Most of the time that child custody is discussed, it is in the context of divorcing parents. Of course it is increasingly common for the parents of children to not be married. So what are the rights of Rhode Island parents when they are not and have never been married to the other parent? You should talk to an experienced Rhode Island family law attorney to understand how the laws are applied in your situation, but there are some basics that unmarried parents should know.
When a married woman gives birth, her spouse is legally presumed to be the parent of the child. When the mother is not married, paternity first has to be established in order for the father to be given parental rights. Establishing paternity does not necessarily require a paternity test. The father of the child can acknowledge paternity of the child. He can do this through putting his name on the birth certificate or other means. Once the father has been established, then he will have equal parenting rights as the mother, though this does not necessarily mean equal time with each parent.
Best Interest of the Child
Now that both parents have been identified, the court will use a best interest of the child standard to determine who should have custody and visitation with the child. There are two kinds of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody is who gets to make important decisions for the child such as education and healthcare decisions. Physical custody is who the child will live with.
Parental rights can also be taken away from a parent that has proven to be abusive or neglectful. For parental rights to be involuntarily terminated, there usually needs to be significant proof and the parent is unwilling to make the changes necessary to provide a safe environment.
Courts have a strong interest in preserving the relationship between the child and both biological parents. This is true even when the parents are unmarried. The Rhode Island court has laid out the specific factors the court will consider, though no factor is determinative. The factors the court will look at include the wishes of the parents regarding custody, such as who wants to have the child live with them. For older children, the court will also consider the child’s preference. They will also look at the child’s ability to interact with people who are important to them while in the different homes. For example, if the child has siblings living in one of the homes, the court will want to help the child preserve their relationship with them if at all possible.
Another best interest of the child factor that the court will look at is the child’s adjustment to the home, community, and school. In other words, if a change in custody requires moving schools, the court will try to avoid that if possible. The court will also look at the mental and physical health or the parents, the moral fitness of the parents, as well as the stability of the home environment. Finally, the court will also look at the willingness of each parent to preserve the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Contact a Skilled Rhode Island Child Custody Attorney Today!
Just because you have never been married to your child’s other parent does not mean that you do not have parental rights. You should talk to a knowledgeable Rhode Island child custody attorney to determine what legal rights and responsibilities you have. The attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, can help you to preserve one of the most important bonds: the bond between a child and parent. Email us using the form on this website or call (401) 300-4055 to set up your free consultation today!
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