RI law: Courts may enforce and interpret marital settlement agreements from other states
Rhode Island General Law 8-10-3 specifically grants jurisdiction to the Rhode Island Family Court to enforce or interpret a property settlement agreement from another state.
RIGL 8-10-3 state,s in pertinent part: “(a) There is hereby established a family court, consisting of a chief judge and eleven (11) associate justices, to hear and determine……… antenuptial agreements, property settlement agreements and all other contracts between persons, who at the time of execution of the contracts, were husband and wife or planned to enter into that relationship; (### full text of jurisdiction statute below)
In Schwab v Schwab the Rhode Island Supreme Court stated:
“We have said that “the Family Court is a statutory tribunal whose powers are specifically granted by the Family Court Act. Christensen v. Christensen, 121 R.I. 272, 274, 397 A.2d 900, 901 (1979). Among these powers is the authority to “hear and determine all petitions for * * *enforcement of any order or decree granting alimony * * * of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state; [and] modification of any order or decree granting alimony * * * of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state on the ground that there has been a change of circumstances * * *.” G.L. 1956 §8-10-3(a). (Emphases added.)
In Scheuerman v. Woronoff , a property settlement agreement case, the RI top Court determined:
“In Scheuerman v. Woronoff, 459 A.2d 957 (R.I. 1983), this Court was confronted with the question of whether the Family Court had jurisdiction to modify or enforce a settlement agreement that was incorporated by reference, but not merged in a final divorce decree of a New Jersey court. We interpreted § 8-10-3(a) and held that“[t]he plain language of the amended statute clearly confers jurisdiction on the Family Court to hear and determine matters pertaining to custody, support, alimony, visitation, property-settlement agreements, and contracts between persons who at the time of execution were husband and wife or planned to enter into such a relationship, even though these orders, agreements, or contracts may have originated or been executed in a foreign jurisdiction.” Scheuerman, 459A.2d at 959.”
“Here, as in Scheuerman, a foreign court of competent jurisdiction entered a final judgment of divorce, and a settlement agreement, which was incorporated by reference in the judgment, was executed by the parties in that jurisdiction. Consistent with our clear statement in Scheuerman, we hold that the Family Court had jurisdiction to decide Walter’s motion to set aside the Connecticut judgment and settlement agreement on the merits, and that the hearing justice committed a fundamental error when he denied that motion as well as the motion to reconsider.” SCHWAB v. SCHWAB.
TITLE 8 Courts and Civil Procedure–Courts CHAPTER 8-10 Family Court SECTION 8-10-3:
8-10-3 Establishment of court – Jurisdiction – Seal – Oaths. (a) There is hereby established a family court, consisting of a chief judge and eleven (11) associate justices, to hear and determine all petitions for divorce from the bond of marriage and from bed and board; all motions for allowance, alimony, support and custody of children, allowance of counsel and witness fees, and other matters arising out of petitions and motions relative to real and personal property in aid thereof, including, but not limited to, partitions, accountings, receiverships, sequestration of assets, resulting and constructive trust, impressions of trust, and such other equitable matters arising out of the family relationship, wherein jurisdiction is acquired by the court by the filing of petitions for divorce, bed and board and separate maintenance; all motions for allowance for support and educational costs of children attending high school at the time of their eighteenth (18th) birthday and up to ninety (90) days after high school graduation, but in no case beyond their nineteenth (19th) birthday; enforcement of any order or decree granting alimony and/or child support, and/or custody and/or visitation of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state; modification of any order or decree granting alimony and/or custody and/or visitation of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state on the ground that there has been a change of circumstances; modification of any order or decree granting child support of any court of competent jurisdiction of another state provided: (1) the order has been registered in Rhode Island for the purposes of modification pursuant to § 15-23.1-611, or (2) Rhode Island issued the order and has continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the parties; antenuptial agreements, property settlement agreements and all other contracts between persons, who at the time of execution of the contracts, were husband and wife or planned to enter into that relationship; complaints for support of parents and children; those matters relating to delinquent, wayward, dependent, neglected, or children with disabilities who by reason of any disability requires special education or treatment and other related services; to hear and determine all petitions for guardianship of any child who has been placed in the care, custody, and control of the department for children, youth, and families pursuant to the provisions of chapter 1 of title 14 and chapter 11 of title 40; adoption of children under eighteen (18) years of age; change of names of children under the age of eighteen (18) years; paternity of children born out of wedlock and provision for the support and disposition of such children or their mothers; child marriages; those matters referred to the court in accordance with the provisions of § 14-1-28; those matters relating to adults who shall be involved with paternity of children born out of wedlock; responsibility for or contributing to the delinquency, waywardness, or neglect of children under sixteen (16) years of age; desertion, abandonment, or failure to provide subsistence for any children dependent upon such adults for support; neglect to send any child to school as required by law; bastardy proceedings and custody to children in proceedings, whether or not supported by petitions for divorce or separate maintenance or for relief without commencement of divorce proceedings; and appeals of administrative decisions concerning setoff of income tax refunds for past due child support in accordance with §§ 44-30.1-5 and 40-6-21. The holding of real estate as tenants by the entirety shall not in and of itself preclude the family court from partitioning real estate so held for a period of six (6) months after the entry of final decree of divorce.
(b) The family court shall be a court of record and shall have a seal which shall contain such words and devices as the court shall adopt.
(c) The judges and clerk of the family court shall have power to administer oaths and affirmations.
(d) The family court shall have exclusive initial jurisdiction of all appeals from any administrative agency or board affecting or concerning children under the age of eighteen (18) years and appeals of administrative decisions concerning setoff of income tax refunds, lottery set offs, insurance intercept, and lien enforcement provisions for past due child support, in accordance with §§ 44-30.1-5 and 40-6-21, and appeals of administrative agency orders of the department of human services to withhold income under chapter 16 of title 15.
(e) The family court shall have jurisdiction over those civil matters relating to the enforcement of laws regulating child care providers and child placing agencies.
(f) The family court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of matters relating to the revocation or nonrenewal of a license of an obligor due to noncompliance with a court order of support, in accordance with chapter 11.1 of title 15.
[See § 12-1-15 of the General Laws.]
(g) Notwithstanding any general or public law to the contrary, the family court shall have jurisdiction over all protective orders provided pursuant to the Rhode Island general laws, when either party is a juvenile.
History of Section.
(P.L. 1961, ch. 73, § 1; P.L. 1972, ch. 30, § 1; P.L. 1973, ch. 125, § 1; P.L. 1974, ch. 85, § 1; P.L. 1975, ch. 3, § 1; P.L. 1976, ch. 252, § 1; P.L. 1977, ch. 89, § 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 54, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 319, § 1; P.L. 1984, ch. 167, § 3; P.L. 1984, ch. 281, § 1; P.L. 1987, ch. 163, § 2; P.L. 1988, ch. 84, § 7; P.L. 1992, ch. 326, § 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 158, § 2, P.L. 1994, ch. 195, § 3; P.L. 1994, ch. 244, § 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 263, § 3; P.L. 1995, ch. 370, art. 29, § 10; P.L. 1995, ch. 374, § 10; P.L. 1996, ch. 129, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 131, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 132, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 133, § 1; P.L. 1997, ch. 170, § 23; P.L. 1999, ch. 83, § 6; P.L. 1999, ch. 130, § 6; P.L. 2007, ch. 73, art. 3, § 9; P.L. 2010, ch. 216, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 236, § 1.)