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Child Custody in Rhode Island

One of the most difficult things about a divorce is often deciding who gets custody of the children. In some cases, parents are able to make arrangements between themselves that they feel best suit the needs of their children. However, often times parents cannot resolve their differences of opinion regarding child custody and the court must step in to make the decision. Parents in Rhode Island should be aware of the different types of child custody and how Rhode Island courts make custody determinations.

Types of Child Custody in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Law breaks child custody into two different categories:

  • Legal custody: Legal custody is the right to be involved in major decisions about the upbringing of a child regarding issues such as health care, education and religious training. Both parents with legal custody may access the child's medical and education records. Commonly, parents share legal custody of their children. In certain cases, one parent may have sole legal custody of a child, meaning that only that parent has the right to make these decisions about the child's upbringing to the exclusion of the other parent.
  • Physical placement: Physical placement is what most people know as physical custody. When a parent has physical placement of a child, he or she is responsible for the daily care of the child. The court may award either parent physical placement, and the parent who does not have physical placement of the child may have reasonable rights of visitation. Where appropriate, a Court may prevent a parent from having visitation with the child or put in place conditions of visitation to protect the welfare of the child. In some cases, usually upon the request of both parents, the court will award shared physical placement in which case the child divides his or her time between both parents' homes. Finally, the court may order split physical placement, in which one or more children live with either parent, and siblings do not all live together.

Child Custody Determinations in Rhode Island

When the court makes child custody decisions, it does so based on the best interests of the child or children involved. The court has great discretion in determining a child's best interests, but the court must weigh several factors in its analysis, including:

  • The parents' wishes regarding custody.
  • The child's preference, if he or has sufficient understanding to express one.
  • The child's relationship with each parent, as well as with any siblings or others who significantly affect the child's best interest.
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community.
  • The stability of the child's home environment.
  • The mental and physical health of each parent.
  • Each parent's moral fitness.
  • Each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent.

The court is free to consider any other information it finds relevant to the child's best interests. This may often include input from professionals such as therapists, social workers or a Guardian ad Litem.

Talk to an Attorney

Child custody matters can seem overwhelming to many parents, since they are so concerned with the welfare of their children. Parents should not try to handle child custody issues without the guidance of a seasoned child custody attorney who has a history of success in handling child custody cases.

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John L. Quigley, Jr.
215 Broadway
Providence RI 02903

Phone: 401-965-4517
Fax: 401-453-1230
Providence Law Office