In Rhode Island, there are two categories of custody: (1) legal custody, which is the parent’s right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing (i.e. health care, education, religious decisions), and (2) physical placement, also known as physical custody, which is the daily care of the child.
Additionally, custody may be sole or joint. For example, the court may award both parents physical placement (joint physical custody) or only one parent physical placement (sole physical custody). Parents may also have sole or share legal custody (i.e. the right to make major decisions). Remember, the parent that does not have physical placement of the child may have visitation rights.
In determining custody, the court will conduct a best interest test. Factors that the court will consider are:
- The wishes of the child’s parent or parents regarding the child’s custody,
2. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference,
3. 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,
4. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community,
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved,
6. The stability of the child’s home environment,
7. The moral fitness of the child’s parents, and
8. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.
It is important to know that none of these factors has more weight than another. Rather, the judge conducts a balancing test of these factors as applied to your case.