severely unfair, or it also may be void.
The Importance of a Lawyer
When you rely on Rhode Island property division laws, you leave everything in the court’s hands. And that can be a dangerous thing to do. You need the help of a lawyer with experience to ensure a good outcome. They can fight for you and help you get a fair division of property.