When a couple decides to end their relationship, it is never an easy thing considering they have to untie the life they built together, especially if they were married. An added challenge is when the couple shares one or more children, and they now have to decide the custody of those children since they will no longer be living together as parents. Rhode Island Child custody battles can be very emotionally charged for the parents as well as for the children. The state of Rhode Island, like most other states in the country, has adopted the “best interests of the child” standard as a means to help it make the best possible child custody decisions.
Deciding Child Custody in Rhode Island
Rhode Island family law has determined that courts need to make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child involved in a case. This law also outlines the different factors the judge must consider when making his or her decision, which include the following:
Desires of Both Parents
Although not common, there are some situations where one parent involved in the case does not want custody of the child. In these cases, the judge is very unlikely to award custody to the parent expressing they do not want it or the responsibility. In other situations, the wishes of a parent who shows a strong desire to have Rhode Island child custody and has a commitment to parenting are considered and often hold great weight. If the parents are able to come up with a custody agreement on their own, it is very likely the court will honor this agreement as long as it is in the best interests of the child.
Desires of the Child or Children
In some cases, the court also takes the child’s wishes into consideration. Before this can occur, the judge needs to determine if the child has the level of intelligence and experience to make a reasonable choice on who he or she wishes to reside with. A child that shows he or she is mature should have higher insights into the type of home environment they would prefer as well as the parenting styles of both parents. An example of this is the judge considering the child’s wishes to maintain a close relationship with loving grandparents.
Mental and Physical Health of All Parties
In addition to the wishes of all parties, the court also takes the mental wellness and physical health of all parties into account. It is important that the child’s physical, mental, and developmental needs are met, and that the parents with child custody in Rhode Island are willing and able to meet these needs. For example, the judge may give custody of a child with special needs to the parent with the most experience in caring for that child. Additionally, it is important that the parents be in good physical and mental health in order to care for the child properly.
Courts in Rhode Island and across the country believe that children require a stable living environment in order to thrive. Thus, the judge takes a close look into the living environment of both parents and their living habits in order to determine what the best and most stable living situation is for the child. If one parent has moved around a lot, changed jobs and schedules often, or has had many different roommates living in the home, the judge may be less likely to grant that parent Rhode Island child custody since the living environment is not stable and does not provide continuity for the child.
“Moral Fitness” of Both Parents
While moral fitness is not specifically defined, the court system does believe that this factor is relevant to children’s development. An example of this may be a judge being hesitant to give custody to a parent who shows a pattern of lying both inside and outside of court or parents who do not make the most moral decisions when it comes to themselves or their children.
Parents Ability to Cooperate
The ability of both parents to cooperate with one another is a deciding factor for the judge, especially if he or she is considering a joint custody decision. The court looks at the parents’ ability to communicate with one another and cooperate on important decisions, and also each parent’s willingness to promote a healthy and loving relationship between the child and the other parent. For example, judges likely do not favor a parent who speaks damagingly of the other parent.
Child Custody Modification in Rhode Island
At some point, there may come a need for modifications to be made to a standing Rhode Island child custody agreement. This often occurs as children grow older and their needs or schedules change or as the parents see changes in their own lives, such as a new job or a new work schedule. When this occurs, if the parents are in agreement to the changes that need to be made, the judge is likely to honor the modification as long as it upholds the best interests of the child. However, should there be a disagreement on the changes, the parents need to go through the court system for approval.
If one parent is wishing to make a modification and the other parent does not agree, the parent who wishes to make the change carries the burden of proving why the modification is necessary. Family courts do not like to approve a lot of modifications since it disrupts the child’s schedule and daily routine, which can be detrimental for child development – because of this, the bar is set very high for proving why a modification is needed. In order for the modification to be approved, the parent needs to convince the judge that the change is in the best interests of the child.
Custody and Relocation in Rhode Island
Should the parents have a sole custody agreement and the parent with custody wants to relocate, it can often cause many issues for both parents. A relocation in this situation could mean that fulfilling visitation with the other parent becomes more difficult or that he or she is not able to see the child as often as he or she currently is. Again, the parent wishing to relocate needs to prove to the judge that the relocation is necessary and that it is in the best interests of the child. Some of the factors the court considers when making a relocation decision include:
- Why the relocation is being requested
- Why the relocation is being protested by the other parent
- What perceived benefits the child will see from the relocation
- How the relocation will affect the current child custody agreement
- What alternative means of communication are available for the child and the other parent