When parents are going through a divorce in Rhode Island and there are children involved, there often arise questions about the operation of child custody laws. Broadly speaking, child custody breaks down into two important categories: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s life, like where he or she goes to school, what religion is practiced, and medical care. Physical custody refers to with whom the child lives. Any combination of joint and sole physical and legal custody is possible depending on the facts of the case.
Determining child custody arrangements
In making child custody determinations, courts look to the best interests of the child. They may evaluate any factor they deem relevant, from the level of education or income of the parents, to the stability of the living environments or, depending upon age and level of maturity, the child’s own wishes in making determinations. The final analysis, though, will always be based on what the court deems to be the best interests of the child.
Relevance of domestic violence
For parents in a divorce where domestic violence has been an issue, the court will likely also consider that as a factor in making custody determinations. Courts are wary of awarding custody, especially unsupervised custody, to a parent who has a history of domestic violence or abuse. Any allegations will be investigated and weighed by the court.
Modification of child custody orders
Generally, the process for modifying a custody order involves petitioning the court and presenting reasons for the request. Courts can, again, consider any relevant factor in deciding to modify the custody order and the best interests of the child is still the governing standard. Some common reasons a court might order a modification include: the safety of the kids, relocation of one of the parents, the death of a parent, or a change in circumstances that prevents a parent from caring for the child.