Published on:

Rhode Island’s Standard for Awarding Child Custody and Permitting Relocation in Divorce Proceedings

A Rhode Island divorce can be an extremely difficult and complicated legal dispute, often because the stakes of a child custody dispute are always very high. Although there is limited statutory direction to guide the courts when awarding custody of a child to one parent or the other, the courts have developed legal principles that are used consistently in deciding how to award custody. A case recently decided by the Rhode Island Supreme Court explains the primary factors courts should use in making a custody determination and deciding whether to permit a parent to move out of state with their children against the other parent’s wishes.

In the recently decided case, the parties were a married couple with children who sought a divorce in Rhode Island family court. The mother, who was awarded primary physical custody of the children, sought to relocate to Ohio to be near her family after the divorce. The father, who was awarded joint legal custody of the children, as well as visitation privileges, challenged the mother’s relocation because he wanted to be closer to the children. The family court denied the mother’s request, requiring her to remain in Rhode Island with the children. The mother appealed the ruling to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

On appeal, the high court discussed the factors for awarding child custody used in Rhode Island. According to the opinion, the courts focus broadly on factors to make a decision concerning relocation that is in the best interests of the children. These factors include considering the nature and quality of the relationship between each parent and the children, the reasonable likelihood that the relocation would enhance the general quality of life, including economic and educational opportunities, for both the parent and the children. Additional factors to be considered include the feasibility of maintaining a relationship and suitable visitation between the non-relocating parent and the children and the existence of extended family and other support systems available to the child in both locations.

A family court is supposed to weigh all of these factors together and make a decision whether the relocation would be in the best interest of the children. The family court in the recently decided case made such findings, and determined that it would be better for the children to stay in Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court did not find there was an abuse of discretion in that decision. As a result of this ruling, the mother will not be permitted to move to Ohio with her children and will instead be required to stay in Rhode Island.

Answers to Questions or Concerns About a Rhode Island Custody Case

If you are involved in or anticipating a custody dispute arising from a Rhode Island divorce or parentage claim, it is important to have a qualified Rhode Island family law attorney by your side from the start of the proceedings. Family courts are given wide discretion to make decisions that can greatly impact the lives of you and your children, and obtaining quality representation will give you the best chance to make your case effectively to the court. The experienced family law attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo understand Rhode Island child custody law and can help you get the results you desire. Contact us at Bilodeau Capalbo at 401-300-4055 to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney today.

Contact Information