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Rhode Island Child Custody Laws

When parents get divorced or don't get married in the first place, they must work out a plan for the children's living arrangements. State child custody laws govern how this is decided, with special attention placed on the child's own best interests. The term "physical custody" refers to where the child lives (which may be split between both parents), and "legal custody" refers to the parents' abilities to make important life decisions on behalf of their child. All 50 states and the District of Columbia adhere to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which attempts to discourage parental abduction and other problems with child custody.

Rhode Island Child Custody Laws at a Glance

Rhode Island is unique in that courts very rarely award joint custody, unless it is agreed to by the parties beforehand. When determining custody, the child's own preference will be taken into account if the court believes he or she is mature enough to make such an important decision.

You can find additional details about Rhode Island child custody laws in the chart below. See FindLaw's extensive Child Custody section for more articles and resources.

Code Section 15-5-16
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted 1978
Joint Custody an Option? Yes (by agreement of the parties, but rarely ordered by R.I. family courts)
Factors Considered by the Court When Making Custody Determination
  • The wishes of the child's parent or parents regarding the child's custody
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference
  • 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
  • The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • The stability of the child's home environment
  • The moral fitness of the child's parents
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent

(established by: Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909, 913-14 (R.I. 1990))

Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized? Yes, §§15-5-24.1 to 24.3
Child's Own Wishes Considered? Yes (subject to court's determination of the chilld's maturity level)

Note: State laws change regularly through higher courts decisions, new legislation, and other means. You should contact a Rhode Island child custody attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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