Providence County Family Court (P 15-1845) Patricia K.
Asquith Associate Justice.
Plaintiff: Jesse Nason, Esq.
Defendant: John L. Quigley, Jr., Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
A. SUTTELL CHIEF JUSTICE.
us are former spouses who disagree about the ex-husband's
entitlement to visitation with the two dogs that they
acquired during their marriage. This case came before us
pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show
cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be
summarily decided. After considering the parties' written
and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we conclude
that cause has not been shown and that this case may be
decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons
set forth in this opinion, we affirm the order of the Family
Facts and Procedural History
October 2016, after twenty-three years of marriage, the
plaintiff, Diane Giarrusso, and the defendant, Paul
Giarrusso, entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA),
formalizing the terms of the dissolution of their
marriage. A final judgment officially dissolving the
marriage entered in January 2017; the judgment incorporated
the MSA without merging it. Paragraph fourth of the MSA gave
Diane "all right title and interest in and to [the two
dogs:] the greyhound 'Marox' and the Chihuahua
'Winnie.' [Paul] [was] permitted to take the dogs for
visits from Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. through Thursday
morning at 8:00 a.m."
enjoyed his weekly visitation with Marox and Winnie from
October 2016 until the end of March 2017, when this simple
arrangement went awry and Diane unilaterally ceased allowing
the weekly visits. In May 2017, Paul filed a motion for
post-final judgment relief, claiming that Diane had denied
his visitation time with the dogs for several weeks. Paul
requested that the Family Court enforce the MSA by ordering
Diane to comply with the visitation schedule, provide makeup
visits for the weeks denied to him, and award him
attorney's fees for his pursuit of the court-enforcement
order. Diane objected to Paul's motion and, in July 2017,
filed her own motion for relief. Diane claimed that Paul had
not properly cared for the dogs when they were with him and
had attempted to keep the dogs away from her, thereby
breaching the MSA. Diane sought to enjoin and restrain Paul
from having any time with the dogs.
justice of the Family Court held a hearing on December 4,
2017; Paul and Diane testified, and the hearing justice
reviewed text messages and emails exchanged between the
parties as well as veterinary bills and records. Diane
testified that Paul had not taken proper care of the dogs
since the couple's separation and that his failure to
properly care for the dogs constituted a breach of the MSA.
She testified that Marox returned from one visit with one of
his claws damaged, hanging and bleeding. Marox returned from
another visit with a "huge bubble on his lip."
Diane took Marox to the vet both times. According to Paul,
the MSA gave Diane complete control over the care of the
dogs, such that he could not take them to the vet or make any
decisions about their care. He testified that all he could do
was play with them. He also testified that he heard about the
damaged claw for the first time while in court and that the
bubble on Marox's lip had appeared while he was away for
a two-week work-related trip.
to Diane, the final straw for her occurred on March 29, 2017,
the last day she allowed Paul his visitation with Marox and
Winnie. That afternoon, Paul had contacted Diane because the
dogs were acting strangely and Winnie was whimpering. Paul
testified that he knew something was wrong with Winnie
because he "let out a cry" when Paul picked him up
to put him on Paul's bed. Paul called Diane and held the
phone close to Winnie so Diane could hear the tone of the
whimper. The erstwhile spouses argued through text messages
about whether Diane would pick up only Winnie to take him to
the vet or whether she would pick up both dogs because,
according to Diane, the dogs became anxious when they were
separated. Diane and Paul eventually agreed that Diane would
pick up both dogs so she could take Winnie to the vet.
Diane arrived at Paul's house, however, Marox was
missing. Paul testified that he had let the dogs out to
relieve themselves and he thought both dogs had returned
inside the house, but then he could not find
Marox. Diane testified that Marox's
disappearance was posted on Facebook and that she, friends,
and neighbors spent an hour and a half looking for the
greyhound. Paul testified that his sister helped in the
search as well. Diane testified that she "was so upset
and hysterical" during the search effort that she
"was puking on the side of the road." Eventually,
Paul found Marox, who had apparently been in his house the
entire time, stuck in a closet. Paul had been tipped off by
Winnie, who was sitting outside the closed closet door.
According to Diane, when she saw Marox, the dog was in
Paul's arms, "violently shaking, like it was
traumatized." Diane testified that she "was already
hysterical at that point[, ] [but] then [she] went right over
the top, screaming and yelling and swearing at the top of
also testified that he was emotional on March 29, crying over
Marox's disappearance both before Diane arrived and
throughout the search for Marox. He stated that he had not
tried to trick Diane by hiding Marox in a closet and then
claiming Marox had run off, and that he had been genuinely
confused because, after he had spoken with Diane on the
phone, he had let the dogs out to relieve themselves and
thought that both dogs had come back inside. He testified
that he had tried to see the dogs in the weeks following
March 29, but Diane had not responded to his communications.
During his testimony, Paul's distress about the
litigation over the dogs was palpable.
end of the hearing, Diane argued that the hearing justice
should withdraw the court's approval of the MSA because,
in light of the incidents described during the testimony, the
MSA provision allowing Paul weekly visitation was
inequitable. For his part, Paul argued that Diane had
breached the terms of the MSA, which she had ...