Providence County P 15-1342 Family Court John E. McCann, III
Plaintiff: Robert S. Parker, Esq. Deborah M. Tate, Esq.
Defendant: William J. Lynch, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Francis X. Flaherty Associate Justice.
defendant, Erin Saltzman, appeals from a Family Court final
judgment of divorce. Dissatisfied with the judgment, the
defendant filed a timely appeal, raising an array of issues.
This case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument
pursuant to an order directing the parties to show cause why
the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily
decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and
thoroughly examining 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 in part and vacate in part the
judgment of the Family Court, and we remand the case to that
tribunal for further findings.
plaintiff, Adam Saltzman, and the defendant, Erin, were
married on September 26, 2009, and two minor children were
born of the marriage. Adam filed a complaint for divorce from
Erin on July 30, 2015, citing irreconcilable differences that
had led to the breakdown of the marriage.
time of their marriage both parties resided in New York City.
During the early days of their marriage in 2009, Erin and
Adam were both employed; he as a physician and she as a buyer
for Macy's department store. However, in May 2011, when
Adam accepted a two-year fellowship at Massachusetts General
Hospital, Erin gave up her job and the couple relocated to
Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2013, they relocated again, this
time to Barrington, after Adam accepted a position at
Southcoast Health in Massachusetts. At the time of trial,
Adam was the sole breadwinner through his work as a
cardiologist, and he earned a salary of $550, 000 per year.
Erin was the primary caregiver for the children.
to the testimony at trial, the couple began to experience
increasing tension in their relationship. The domestic
difficulties were no doubt exacerbated by Erin's frequent
trips to her family's home in Ohio. During one of those
trips, Adam began an illicit relationship with another woman.
In fact, in his decision, the trial justice found that Adam
had been "less than candid with his responses in
deposition testimony and discovery as to his sexual
involvement with another woman, which he later modified prior
to trial." Although the trial justice found that
Adam's infidelity ultimately led to the couple's
separation, he also determined that each party had
contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.
end of the proceeding, the trial justice granted the
complaint for divorce of each party based on irreconcilable
differences that had led to the irremediable breakdown of the
marriage. In his decision pending entry of final judgment,
the trial justice awarded the parties joint custody of the
minor children, with physical placement with Erin. However,
he denied Erin's request to relocate to Ohio with the
children. The trial justice also ordered Adam to pay (1) the
costs to maintain the marital domicile for a period of thirty
months, at which point the home would be sold; (2) alimony in
the amount of $50, 000, which would be treated as a
contribution towards the costs of maintaining the marital
home for thirty months; and (3) child support in the amount
of $5, 500 per month. With respect to the marital estate, the
trial justice ordered that the marital domicile be sold at
the expiration of the thirty-month period and that Erin would
receive 70 percent of the net proceeds and Adam the remaining
30 percent. The balance of the marital estate was to be
divided evenly between the parties. The trial justice also
ordered both parties to pay their own attorneys' fees
except for the sanction the trial justice imposed on Adam for
his lack of candor. Finally, the court awarded Adam
reasonable visitation rights with the minor children,
including alternate weekends and overnight visitations on
Mondays and Wednesdays. Erin appealed, and we remanded the
case for entry of final judgment, which occurred on December
this Court, Erin argues that the trial justice erred in (1)
denying her request to relocate with the children to Ohio;
(2) awarding temporary use of the home to her for thirty
months, after which the home would be sold; (3) the
calculation of child support; (4) the award of attorneys'
fees and costs; (5) the equitable distribution of marital
property; (6) setting the visitation schedule; and (7) the
amount of sanctions imposed on Adam. We address each issue in
argues that the trial justice abused his discretion when he
denied her request to relocate to Ohio with the minor
children. Specifically, Erin asserts that the trial justice
failed to adequately consider Erin's enhanced housing and
employment opportunities in Ohio; the short time the children
have lived in Rhode Island; the difference in degree of past
parental involvement; and the support network available to
the children in Ohio, as opposed to the lesser support
network available to them in Rhode Island.
is a firmly established principle in family law that the
paramount consideration in relocation cases is the best
interests of the child or children." Ainsworth v.
Ainsworth, 186 A.3d 1074, 1081 (R.I. 2018) (emphasis
omitted) (quoting DePrete v. DePrete, 44 A.3d 1260,
1271 (R.I. 2012)). "The determination of what is in the
best interests of the children is 'appropriately placed
in the sound discretion of the trial justice.'"
Id. (quoting Dupré v. Dupré,
857 A.2d 242, 256 (R.I. 2004)). "On review, this Court
will not disturb the findings of fact made by a justice of
the Family Court with respect to the issue of custody and the
best interests of the children unless the hearing justice
abused his or her discretion in making such findings."
Id. (brackets omitted) (quoting DePrete, 44
A.3d at 1270). "Accordingly, we will affirm the Family
Court's ruling 'unless the trial justice's
factual findings overlooked or misconceived material evidence
or were clearly wrong.'" Id. (quoting
McDonough v. McDonough, 962 A.2d 47, 52 (R.I.
evaluating the best interests of the child as to relocation,
the trial justice is required to address the eight factors
articulated in Dupré. Ainsworth, 186
A.3d at 1082. The trial justice also must consider the eight
factors articulated in Pettinato v. Pettinato, 58
A.2d 909 (R.I. 1990). Id. "[W]e accord
deference to the sound discretion of the hearing justice in
assessing and weighing both sets of factors because it is the
trial justice who is in the best position to determine what
factors may be relevant on a case-by-case basis."
Id. at 1083 (brackets and deletion omitted) (quoting
Dupré, 857 A.2d at 257).
Dupré, we identified the following eight
factors upon which evidence should be presented in cases
involving the relocation of children:
"(1) The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and
duration of the child's relationship with the parent
proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating parent.
"* * *
"(2) The reasonable likelihood that the relocation will
enhance the general quality of life for both the child and
the parent seeking the relocation, including, but not limited
to, economic and emotional benefits, and educational
opportunities. "(3) The probable impact that the
relocation will have on the child's physical,
educational, and emotional development. Any special needs of
the child should also be taken into account in considering
"(4) The feasibility of preserving the relationship
between the non-relocating parent and child through suitable
visitation arrangements, considering the logistics and
financial circumstances of the parties. "* * *
"(5) The existence of extended family or other support
systems available to the child in both locations.
"(6) Each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing
the relocation. "* * *
"(7) In cases of international relocation, the question
of whether the country to which the child is to be relocated
is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects
of International Child Abduction will be an important
"(8) To the extent that they may be relevant to a
relocation inquiry, the Pettinato factors also will
be significant." Dupré, 857 A.2d at
257-59 (internal citations omitted).
Ainsworth, this Court repeated that "'no
single Dupré factor is dispositive' and
that 'each case will present its own unique circumstances
that a trial justice must balance and weigh as he or she
deems appropriate.'" Ainsworth, 186 A.3d at
1082 (brackets omitted) (quoting Valkoun v. Frizzle,
973 A.2d 566, 577 (R.I. 2009)).
Pettinato, we identified the following eight factors
to be weighed in the analysis of the best interests of the
"1. The wishes of the child's parent or parents
regarding the child's custody.
"2. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court
deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence,
understanding, and ...