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What does the law say about child custody in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island child custody laws are not very different from the laws in other states because, in 1978, Rhode Island adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act, as have all the 50 states throughout the nation. That said, state-level case law -- i.e., how judges have interpreted the same law in different cases in the past -- may have its own nuances and differences.

For example, one thing that is particularly unique about the way Rhode Island courts award custody is the fact that in Rhode Island, family law courts rarely issue a joint custody award unless the parents have agreed to this beforehand on their own. Also, in Rhode Island, if the child is old enough, and mature enough, to offer his or her preference on the matter, the court will consider who the child wishes to have custody as well.

Now that we know a little about the nuances of Rhode Island's approach, let's review the Uniform Child Custody Act, which says that courts will consider:

-- Joint custody as an option (though it is not usually ordered unless the parties previously agreed).

-- The wishes of both parents when making decisions.

-- The child's preference if the child is deemed to have sufficient understanding, intelligence and experience.

-- Who plays an important role in the child's life in terms of parents, siblings and other persons.

-- The child's school, home and community life.

-- The physical and mental health of all parties involved.

-- The stability of the home environment.

-- The moral fitness of each parent.

-- The ability of both parents to promote close parent-child relationships with the other parent.

As you can see, the Uniform Child Custody Act involves a lot of considerations. And again, parents must keep in mind that Rhode Island courts will tend to have their own "style" of interpreting this act's provisions -- and this is a style that is not static and can be subject to change depending on recent court trends and recent state case law. For that reason, parents may wish to consult with an attorney when trying to apply how this law would affect the unique factual circumstances of their child custody cases.

Source: FindLaw, "Rhode Island Child Custody Laws," accessed Nov. 04, 2016

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