Get answers to your questions about divorce, family law, and our firm byreviewing
the answers below! If you have any further questions, pleasedon't
hesitate to ask me by calling the office or submitting an onlineform.
I offer a free Initial consultation so that you can discuss yourcase with
me before making a financial obligation.
Don't hesitate to
contact our firm to schedule a free consultation with our
divorce lawyer. We have nearly 40 years of experience and can help answer any questions
you have regarding your divorce.
About Our Firm
Choosing a Lawyer
Q: What is a “boutique” law firm?
A: A “boutique” law firm concentrates its practice in one area
of the law and develops expertise and proficiency in that practice field.
The Law Office of Patricia A. Sullivan is a boutique law firm concentrating
in Rhode Island divorce and related family law matters.
Potential clientele often search the web to find an attorney and search
results are confusing.
Potential clientele may find an attorney who practices in multiple areas
such as, Superior Court, District Court, Criminal Court, Bankruptcy Court,
Landlord Tenant Court, ProbateCourt, and Family Court and/or who practices
in more than one state such as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
This “jack of all trades” type of attorney has no particular
concentrated practice and whose business day is going from one court to
the next court.
If you needed heart surgery, would you go to your primary care physician?
The Law Office of Patricia A. Sullivan is a boutique law firm concentrating in
divorce and family law. You are represented by Patricia A. Sullivan, not an “associate”
or member of a “legal team” from a national law firm with
a branch office here in Rhode Island. You are represented by a Rhode Island
attorney who “does” divorce and family law, not a Rhode Island
attorney who “dabbles” in family law.
Q: What happens in a "free initial consultation?"
A free initial consultation is an excellent way for a prospective client to learn about his or her
rights, the court system and process of a case, and legal fees and expenses.
Itis a valuable experience which not only allows the prospective client
to learn about the process but also to meet and interact with the attorney.
And, most importantly, it's FREE!
Q: I often see the term "aggressive representation." Is that a
A: Aggression is conduct intended to be hurtful and harmful. Particularly
in the "family" court, aggression is not a good thing for obvious
reasons. Yet, some lawyers think that is an effective way to practice
divorce and family law.
At The Law Office of Patricia A. Sullivan, our strength is a capable, competent,
caring, "down to earth" representation at reasonable rates.
Hostility is rarely necessary to effectively represent the interests of a client.
Patricia A. Sullivan is recognized by the Judges, court personnel, and fellow colleagues as
a skilled attorney capable of producing excellent results without aggression.
Q: When considering hiring a Rhode Island divorce and family lawyer, should
I consider the gender of the attorney?
A: Many women want to hire a female lawyer because they feel more comfortable
opening up to a woman (deep down, men do, too). Many men want to hire
a "woman" lawyer because they feel that it will give them an
edge in the results of the case. Listen to your inner voice because that
really can be true.
Patricia A. Sullivan is warm, down to earth, and caring. Men and women
easily respond to her style and the attorney-client relationship is comfortable,
communicative and responsive. Also, for men, it can be helpful to have
a woman attorney. A "man-man" team can be perceived as "ganging
up" on the wife.
Q: What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce in Rhode Island?
A: In order to file for divorce in Rhode Island, one spouse must have been
a resident of the state for at least one year before filing.
Q: What does Rhode Island consider grounds for divorce?
Most divorces are filed on the ground of irreconcilable differences which
have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. This is a no-fault ground.
Other grounds which are available
include living separate and apart for a space in excess of three years,
adultery, and willful desertion.
Q: Where do I file for divorce in Rhode Island?
A: A Rhode Island divorce is ordinarily filed in the County where the Petitioning
Q: How is alimony awarded in Rhode Island?
may be awarded to either party. Alimony is designed to provide support
for a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable the recipient to
become financially independent and self-sufficient. However, the court
may award alimony for an indefinite period of time when it is appropriate
in the discretion of the court." (Rhode Island Domestic Relations
Law - Title 15, Section 15-5-16)
Q: How is
child custody awarded in Rhode Island?
A: "Failing an agreement between the parents as to the custody of the
children, the determination will be based on the best interest of the
child. In regulating the custody of the children, the court shall provide
for the reasonable right of visitation by the natural parent not having
custody of the children except upon the showing of cause as to why the
right should not be granted. The court shall mandate compliance with its
orders by both the custodial parent and the children." (Rhode Island
Domestic Relations Law - Title 15, Section 15-5-19)
Q: Should I engage a divorce lawyer or a mediator? You should engage a divorce
A: Mediation plays upon perceived fears: 1) Divorce is expensive. Mediation
is not expensive. 2) Lawyers are only in it for the money so the court
is acrimonious, protracted, and expensive. Let's address these fears
and address some misconceptions associated with mediation. Like attorneys,
mediators are business people offering a service for a fee. Some mediators
are non-lawyers and, although they certainly mean well, they are not trained
to analyze the facts of the case in the same way as an experienced Rhode
Island divorce attorney. Most mediators are also practicing attorneys
so mediation is not their primary field. Some mediators are even retired
from their original career. Often times, mediation is simply just another
professional fee incurred because of misplaced fears. The parties participate
in mediation, which may or may not be successful.
