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Understanding How Rhode Island Courts Determine What is in the Best Interest of a Child

Custody-related agreements and changes can be a tricky legal landscape to navigate, especially when the parties disagree and children are involved. For example, if one parent wants to alter the terms of the couple’s custody agreement by moving to a new state with their child, the alteration of the couple’s agreement could be subject to determinations by a Rhode Island family court. When a family court evaluates such requests, they typically have to decide what is in the best interest of the child so that everyone involved has their needs met.

In a recent state Supreme Court decision, the court affirmed a family court order denying a mother’s motion to relocate with the parties’ child. In the case at hand, the parties shared joint custody of their child, with physical placement with the mother. The mother filed a motion to relocate with her child from Rhode Island to New Jersey, stating reasons associated with her employment and overall welfare and happiness. The father filed an objection to the mother’s motion and emphasized the need for shared parenting and the fact that the parties’ families were both located in Rhode Island. After hearing testimony from both parties, the trial justice denied the mother’s request to relocate and held that it would not be in the child’s best interest to relocate as the mother requested.

On appeal, the mother argued that the trial justice erred in denying her motion because they overlooked and misconceived evidence. The Supreme Court, however, ultimately affirmed the family court’s order denying the mother’s motion to relocate with the parties’ child. Although the mother cited an increase in financial circumstances due to new employment in New Jersey as a reason for relocating, this was undermined by the fact that the mother already makes an amount equal to what she would have made at her new job after relocating. The presence of the child’s maternal and paternal relatives in Rhode Island also played a role in affirming the Court’s decision.

When reviewing such cases, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island typically does not disturb the decisions made by a justice in the family court when it comes to custody and best interests of the child unless the justice abused their discretion. Generally, the trial justice’s decisions concerning custody and the best interests of the child are affirmed unless the factual findings involved overlooking or misconceiving material evidence, or the decision was clearly wrong.

In Rhode Island, when determining whether a requested change is in the best interests of a child, several factors must be weighed. These factors include (1) the wishes of the child’s parent or parents regarding the child’s custody, (2) the reasonable preference of the child, if the child has enough understanding and experience to express a preference, (3) the interaction and relationship of the child with the child’s parent, siblings, and other individuals or family members who may affect the child’s best interest, (4) the child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community, (5) the mental and physical health of everyone involved, (6) the stability of the child’s home environment, (7) the moral fitness of the parents, and (8) the willingness of each parent to facilitate a continued close and continuous relationship between the child and the other parent.

Do You Need a Rhode Island Family Law Attorney?

If you or someone you know is struggling with a Rhode Island child custody or family law case, contact the attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo for assistance. Our lawyers will provide you with the experience, support, and advocacy you need to navigate your claim with ease. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at401-300-4055.


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