Simeng Wu-Carter v. Thomas G.J. Carter

March 14, 2018 Supreme Court No. 2017-49-Appeal. (K 15-592) Simeng Wu-Carter : v. : Thomas G.J. Carter. : NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Rhode Island Reporter. Readers are requested to notify the Opinion Analyst, Supreme Court of Rhode Island, 250 Benefit Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02903, at Tel. 222-3258 of any typographical or other formal errors in order that corrections may be made before the opinion is published. Supreme Court No. 2017-49-Appeal. (K 15-592) Simeng Wu-Carter : v. : Thomas G.J. Carter. : Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ. OPINION Justice Flaherty, for the Court. The defendant, Thomas Carter, appeals from a Family Court decision pending entry of final judgment following a divorce proceeding. The trial justice found the marital estate to be virtually nonexistent, with most of the disputed assets belonging solely to the plaintiff, Simeng Wu-Carter. Thomas disagrees with that finding; he argues that the trial justice erred in not identifying certain assets as marital property, which would have been subject to equitable distribution upon divorce. 1 This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not summarily be decided. After considering the parties’ written and oral submissions and after 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 below, we affirm in part and vacate in part the 1 To avoid confusion, we refer to the parties by their first names. No disrespect is intended. -1- Family Court decision pending entry of final judgment, and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. I Facts and Travel A The Marriage and Its Dissolution It appears that the short-lived marriage between Simeng and Thomas was doomed from “I do.” The couple met in the summer of 2012 via an online dating service. Just a few short months later, they planned to wed on October 20, 2012, on Cape Cod. Turmoil arose shortly before the wedding, however, when Thomas revealed to Simeng that, in fact, they could not be legally married at that time because his divorce from his third wife had yet to be finalized in California. Not surprisingly, this fact caused Simeng, a Chinese citizen, significant distress. Her visa, allowing her to remain in the United States, was scheduled to expire in February 2013, and this surprising and unwelcome hitch in her plans to marry Thomas meant she would soon lose her status to remain lawfully in this country. According to Simeng, she “was deceived” by Thomas as to his legal ability to marry her. She testified that he had assured her that his lawyer would be able to backdate his divorce so that their wedding would result in a valid marriage. This apparently false assurance—further complicated by the fact that Simeng had already made arrangements for her parents ...

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