The Providence Family Court judge utilize the “best interest of the child” standard in Rhode Island Child Custody and Child Visitation cases. The Factors a Kent County Family Judge utilized in making a “best interest of the child” decision are memorialized in the important RI case law of Pettinato v Pettinato, 589 A.2d 909 (R.I. 1990)
Legal Custody in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Custody decisions are made by justices in all types of RI Family Court matters including visitation, post divorce, divorce and child custody causes of action. The Providence family Court judge may grant sole custody to either parent or make an award of joint custody to both parents of the minor children.
What is Sole Legal custody in Rhode Island?
Sole Legal Custody in RI is when one parent may make all major decisions concerning a children’s health, welfare and upbringing. A parent with sole custody needs not without consult with the other parent. Major decisions could include educational, medical, religious, and welfare decisions. The parent with sole custody of the child will usually have placement of the child. The parent with “sole custody” has complete access to medical, educational and other records related to the child.
Joint Legal Custody (Child Custody) in Rhode Island Family Court
Joint Legal Custody means both parents should be involved in major decisions concerning a child’s education, medical, upbringing, and religious welfare. Theoretically, both parents with joint custody have equal rights in making important decisions regarding their child or children. Both parents have full rights to access all medical, educational and other records pertaining to the child. In order for joint Custody to be feasible, the parents must have some level of communication and respect for each other to allow them to co-parent.
Physical Placement – Physical custody
The Court must also award to one parent physical placement of the child or children. Physical placement is where the child will be living on a day to day basis. Physical placement is also commonly known as “physical custody” The parent who does not have physical custody of the child will have reasonable visitation rights. The parent with physical placement of a minor child has the right to receive Rhode Island Child support from the parent who has visitation rights. Child Support is typically determined by the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines
Shared Physical Placement in Rhode Island
Shared Physical placement (Shared Physical custody) is when the child splits time residing with both parents. Shared Physical placement is relatively rare in Rhode Island. In some instances the child may be placed with one parent for half the week and then the other parent the other half of the week. Some parents will alternate weeks or months. This type of arrangement is usually only done by agreement of the parties and is rarely ordered by the Court Absent an agreement.
Split Physical Placement in RI
Split physical Placement is when one child lives with the father and one child lives with the mother. It can also be when the children are split in away so that at least one child lives with a parent and at least one child lives with mother.
Best interest of Child Standard in Rhode Island
If the Parents cannot agree to Legal Custody, Physical Placement or Visitation, then The RI 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 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 interest 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:
1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents regarding the child’s custody.
2. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
4. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community.
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
6. The stability of the child’s home environment.
7. The moral fitness of the child’s parents.
8. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.” Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909, 913-14 (R.I. 1990). Annotate this Case 582 A.2d 909 (1990) Gregory J. PETTINATO v. Susanne L. PETTINATO.No. 89-56-A.Supreme Court of Rhode Island.November 30, 1990.*910 Joseph Sciacca, Palombo & Piccirilli, Providence, for plaintiff. Karen Pelczarski, William Landry, Blish & Cavanagh, Providence, for defendant.OPINION SHEA, Justice.)
In many contested child custody cases, Professionals such as Social workers, Therapists, Psychologists, and the Guardian ad litem for the children may play a major role.
Rhode Island Attorneys legal Notice per RI Rules of Professional Responsibility:
The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers / attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer or attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.
“Moreover, under certain circumstances, even the existence of a developed biological, parent-child relationship such as that between DiCenzo and this child will not prevent others from acquiring parental rights vis-à-vis the child. See, e.g.,Troxel, ___ U.S. at ___, 120 S.Ct. at 2061, 147 L.Ed.2d at 58 (“special factors * * * might justify the State’s interference with [the biological mother’s] fundamental right to make decisions concerning the rearing of her [children]”); Michael H. v. Gerald D.,491 U.S. 110, 109 S.Ct. 2333, 105 L.Ed.2d 91 (1989). In Michael H., the Court held that a developed relationship within a family unit between a nonbiological parent and a child can, under certain circumstances, warrant more legal protection by a state than the equally developed relationship between the child and the biological parent outside the family unit because of “the historic respect — indeed, sanctity would not be too strong a term — traditionally accorded to the relationships that develop within the unitary family.” Id. at 123, 109 S.Ct. at 2342, 105 L.Ed.2d at 106. Significantly, theMichael H. plurality opinion stated that “[t]he family unit accorded traditional respect * * * is typified, of course, by the marital family, but also includes the household of unmarried parents and their children.” Id. at 123 n.3, 109 S.Ct. at 2342 n.3, 105 L.Ed.2d at 106 n.3. (Emphasis added.) Indeed “[t]he demographic changes of the past century make it difficult to speak of an average American family.” Troxel, ___ U.S. at ___, 120 S.Ct. at 2059, 147 L.Ed.2d at 55.” 759 A.2d 959 (2000) Maureen V. RUBANO v.Concetta A. DiCENZO.No. 97-604-A.Supreme Court of Rhode Island. September 25, 2000. 960*960 961*961 Present: WEISBERGER, C.J. LEDERBERG, BOURCIER, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ. Cynthia M. Gifford, Cherrie R. Perkins, Providence, for plaintiff. Rosina L. Hunt, Woonsocket, Maureen Slack DiCristofaro, Richard S. Cardozo, Cumberland, Donna M. Nesselbush, Providence, Mary L. Bonauto, Boston, MA, for defendant.
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