Providence County P 14-2875 Family Court Patricia K. Asquith
Plaintiff: Jesse Nason, Esq.
Defendant: Andrew Smith, Pro Se
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia JJ.
Maureen McKenna Goldberg Associate Justice.
pro se defendant, Andrew Smith, appeals from
decisions of the Family Court granting an absolute divorce to
defendant and his former wife, Terry Ann Smith, the
plaintiff, and ordering an equitable distribution of their
marital assets. This case came before the Supreme Court for
oral argument on March 5, 2019, 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
a close review of the record and careful consideration of the
parties' written and oral arguments, we are satisfied
that cause has not been shown and proceed to decide the
appeal at this time. For the reasons set forth herein, we
affirm the decisions of the Family Court.
contentious litigation began on November 11, 2014, when
plaintiff filed a complaint for divorce from defendant and
the case was assigned to the Family Court general magistrate.
The defendant, who was represented by counsel at the time,
filed an answer and counterclaim for divorce on December 23,
2014. Both parties cited irreconcilable
differences that led to the irremediable breakdown of the
marriage as the grounds for divorce.
thereafter, on January 16, 2015, the parties were heard on
their motions for temporary allowances and, pursuant to a
consent order, agreed, inter alia, to sell four
parcels of real estate. However, defendant's obstructive
and bad-faith interference with the efforts to sell the real
estate led the general magistrate to appoint a commissioner
to effectuate the transactions. Nevertheless,
defendant-determined to prevent the sales-filed several
disingenuous motions seeking to block the sales and remove
the real estate commissioner; filed mechanic's liens on
two parcels; and, most egregiously, purportedly conveyed one
of the properties to a third party for the consideration of
record also reflects that defendant deliberately sought to
deceive the court, refused to comply with discovery requests,
and engaged in vexatious litigation practices by filing a
multitude of frivolous motions and appealing nearly every
decision by the general magistrate.The plaintiff appropriately
sought sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the Family Court
Rules of Procedure for Domestic Relations, claiming that
defendant's motions were meritless and designed to harass
and cause unnecessary delay, thereby needlessly increasing
the costs of litigation. Given defendant's numerous
pending appeals and frivolous motions, this case was
ultimately reassigned to a justice of the Family Court.
December 18, 2017, three years after the initial complaint
was filed and after testimony spanning five months, the trial
justice granted both parties an absolute divorce and issued a
ninety-five-page written decision. The trial justice made 113
findings of fact as to the procedural history of the case.
Next, the trial justice reviewed the testimony and set forth
the various assets and debts of the parties. After reviewing
the parties' circumstances and conduct during the
marriage, the trial justice then proceeded to an equitable
distribution of the marital property in accordance with G.L.
1956 § 15-5-16.1. Notably, when addressing "either
party's wasteful dissipation of assets[, ]" the
trial justice recounted defendant's "egregious
behaviors in this case[, ]" as well as his unwavering
efforts to prevent the Family Court from granting a divorce,
all while depleting the marital assets.
trial justice addressed defendant's request for alimony,
which, after examining the statutory factors set forth in
§ 15-5-16 and reincorporating her previous findings, she
denied. The trial justice then considered plaintiff's
complaint for protection from abuse. She found that defendant
had placed plaintiff in fear of imminent physical harm, and,
thus, granted the relief. Finally, the trial justice
addressed plaintiff's request for Rule 11 sanctions
against defendant and concluded that, given
"[d]efendant's vexatious filing of baseless
[m]otions" for the "sole purpose and intent to
harass the [p]laintiff and dissipate the marital assets[,
]" defendant had violated Rule 11, and, thus, ordered
him to pay plaintiff's attorneys' fees.
the trial justice made ninety-seven additional findings of
fact. Notably, she found that, in light of defendant's
willful depletion of marital assets and interference with
plaintiff's efforts to preserve the value of the marital
assets, it was equitable to award plaintiff a
disproportionate amount of the marital assets. She awarded
plaintiff 70 percent of various sums that defendant had
withdrawn or withheld from the joint marital account. She
further awarded plaintiff $30, 394.81, which represented 70
percent of the "marital assets which were depleted from
the marital estate solely due to [d]efendant's misdeeds[,
]" as well as $82, 550, which represented
plaintiff's 50 percent share of the value of the property
that defendant had conveyed for the consideration of one
cent. Upon granting the parties' prayers for divorce, the
trial justice proceeded to divide the marital estate. From
this decision, defendant appealed. Thereafter, on June 19,
2018, on remand from that appeal, the ...