Divorces and custody cases in Rhode Island can be some of the most contentious and protracted proceedings that are heard by state courts. The intense emotion and resentment between parties in family law disputes often lead cases down a dark road where the best interests of any children at issue seem distant from the actual arguments taking place in court. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently ruled on an appeal of a custody order that gave a father joint custody of his child, while finding the mother in contempt for interfering with his visitation.
The plaintiff in the recently decided case is the father of a six-year-old boy who sought partial custody and visitation with the child from the defendant, the mother of the child. According to the facts discussed in the judicial opinion, the mother claimed throughout the proceedings that the father suffered from psychological issues and was not able to safely be with the child one-on-one. After a trial that lasted nearly two years, the family court ultimately awarded the parties joint custody of the child, with the mother as the primary caretaker, and the father having reasonable visitation. In spite of the court order, the mother continued to refuse the father meaningful parent time with the child alone, ultimately leading to the family court holding her in contempt.
The mother appealed both the family court’s judgment and the contempt order to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, arguing that the court’s judgment was erroneous. The Supreme Court upheld the lower courts rulings, noting and applying the factors that Rhode Island law considers when determining child custody: (1) the wishes of the child’s parents; (2) the reasonable preference of the child; (3) the interaction and relationship of the child to the parents; (4) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; (5) the mental and physical health of the individuals involved; (6) the stability of the child’s home life; (7) the moral fitness of the parents; and (8) the willingness of each parent to facilitate a close relationship between the child and the other parent. Finding that the decision to give the father joint custody and reasonable parent time considered and properly applied the relevant factors, the high court affirmed the family court’s ruling.