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What Factors Determine the "Best Interest of the Child?"
The Supreme Court of Rhode Island has been consistent about delineating the factors that the Rhode Island family court must analyze in determining Rhode Island child custody cases. Child custody battles in Rhode Island usually occur in the context of divorce cases, post divorce cases or miscellaneous petitions between non married parents seeking custody.
The Rhode Island family court must determine what is in the "best interest of the child" This is very subjective and analytical standard. It is advisable to contact a Rhode Island divorce lawyer or a family law attorney to get legal advice concerning the facts and circumstances in your case. There are 8 basic factors that the judge should look at in determining the best interest of the child. These factors are used by the court in determining both physical and legal custody of children.
"This [C]ourt has held that child-custody awards must be made in the 'best interest[s]' of the child." quoting Petition of Loudin "[T]he best interests of the child standard remains amorphous and its implementation has been left to the sound discretion of the trial justices." Id. Several factors must be taken into consideration by the judge in making a best interests of the child determination. However, no single factor is determinative; rather "[t]he trial justice must consider a combination of and an interaction among all the relevant factors that affect the child's best interests." Among the factors the court must consider are the following:
If a parent is trying to modify an existing child custody determination / family court order then that parent must also prove a substantial change in circumstances since the last custody order. The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled "Moreover, before a final custody decree can be reopened or amended, the moving party must establish by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the conditions or circumstances existing at the time the decree was entered have so changed that it should be modified in the interest of the children's welfare." Pettinato v. Pettinato "Until and unless the moving party meets this burden, the prior custody award should remain intact."Id.
There is often conflicting allegations and factual disagreements concerning the above listed factors. Therefore, the Rhode Island family court relies heavily on Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Social Workers, DCYF Report and the opinions of the Guardian Ad Litem for the minor child.
In a Rhode Island child custody case a Guardian Ad Litem for the minor child is usually appointed. A Guardian Ad Litem is usually a divorce and family law lawyer. The Guardian Ad Litem will do a thorough investigation which usually includes a home study, and an interview of both parents. The Guardian will also review pertinent medical records, educational records for the child and other records related to the child. The Guardian's role is to determine what is in the best interest of the child and report his or her findings to the court.
A Guardian Ad Litem is very expensive. The Guardian is not an attorney for the children. The Guardians' recommendations are usually adopted by the court.
Rhode Island provides for temporary or permanent alimony. The court, in making a decision, considers the earning capacity of the spouse receiving alimony, the income of the spouse paying, education and skills, which spouse spent a majority of time as a homemaker, and the time and expense required for the receiving spouse to undergo education or training to improve employment possibilities.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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