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Rhode Island Child Custody
Child Custody in Rhode Island

According to Rhode Island Domestic Relations Law, Title 15, Section 15-5-19, the court determines custody when the parents cannot.

Like all jurisdictions, when the Rhode Island court makes child custody decisions, it does so based on the best interests of the child. Rhode Island law breaks child custody into two categories: legal custody, which is the right to make major decisions about the child's upbringing (health care, education and religious training), and what is called "physical placement," which is what most people know as physical custody, or the daily care of the child.

Parents with legal custody may access the child's medical and education records. Normally parents share legal custody of their children, but In certain cases, one parent may have sole legal custody of a child, which means that only that parent makes major decisions about the child's upbringing.

The court may award either or both parents physical placement. The parent who does not have physical placement of the child may have reasonable rights of visitation. 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.

The court exercises great discretion in determining a child's best interests. In so doing, the court considers:

  • 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;
  • the moral fitness of each parent; and
  • the willingness of each parent 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.

Parental Conduct

The Rhode Island courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. 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.

Visitation

The Rhode Island courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The parent who was not granted custody may obtain reasonable visitation unless it would put the child at risk. If the visitation parent has a history of domestic violence, the court makes arrangements that protect the child and the other parent, including supervised visitation or a bond to ensure the return and safety of the child. The courts can establish visitation, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

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