What does custody mean in Rhode Island?

by Attorney Christopher E. Heberg

In Rhode Island, the legal division of time and responsibilities relative to children has three components. The first is Custody. Custody in RI does not mean where the child lives. Custody is the right to participate in the decision making regarding your child. If you receive joint custody,  you and your spouse must confer and jointly decide on how best to make decisions about your child, and specifically their health, education and finances.

Sole custody grants one parent the final decision making authority on these issues. Sole custody does not mean that the non-custodial parent does not have a right to participate in decision making, it simply means that the person with sole custody makes the final decision. The other parent can still attend doctor’s appointment, school meeting s and the such. They can also ask questions and engage the health care or school professional about their child.

The term placement simply means where the child lives and is generally domiciled. The placement parent is the person who receives child support. The non-placement parent receives visitation with the child. In RI the standard visitation for a non-placement parent is every other weekend and generally some time during the week. However, as times are changing this model is losing some favor. Judges have become more and more considerate to a request by a non-placement parent for more significant visitation time with their child. Of course the best interest of the child is always foremost and an extended visitation request may not be successful if it would affect the schooling or extracurricular events of the minor child. Judges are also keenly aware of an attempt by one parent to negotiate a joint placement situation with the sole intent of trying to avoid the payment of child support. Generally, when the motivation by a parent is the avoidance of child support, the request for joint placement fails.

Finally, if you receive placement, you will receive child support. The amount of child support is calculated by a guideline so that payments are more homogeneous. The child support calculator is easily found online