Legal Blog

Rhode Island Custody Laws

Rhode Island custody matters are determined by the judge with the “best interest of the child” standard. When there is a disagreement about where the children should reside, it is up to the court to decide. The “best interest of the child” is rather subjective, and the decision ultimately depends on the judge’s worldview and values. Here are a few Rhode Island Custody Laws.

Preference of the Parents

There are several factors that the judge must evaluate before making his final decision. First and foremost the parents’ preference is what will determine the outcome. However, in during a divorce, both spouses often do not see eye to eye on the matter so the judge must take other factors into consideration.

Preference of the Child

In many cases, the child’s wish is taken into consideration. Divorce is emotional for everyone, so the courts do their best to find out the preference of the child with overwhelming them. If the child is very young or not mature enough to make such a big decision, the court will not put the child in the position of choosing between their parents.

Often children either cling to their father or the mother. While they surely love both their parents, they usually have a stronger relationship with one parent. The quality of the relationship between the child and parent can sway the judge’s decision. The judge should also consider the quality of the relationship between the child and other people who live with each parent. For example is the mother lives with her sister and the sister has a healthy relationship with the child, the judge will take note of this.

Child’s Adjustment to Change

Sometimes when a couple divorces one of the parents move to a neighborhood that is in a different school district, or even further away. In these cases, the judge might decide that giving custody to that parent might be too much of a disturbance to the child’s life. They would have to change schools and make new friends. Change is part of life. So this is not a guarantee that the judge will deny guardianship to the parent who moved away, but it is a part of her evaluation process. Divorce and separation can be very traumatic for a child, so in some cases, a judge may decide that changing schools would not be in the “best interest of the child.”

Mental Health of the Parents

Sometimes the cause of divorce is drug addiction or mental illness in one of the parents. If one of the parents is still recovering from addiction or mental illness, the judge may disqualify them from full guardianship because it creates an unstable home environment for the child. If one parent has a clean criminal record and another has a history of getting into trouble, the judge will certainly use this information to evaluate the moral fitness of the parents.

Stability of the Child’s Home Environment

With divorce comes financial problems. Usually, one spouse leaves the residence while the other stays in the original house or apartment. While it’s not necessary that the spouse who is leaving buys a large home, it should be a suitable environment for raising children. It doesn’t need to be a mansion; it can be a small apartment, but ideally the child will have their own room or personal space.

The Judge’s Decision: Rhode Island Custody

The judge has a variety of options to choose from when making a decision. She may decide that Sole Legal Custody is in the best interest of the child. Sole Legal Custody is when one of the parents is given the authority to make all the decisions such as medical, religion, and education without the input of the other parent.

Joint Legal Custody in Rhode Island

Another possibility is Joint Legal Custody. This means that both parents share the responsibility for making decisions for the child’s upbringing and welfare. This option is ideal for many parents because a 50/50 split sounds fair. However, it requires a high level of maturity since they must be in agreement on many issues. In many divorce cases, the inability to agree and work together is what got them there in the first place. It may not be practical for some parents.

Other Possible Arrangements in Rhode Island Custody

It is possible that the judge decides that physical placement is best. This is when the child lives with one parent full-time, receives child support from the other parent, and allows the other parent to visit with the child often.

Depending on the circumstances, the judge may grant shared physical placement. This is where the child bounces back and forth. Each case is different. In some cases, the child may spend half the week with each parent, and in other cases, the child will spend half the month with each parent. For this to work, both parents must agree to the arrangement.

If there are multiple children, it’s possible that the judge decides it would be best to split the kids up so that each parent has a child.

Same-Sex Couples and Rhode Island Custody

In traditional marriages, both spouses are the biological parents of the child. With same-sex couples, only one spouse is the biological parent. To establish parental rights, they must go through the adoption process. Otherwise, it is possible that they lose custody in a divorce because there is no legal relationship.