What is equitable distribution of assets in Rhode Island? Rhode Island is an equitable distribution of assets state. R.I.G.L 15-5-16.1 is the statute that pertains to equitable distribution of assets. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has stated on numerous occasions that marriage is an economic partnership.
The equitable distribution statute is designed to fairly assign marital property in a Rhode Island divorce based primarily on the contributions that each party made to the marital estate. Judges in Rhode Island have a lot of discretion to equitably divide marital assets, but "equitable" does not always mean equal!
The assets capable of being divided include real estate, pensions, retirement accounts, 401k, cars, boats, artwork, collectibles, bank accounts, IRA's, vehicles, furniture, televisions, computers, and business interests. Retirement benefits are marital assets under Rhode Island law if acquired during the marriage. Certain disability pensions may not be marital asset. What steps must a Rhode Island Family Court judge use to make an equitable distribution in a Rhode Island divorce? Equitable division of assets in Rhode Island is a multi-step process. The first step is for the judge to determine what property constitutes marital property in Rhode Island. After that has been decided, the judge must apply the factors laid out by stature 15-16.1. Lasty, the judge must equitably divide the marital property according to these factors. What are automatic court orders? When do they go into effect? An automatic court order essentially prevents either party in the divorce from unlawfully spending or removing assets, or canceling life or health insurance among other things. The divorcing spouses must be careful not to violate the automatic court orders pertaining to their assets. This order goes into effect as soon as the spouse instigating the divorce (now the "plaintiff") signs the divorce petition and a summons is served to the other spouse (now the "defendant"). What property and assets are considered part of the marital estate? All property acquired during the course of the marriage by either party constitutes marital property, which is subject to equitable distribution laws, with certain exempt property, detailed below.
Gifts given by the parties to each other are marital assets which can be equitable divided in a Rhode Island divorce. What assets are not marital property under Rhode Island divorce law? Property acquired before the marriage is not subject to the equitable division statute, unless it has produced an income that was received during the marriage. The appreciation in value of premarital property may also be subject to equitable distribution. The Rhode Island legislature, however, notes a legal difference between property which has acquired interest and property which has appreciated in value. A Rhode Island divorce lawyer can help determine what assets are included within the equitable distribution.
Inherited property, however, is not marital property. The income and appreciation of inherited property is not subject to the equitable distribution statute in a Rhode Island divorce. Is an advanced degree marital property? An advanced degree is not a marital asset. A professional license, such as as a lawyer's license to practice law, is not a marital asset. Can property, which was originally non-marital separate property, be converted to marital property? Yes. The Rhode Island divorce case of Quinn v. Quinn is the seminal Rhode Island case pertaining to doctrine of transmutation. The doctrine of transmutation can change non-marital property to marital property. What happened in the case of Quinn v. Quinn? In Quinn v. Quinn, 512 A.2d 848, 852 (R.I. 1986), the Rhode Island Supreme Court stated that the "transfer of non-marital assets from one spouse to both spouses jointly, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, will be understood as evincing an intention to transfer the property to the marital estate. This doctrine, known as transmutation, is consistent with the recognition that marriage is a partnership."
The provisions in 15-5-16.1 are designed to achieve that end. Transferring title to property during marriage. If one spouse transfers non-marital property to the other spouse in joint names then that will usually change the property to marital property. However, the spouse may be able to prove that the other spouse did not intend to create an ownership interest in the property. There is, however, a presumption that the transfer was intended to gift the property to the other spouse. Commingled assets If a marital asset and a non-marital asset are combined and used to purchase or exchanged for other property then the new asset constitutes marital property. Personal injury settlements and car accident claims A personal injury settlement or judgment for pain and suffering, future lost earnings, and reimbursement for future medical bills are not marital property in Rhode Island. Awards for past medical expenses and past lost wages for a personal injury, slip and fall, or workers compensation claim are marital property. Workers compensation awards compensating disfigurement is not marital property Are social security, SSI benefits, or SSDI benefits marital property? No, social security benefits are not marital property. If I hit the lottery after the divorce trial or nominal hearing, but before entry of final judgment does my spouse get an equitable share? Yes, surprisingly assets acquired after trial but before entry of a final judgment are considered marital property.
All assets acquired up to entry of final judgment are marital assets unless the parties entered into a property settlement agreement stating specifically that those assets are non-marital.