Rhode IslandChild Custody Law
Rhode Island Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Rhode Island can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Rhode Island court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Rhode Island, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Rhode Island in child custody cases include the child's wishes, willingness of the parent to cooperate with their partner and any history of domestic violence.
In determining whether an appointment should be made, the court shall consider the extent to which a guardian ad litem may assist in providing information concerning the best interest of the child; the age of the child; the wishes of the parents as well as their financial resources; the nature of the proceeding including the level of contentiousness, allegations of child abuse or domestic violence and the risk of harm to the child if a guardian is not appointed; or conflicts of interest between the child and parents or siblings; (ii) The guardian ad litem shall be appointed from a list of persons properly credentialed pursuant to administrative orders of the chief judge of the family court; (iii) The court shall enter an order of appointment stating the specific assignment the optional and mandatory duties of the guardian ad litem, the guardian's access to the child and confidential information regarding the child, and a provision for payment of the costs and fees of the guardian ad litem; (iv) Communications made to a guardian, including those made by a child, are not privileged and may or may not be disclosed to the parties, the court or to professionals providing services to the child or the family; (v) The guardian ad litem shall meet with the child, conduct an investigation and upon request of the court shall prepare an oral or written report that contains the procedural background of the case, identification of all persons interviewed and other sources of information, a statement of the child's emotional, medical, educational and social service needs, the child's wishes and other factors relevant to the court's determination regarding the best interests of the child; (vi) Any written report of the guardian ad litem shall be marked as a full exhibit in the proceedings, subject to cross-examination; (vii) If the guardian ad litem requests confidential health care information and consent is withheld, he or she shall apply to the court for leave to obtain such information after compliance with § 5-37.3-6.1; (viii) The guardian ad litem shall be given notice of and should appear at all proceedings in family court that affect the interests of the child; (ix) A person serving as a guardian ad litem under this section acts as the court's agent and is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for acts performed within the scope of the duties of the guardian ad litem; (x) The chief judge of the family court shall issue, through administrative orders, rules governing the appointment and performance of guardians ad litem in domestic proceedings.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Rhode Island judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Rhode Island, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Rhode Island's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Rhode Island?
Rhode Island does not have a defined list of factors for the court to consider when determing a custody order. This means that judges have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis when determining a custody arrangement between two parents.
Do judges in the state of Rhode Island favor joint custody?
Judges in Rhode Island are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Rhode Island do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
Do Rhode Island courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
Rhode Island courts favor awarding custody to a cooperative parent who is willing to work together with the other parent regarding child visitation, scheduling, child support, and other co-parenting matters. Rhode Island law favors co-parenting as being in the best interests of the child, and the courts will favor a parent willing to cooperate over a parent who attempts to alienate their child from the other parent.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Rhode Island courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Rhode Island has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Rhode Island have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Rhode Island has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.