After it concludes, then one of the spouses must still file for divorce,
serve the other, and proceed through the Court system (that is another
six to nine months following the conclusion of mediation). More often
than not, both husband and wife hire an attorney for the court case. Thus,
what mediation did was create a long delay and adds yet another expense.
Further, in many instances, one spouse has more power (usually financial
power) than the other spouse. The more powerful spouse will encourage
mediation in an effort to obtain a superior position over the less powerful
spouse ("Let's save money" really means "if you don't
get a lawyer, you don't have anyone protecting your interests so I
win"). It is also a myth that only mediators mediate. Reality is,
although advocating for your interests, most divorce attorneys will work
cooperatively with each other and with the parties to identify the issues
that exist and then work towards an amicable resolution. So why not just
file for the divorce at the outset and avoid the delay and expense of
Q: If I hire Patricia Sullivan, what should my expectations be?
First, you should expect a true professional woman attorney who's exclusive,
fulltime practice is divorce and family law. Pat is known for her integrity,
competence, and excellent rapport with the Family Court Bench and Bar.
You should expect a respectful, responsive, polite, experienced and genuinely
nice person and attorney who will effectively and efficiently guide you
through this difficult phase in your life. The goal is to amicably and
cost-effectively negotiate a settlement in the case while avoiding a trial.
Because of this, there is no need to mediate.
Q: What is a collaborative divorce?
A: A collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial process where, prior to filing
for divorce in the Court system, the Husband and the Wife each hire an
attorney. The Husband, Wife, and attorneys meet one or more times to define
the issues, explore alternatives, then come to an agreement. Assets, liabilities,
alimony, custody, visitation, and
child support are all topics resolved in the process. Once the issues are resolved,
the actual divorce is filed. It is a true
uncontested divorce because all issues are agreed upon prior to the filing.
Q: Does Attorney Patricia A. Sullivan practice
Q: Are recommendations which appear on the attorney's website reliable?
A: Yes they are. All attorneys are subject to the Rules of Professional Responsibility.
Part of the Rules of Professional Responsibility governs attorney advertising.
Because attorneys must comply with the Rules, the content on their website
Q: Are online reviews or ratings reliable?
A: No. Never assess the competency of any professional based upon an online
review or rating.
Negative ratings or reviews are usually the result of one of two things:
(a) Cyberbullying, or
(b) Sabotage. (Often a competitor will write (or have written) a negative
review specifically to damage his competitor's professional reputation.)
Q: I was recently served with papers for a family court matter and I have
decided to represent myself. Am I eligible for a free initial consultation?
A: Only people who intend to hire an attorney to represent them in the family
court matter are eligible for a free initial consultation.
Q: Does Patricia A. Sullivan practice divorce & family law in Massachusetts?
A: Because of her experience, reputation, personality, and commitment to the
client, Pat is one of the most sought-after divorce and family law attorneys
in Rhode Island. She limits her practice to Rhode Island to allow her
Rhode Island divorce and family law clientele optimum access to her.
Q: The Judge ordered me to pay child support then I lost my job. My ex and
I verbally agreed to lower my child support until I went back to work.
Is the verbal agreement enforceable?
A: No it is not. If there is something in writing between you and your ex(signed
by both of you) you are probably ok. But, it is more protective to go
back to Court to lower the support. If you do not have something in writing or a
modified Court Order, then you will be accruing a child support arrearage.
Q: I do not have the money to pay legal fees and court costs to a private
practice family law attorney, am I eligible for a free consultation?
A: You would not be considered a prospective client so you are not eligible
for the free consultation. However, you can reach out to Rhode Island
Legal Services or the Rhode Island Bar Association. Those organizations
may be able to assist you.
Q: If I go through a divorce, will Attorney Sullivan be able to protect my
personal injury settlement?
A: This is something that will be a goal in your divorce case and, in most
circumstances, I will be able to successfully protect the personal injury
recovery. There are some nuances to this which we will discuss in the
free initial consultation.
Q: What is a Post Nuptial Agreement?
