Rhode Island follows the majority of jurisdictions and applies the concept of, “Equitable Distribution,” when dividing the marital estate, and Rhode Island General Law 15-5-16.1(a) governs the assignment of property pursuant to divorce. There are twelve (12) factors the court shall consider when attempting to divide the marital estate which are enumerated under R.I.G.L 15-5-16.1(a).
Equitable distribution is a three-step process. First, the trial justice must determine which of the parties assets are marital property and which are non-marital property. Second, the trial justice must consider the factors enumerated in R.I.G.L 15-5-16.1. Third, he or she must distribute the property. Lancellotti v. Lancellotti, 481 A.2d 7, 10 (1984).
To determine which assets are marital and which are not, the court is given direction under R.I.G.L 15-5-16.1 (b), which states in part that, “The court may not assign property or an interest in property held in the name of one of the parties if the property was held by the party prior to the marriage, but may assign income which has been derived from the property during the term of the marriage, and the court may assign the appreciation of value from the date of the marriage of property or an interest in property which was held in the name of one party prior to the marriage which increased in value as a result of the efforts of either spouse during the marriage.” It further states: “The court also shall not assign property or an interest in property which has been transferred to one of the parties by inheritance before, during, or after the term of the marriage. The court shall not assign property or an interest in property, which has been transferred, to one of the parties by gift from a third party before, during, or after the term of the marriage.”
But, as in life, there are exceptions to every rule, and just as Rhode Island follows the majority of jurisdictions when it comes to the concept of equitable distribution, it also follows the majority of courts in those equitable distribution states when it comes to the theory of; “Transmutation,” which simply means that at some point during the term of the marriage the non-marital asset was transmuted by an action of the holding party into a marital asset. Although the theory is simple, the analysis, and determination are not. The division of assets pursuant to the divorce is a critical part of the divorce process, it can involve much more the just the marital home, and banks accounts. Pensions, stocks, appreciated values, business values, as well as, hidden assets, etc.
John’s experience in these areas along with his accounting, and tax background will afford you the peace of mind that not only will you receive your fair proportion of the marital estates value, but there are also no undisclosed assets left behind.