Something to know before you stroll into the Rhode Island Family Court for your date with a judge. You will see misery, crying, screaming, and a fist fight. You will see a couple get into a fight and then make-up and then fight again. You will likely see someone arrested. If you stay long enough you can rest assured that the couple that fought and made up had sex and got pregnant before they broke up again. One thing you won’t see: juries.
Family Court matters are not tried to a jury. Each case is assigned a judge, and that will most likely be your judge from the case’s inception to its bitter end. It is not so important to make a good first impression at the initial court hearing but it is critical not to make a poor impression. Like anyone else with thirty cases on their docket per day, every day, and has those cases revolve (more or less) every two months, you can imagine that unless you do or say something truly memorable your judge may not even remember you or your case. Nor do they have to. If both parties to a Family Court action have an attorney it is implied that the attorneys will work together to crystallize the genuine, contested issues so that when the court hearing finally comes around the majority of the time dedicated to persuasive argument covers only one or two problems instead of forty partially-solved grievances. Then the two attorneys and the judge can hyper-focus on the lone, remaining, sticky issues.
This is the system. It’s not perfect but it works well enough. It is the lest-expensive, less-stressful way forward for almost all the spouses and parents who pass through these doors. It makes order from chaos, one issue at a time. One court appearance at a time.
The R.I. Family Court demands collaboration and fair dealing. Of course, not everyone is wired like that. Those who come to Court solely to scream and argue beware. The Family Court demands compromise, and if you are not prepared, if you have not already determined what issues you will and will not budge on, the Family Court will compromise the case for you.