Postnuptial Agreement is a contract between two legally married persons who are not contemplating
divorce, but who desire to predetermine which party gets which asset in
the event of a divorce.
Q: What is a Pre Nuptial Agreement?
A: A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a contract between two persons who are intending
to marry each other. Primarily, a
Pre-Nuptial Agreement regulates the disposition of assets acquired by each party prior to the
marriage in the event of a divorce or death.
Q: What is a "silver" divorce?
A: "Silver" divorce refers to those couples married 25 or more
years who are separating and divorcing. Typically a "silver divorcee"is
a baby boomer.
Q: Does Pat Sullivan practice "silver" divorce?
A: Yes, absolutely. In fact, Pat is one of the first matrimonial lawyers in
Rhode Island to identify this demographic of the populace. As a result,
she has networked a team of accountants, financial planners, and appraisers
to work cooperatively with her and her client in the identification and
valuation of the marital estate and the distribution of those assets.
Q: My spouse and I are no longer living in the same house. Does that mean
we are legally separated?
A: No, it does not. It means you are physically separated.
Q: I don't understand what a legal separation is.
is a court case just like divorce is a court case. All of the same issues
that are a part of a divorce case (custody, visitation, assets, etc.)
area part of a legal separation case.
The difference is that in a legal separation you are still married to your
spouse but you live in a different place from your spouse. In a divorce,
you are no longer married to your spouse and are free to date and remarry.
Most usually, a divorce is the best alternative for a prospective client,
not a legal separation.
Q: If I move out of our house, am I guilty of abandonment.
A: No you are not. All you have done is physically separate.
Q: Is the initial consultation free?
A: Yes it is. It is completely free of charge. You will meet directly with
Pat Sullivan and spend about 30 minutes discussing your situation.
Q: Is the initial consultation offered at night or on the weekend?
A: Free initial consultations are offered during usual business hours.
Q: Who is a prospective client?
A: A prospective client is a person who is not presently Pat's client
but who wants to become an actual client.
Q: Is a prospective client eligible for a free initial consultation?
Q: When my husband and I argue, he threatens me with divorce and he says
that he will make sure that I get nothing. This scares me. I really don't
want a divorce. And, I don't think my husband wants a divorce either.
He just says things about divorce in anger. Am I eligible for a free consultation?
I just want information but I don't want to pay for it.
You would not be considered a prospective client so you are not eligible
for a free consultation.
Q: I made an appointment for a free initial consultation and I want to postpone
it without giving the attorney a lot of prior notice. Is that ok?
Although we appreciate being notified by the prospective client that he/she
is not going to keep the appointment, the fact that it is free of charge
to the client, does not mean that the attorney does not suffer a financial
loss. Other than the free initial consultation, attorneys charge for their
time. So, a last-minute postponement leaves a gap in the attorney's
schedule that cannot be filled. Therefore, the attorney loses money. Also,
the attorney pays the administrative assistant to schedule the initial
appointment and then a second appointment.
If you call to postpone, please explain the reasons why and, if the reason
is legitimate, you will be offered a new date for your consultation. However,if
you do not come to the second appointment you are no longer considered
a prospective client and are not eligible for a free consultation.
Q: I made an appointment for a free consultation, but I was a no show. Can
I still have a free consultation?
A: "No-Shows" are no longer considered prospective clients and are
not eligible for another appointment for a free consultation.
Q: Who gets the dog?
A: Domestic animals (dogs, cats, hamsters, etc.) are marital property. In
a contested pet case, the Court will decide which spouse will be awarded
the pet. However, very few judges will approve an Order of "pet visitation."
Q: All of our credit card debt is in the individual name of my spouse. Do
I have to pay any of the credit card debt?
A: If the credit card debt was incurred during the marriage, it is likely
that both the Husband and Wife have an obligation to the creditor. During
the free initial consultation, we will discuss the family court rules
regarding credit card debt.
Q: Is my spouse eligible to receive a portion of my inheritance received
during the marriage?
A: In most circumstances, your spouse is not eligible to receive any portion
of your inheritance. However, there are exceptions to this. In your free
initial consultation, we will discuss protecting your inheritance.
Q: What is the difference between a free initial consultation and free legal advice?
A: The most important difference is that all lawyers are prohibited from
giving legal advice to a person who has not retained the lawyer.
The lawyer-client relationship is formed when the client retains the attorney.
At this point, the attorney can give advice.
Until the attorney is retained, the attorney can only speak generally about
rights and expectations, as well as, the court system and fees and expenses.
This is what occurs in the free consultation. Free consultations are an
excellent way to begin the process of a divorce or family law matter.
