Rhode Island uses the best interest of the child standard to determine child custody when parents cannot agree. Parents may share joint physical and legal custody, or one parent may have sole custody while the other has parenting time.

If you are thinking about divorce and have a child with your spouse, explore the factors that influence child custody in Rhode Island family courts.

The custody process

When parents do not agree on a custody arrangement, each can present a separate parenting plan to the court during divorce proceedings. The court can require you to attend mediation with your spouse and each of your attorneys. At this session, a neutral professional mediator will attempt to help you negotiate an agreement. When mediation does not succeed, the judge will determine custody based on the child’s most ideal interest. Factors in this determination include:

  • Each parent’s preferred custody arrangement
  • The child’s preference if he or she is mature enough to express these wishes
  • The child’s current adjustment to his or her community, school and home
  • Each parent’s moral fitness
  • Each parent’s willingness to facilitate a relationship with the child’s other parent
  • The child’s existing relationship with each parent, siblings and other family members
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • Each parent’s level of home environment stability

Parenting time guidelines

Rhode Island courts rarely award shared physical custody unless parents request this arrangement. Instead, parents usually share legal custody, and one parent has physical custody while the other has visitation.

The parent who does not have physical custody of the child must receive minimum parenting time under Rhode Island law. He or she can spend at least one weeknight each week and every other weekend with the child except when the court has terminated parental rights. The judge can order more parenting time than given in this arrangement, but may not order less time.