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The Factors Rhode Island Courts Consider When Making Child-Custody Determinations

While many issues must be resolved when spouses separate, child custody matters are frequently the most hotly contested issues in a Rhode Island divorce. The term “child custody” refers to two separate types of custody, physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child will live while legal custody refers to the parents’ ability to make important life decisions for their children.

Each state has its own laws regulating how judges resolve child custody issues. In Rhode Island, courts use the “best interest” standard, which focuses primarily on what is in the best interest of the child. Of course, this may not necessarily be in line with the expressed interests of the child, especially if they are young. Interestingly, Rhode Island lawmakers never defined what factors courts should consider when deciding what is in the best interest of a child. Thus, in the 1990 case, Pettinato v. Pettinato, the Rhode Island Supreme Court listed several factors that should be considered. Since then, these factors have been termed the “Pettinato factors.” Therefore, when deciding what is in the best interest of a child, courts must consider each of the following:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents;
  • The preference of the child, if the child is “of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference”;
  • The child’s relationship with her parents, siblings, or anyone else who may impact the best interest of the child;
  • The child’s adjustment to her home, school, and community;
  • The physical and mental health of the child as well as the parents;
  • The stability of the child’s home environment;
  • The moral fitness of each of the child’s parents; and
  • The willingness of each parent to foster a meaningful relationship with the other parent.

Under Rhode Island Statute section 15-5-16, the court must provide visitation rights to the noncustodial parent, unless the custodial parent can show good cause as to why visitation should not be granted. When a court orders visitation, both the custodial parent and the children are bound by that order.

If a custodial parent fails to comply with the court-ordered visitation schedule, the court has discretion in crafting a remedy. However, if the custodial parent again fails to comply, “the court shall consider this to be grounds for a change of custody to the noncustodial parent.”

Are You Involved in a Rhode Island Child Custody Dispute?

If you are currently going through a Rhode Island divorce, or are involved in a Rhode Island child custody dispute, the dedicated Rhode Island family law attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo can help. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we have a dedicated team of Rhode Island divorce lawyers who are experienced in handling a wide range of child custody issues for our clients. We understand that we enter our clients’ lives at a very difficult time, and take every precaution to make the process as straightforward as possible, while providing unwavering support and zealous advocacy. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 401-300-4055 to schedule a free consultation today.

See Related Posts:

What Is an Easement in Rhode Island Real Estate Law?, Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Blog, February 13, 2019.

How Do Courts Divide Assets in a Rhode Island Divorce?, Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 29, 2019.

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