Child Custody & Visitation Attorneys in West Warwick, Rhode Island
At the Law Office of Devane, Fogarty & Ribezzo, we will help you navigate issues such as child custody and visitation with minor children during or following a divorce, or after the separation of unmarried parents. Many attorneys and family court judges have begun referring to visitation as parenting time or access and these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
What Does Joint Custody Mean?
In Rhode Island, there is a preference for joint custody of children after divorce or separation of unmarried parents. Joint custody means that both parties have equal responsibility for major life decisions, education decisions, health decisions, decisions regarding extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, as well as the emotional issues that arise from time to time while raising children. An effective child custody order should address all of these issues.
What Is the Difference Between Joint Custody and Physical Placement?
Joint custody does not necessarily mean that each parent will have the children half of the time. Physical placement of minor children (sometimes referred to as residential custody or physical possession) refers to where the children sleep and maintain primary residence and can be with a mother, a father, or even shared where both parents have relatively equal amounts of time with the children. The typical arrangement of Mom having primary residential placement and Dad getting the kids every other weekend, and maybe one weekday per week, is no longer the rule. Now there are many different variations and we will work to find an arrangement that is acceptable to both parties and that maintains a good quality of life for the children.
Whether we represent the father or the mother in a child custody dispute, our approach as family law attorneys is to help you restructure your family, not destroy it. We want to make certain that the divorce or separation process is as minimally destructive to you and your children as possible.
What Happens if We Can’t Agree on Custody or Placement of Our Children?
Absent an agreement between parents, the Family Court will render a decision relative to custody, placement and visitation of minor children. This determination is made based on the best interests of the children. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has put forth eight specific statutory factors that are used to determine what the “best interests” of the minor children means.
These factors are:
1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents regarding the child’s custody.
2. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
4. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
6. The stability of the child’s home environment
7. The moral fitness of the child’s parents; and
8. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent. The best interests of the child should not be determined by assessing any one factor.
The judge must consider a combination of and an interaction among all the relevant factors that affect the child’s best interests.