CHILD CUSTODY and VISITATION
Whether you are just beginning the divorce process, and have children, involved in a post divorce custody matter, or are under a miscellaneous custody petition between parents who had never married, the standard for the court to determine custody of the child is the same; “The best interest of the child.” To put this into prospective our Supreme Court has said;
"This Court has held that child-custody awards must be made in the ‘best interest[s]’ of the child.” Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909,913 (R.I. 1990) (quoting Petition of Loudin, 101 R.I. 35,39. 219 A.2d 915, 918 (1966)). “The best interest of the child standard remains amorphous and its implementation has been left to the sound discretion of the trial justices.” “Several factors must be taken into consideration when making a best interests of the child determination.” “However, no single factor is determinative; rather “the trial justice must consider a combination of and an interaction among all the relevant factors that affect the child’s best interest.” The factors are.
1. "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 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 the individuals involved.
6. The stability of the child’s home environment.
7. The moral fitness of the child’s parents.
8. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.” Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909, 913-14 (R.I. 1990).
In addition to the above enumberated factors, the court must also by law be satisfied that neither parent has a history of domestic abuse charges, that neither have any history of violent behavior towards other members of society, and that neither parent has a history of drug, or alcohol abuse.
Child custody matters can be one of the most difficult and emotional issues parents must face and attempt to resolve, because if they cannot the court most certainly will. It is not only in the child’s best interest, but in the parent’s as well to reach a mutual agreement as to custody, and visitation/parenting time.
Visitation/Parenting Time schedules are often the most combative issue that parents face once they have reached a custody and placement agreement. The issues surrounding visitation/parenting time schedules are rarely ever clear-cut, and in many instances require both parents to be open minded and flexible during the negotiations. Jointly working towards preparing a detailed parenting schedule that encompasses not only a weekly residential schedule, but also accounts for, which party will pick up and which will drop off, along with times; how to share school vacation times, including summer vacation; holiday time schedules; the child's birthday; as well as all other significant moments in the child's life, that also provides flexibility, and fairness for all concerned, will undoubtedly go a long way in avoiding any potential future issue.
If the parent’s can reach an agreement that benefits not only themselves, but the child as well, the court will usually approve the custody agreement. But remember, the standard is "best interest of the child", not the parent. John can assist you with both his experience, and understanding when dealing at either end of the spectrum of a custody situation.