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Divorce Guide


Rhode Island Divorce Custody


RI divorce custody laws specify that the custody issue should be first managed by the parents of the child. If the parents fail to reach an agreement then the courts intervene keeping in mind the best interests of the child. Following guidelines are considered while awarding child custody:
  • “Tender years” doctrine of early years where custody of the child of 5 years and below was automatically awarded to the mother has been removed from child custody guidelines in Rhode Island State. Today, custody issues are not settled looking at the gender of the parent. Instead the parent who best meets the interests of the child and bonds most is awarded the custody.

  • For all practical purposes, one parent is awarded physical custody of the child and the other parent gets the visitation rights based on the parenting plan as formulated by both the parents. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding visitation schedule then they may be asked to participate in child custody mediation. A third neutral party would help them in formulating a visitation schedule keeping in mind the welfare, interests and safety of the child.

  • If a parent files a case against the other divorced partner regarding non-compliance of visitation or custody orders and can prove that in the court, then custody orders may be reversed. Courts avoid giving custody of the child to the parent who intentionally intends to alienate the child from the other parent.

  • RI child support laws make arrangement for financial support to the child where both the incomes of the parents are pooled together and a proportion of it is extended as child support to meet the needs of the child. The amount of child support depends on the living standards of the family, special educational or financial needs of the child, the financial status of the parents, other obligations of the divorced parents etc.

  • In most of RI divorce custody cases, judges prefer to award joint custody of the child to both the parents so that the child gets the continued support of both the parents. Joint custody can be legal joint custody where both the parents can jointly take decisions for the child on all legal issues, such as medical, education, religion etc. For all practical reasons, one parent gets the physical custody of the child and the other parent gets the visitation rights. The non-custodial parent has complete rights to have access to the child during weekends, the child’s vacations, holidays etc.

  • In cases where a parent is found to have history of child abuse or child neglect or domestic violence etc then that parent may be awarded only supervised visitation rights. If it is found that the presence of that non-custodial parent is threatening the welfare of the child, then RI divorce custody laws authorize courts to forfeit his/her visitation rights. However, in such cases, that parent may need to continue providing child support.

  • RI child support guidelines recommend “income shares model” to arrive at child support figure. Both the incomes of the parents are pooled in and child support figure is calculated. This amount also depends on the financial needs of the child, other financial obligations of the parents, the financial conditions of the parents etc.


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