Q: When I schedule a free consultation, why is my contact information important?
A: Very occasionally, a free consultation must be rescheduled. Ordinarily,
this is due to an unanticipated change in Attorney Sullivan's Court
schedule or inclement weather.
Please provide a contact number with a voicemail which is set up and which
is not full.
Q: When I come in for my free initial consultation, do I need to bring anything?
A: For the free initial consultation, you do not have to bring anything unless
you have been served with papers. If you have been served, please bring
the paperwork that you received from the sheriff or constable.
Q: When I hire Attorney Sullivan for my divorce case, what do I bring to the
- If you are the Plaintiff, please bring an original or certified copy of
your marriage certificate and your retainer. If you are employed, please
bring a recent paystub.
- If you are the Defendant, please bring the papers you were served and your
retainer. Again, if you are employed, please bring a recent paystub.
Q: Can I bring a friend or relative with me to the free initial office consultation?
A: Certainly. You can bring one friend or relative who is over the age of18.
(Please remember, however, that you have a privilege of confidentiality.
If you have a friend or relative with you, the privilege of confidentiality
Q: How should I dress when I go to Court?
A: Making a good impression is important. Business casual is suggested. Denim
is NEVER appropriate.
Q: What is a case status or pre-trial conference?
A: This is an opportunity for the attorneys to meet informally with the Judge,
usually at the bench, to discuss matters impeding the amicable resolution
of the case. Often times, the input with the Judge will help resolve the issue.
Q: What is a Nomina lDivorce Hearing?
A: When parties have amicably resolved all of the issues in their divorce
case, (custody, assets, liabilities, alimony (their case is considered"nominal"
or "uncontested" allowing the parties to appear before the Judge
and obtain the divorce.
Q: What is a trial and why is it necessary?
A: A trial is a formal procedure wherein the parties and witnesses testify
in open Court about contested matters such as custody, assets, liabilities,
and alimony. After the Judge hears all of the testimony, the Judge will
decide the issues. A trial is necessary because the parties cannot be
amicable and resolve the matter.
Q: If I call for a free initial consultation during normal business hours,
but get voicemail, when will I receive a return call?
A: Almost immediately. Customer service is a priority for Pat and she is extremely
responsive to new and existing clients.
Just leave your mobile phone number and you will receive a punctual return call.
Pat has an advanced telephone system which turns voicemail to email. Because
of this, Pat is aware of voicemails within moments of the call.
On rare occasions, it may take as long as two hours for the return call
but that is usually because Pat is in Court or in a consultation.
Q: Am I eligible for a free consultation?
A: If you are actually going to file (or be served) a family court case(divorce,
custody, support, etc.) and if you are actually going to hire an attorney
to represent you in that case then you are eligible for a free consultation."
Q: I represented myself in my divorce case. Can you help me prepare the final
A: Yes, I can help you. I will need a copy of the transcript which you must
order from the Court stenographer. If you have children, I will need a
copy of the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. You can obtain a copy
of the Guidelines from the Court Clerk. Please call me at 401-732-8300and
I will discuss your situation with you and quote a fee for the services.
Typically, your paperwork and filing instructions will be available within
a few days or hiring me.
Q: What is a parenting plan?
A: A parenting plan is a written agreement that outlines and defines how
parents will raise their children.
Q: Who benefits from a parenting plan?
A: First and foremost, the child benefits from the plan as his/her parents
have in place an agreement which eliminates conflicts while keeping the
But, parents also benefit. The plan addresses legal custody, physical custody,
visitation, child support and childcare, educational or activity expenses, etc.
Q: When should a parenting plan be negotiated?
A: There are all sorts of times when a parenting plan can be negotiated.
For example, parents who are considering physically separating and/or who
are divorcing should have a parenting plan.
Negotiating the plan prior to the filing of separation or divorce can be
helpful in reducing future court costs, legal fees, court appearances,
and time out of work.
A successful parenting plan often times can lead to an actual uncontested
divorce – less costly – less stress.
Parents who already have a plan in place may see the need for changes to
their existing plan. The child is growing older. One party has remarried.
Employment has changed.
Q: How much does a parenting plan cost?
A: Parenting plans are charged on an hourly basis. The cost is directly related
to the complexity of the plan and the level of conflict between the parents.
Q: Does Patricia A. Sullivan do parenting plans?
A: Absolutely. Patricia A. Sullivan has almost 40 years of experience as a
family law attorney and is also an experienced Guardian Ad Litem.
During her career, she has negotiated and drafted thousands of parenting plans.
For more information about the divorce process,
contact a Rhode Island divorce lawyer who can provide you with advice and answers to your questions.