Super Lawyers®, a prominent association that rates and reviews attorneys across the country, recently spoke with Rhode Island Divorce Attorney Deborah Miller Tate of McIntyre Tate LLP to discuss the many nuances of joint custody agreements in the state. Within the article, which you can view in full by clicking here and visiting the Super Lawyers® website, Deborah explained that the starting point in a joint custody case is making the reasonable assumption that either parent is capable of handling major life decisions for their child. Sole custody will only be prioritized or rewarded after it has already been firmly established that one parent or the other is not “fit and proper” to continue parenthood duties.
Joint custody is not just preferred by courts, Attorney Tate continued. Family therapists and child psychologists are also on the side encouraging joint custody, as many studies have shown that children tend to develop the most healthily if they see both parents frequently. Cutting out one parent can be a real detriment to the child. With this in mind, it is not a surprise that most divorcing parents in Rhode Island try to reach a voluntary joint agreement.
Even if parents are fighting each other and each want sole custody, the family law court will probably overlook their arguments and still keep joint custody as the objective. Judges in the state are required to rule in what can be called “the best interests of the child,” which also means the best interests of either parent is put on a backburner. If joint custody is still best for a child, then the court will order it, regardless of gripes and disagreements from parents.
Distinguishing Physical Custody from Legal Custody
The interview with Attorney Deborah Tate continued with a discussion regarding the differences between physical custody and legal custody in joint agreements. When pointing out that Rhode Island family law courts prefer joint child custody agreements, this typically is referring to legal custody. Physical custody – or who gets the right to house and live with the child – still tends to lean towards sole custody.
It is generally easier for everyone if a child lives almost-exclusively with one parent and then using visitation to accommodate the parent who did not get physical custody. Rather than having a child bounce between two homes, and possibly two towns, once or twice a month, they can stay put and gain a connection to their neighborhood and community. Many physical custody agreements of this nature will only require the child to swap homes whenever school is not in session.
Deciding Child Custody in Rhode Island
Finding reliable legal help when trying to decide child custody can be as easy as dialing (401) 351-7700 and connecting with McIntyre Tate LLP. Our dedicated team of Rhode Island family lawyers has more than 150 combined years of experience working with family law and divorce cases. Discover the difference service of this caliber can make for your case by contacting us now.