Child Custody in the Face of Infidelity

Rhode Island marriages end for a variety of reasons. From financial to work-related or even stress-related reasons, many marriages all over the country end in divorce.

No matter the reason, divorce proceedings can range from amicable to hostile. A number of circumstances may add additional stress to the divorce process; particularly, marriages that end due to infidelity. This situation can result in increased pressure, and lead to added emotional distress if there are children involved.

If you’re concerned that infidelity during your marriage or a new partner acquired during a separation might impact a child custody agreement, we’re here to help. However, you must keep in mind that the court generally gives little, if any, weight to the infidelity when determining child custody.

Like many things regarding family law, cases are fact-specific. In Rhode Island , instances of infidelity do not directly indicate whether or not an individual is deemed to be a fit parent. While the infidelity may be painful for an ex-spouse to accept, legally, it has little bearing on a parent’s ability to parent.

Joint legal custody is preferred under Rhode Island law by the courts, unless there is clear evidence of physical abuse by one party, substance abuse, or a total inability of the parties to communicate. They only time a Court will consider a parent’s infidelity is if it is found to directly impact the best interests of the child. This is an extraordinarily high burden to meet, but if you have such evidence, it can influence the outcome of that parent’s visitation and custody.

More commonly, some ex-spouses will insist on specific parameters regarding a new partner and the children. For example, an ex-spouse may request an agreement be made before introducing a new partner to the children and that such an introduction be delayed. The insistence of children attending therapy sessions is also common to ensure that children understand the situation and are comfortable with it.

Overall, the most significant impact infidelity can have on a divorce is in the settlement process. The majority of divorces are settled outside of court instead of going to trial. As infidelity can be emotional for both parties involved, guilt or anger often prolongs negotiations, making the process of divorce very difficult.

The decision to divorce isn’t easy, and when children are involved, the stakes are even higher. Many factors come into play regarding child custody agreements. If you need help navigating the legalities of divorce and child custody in Rhode Island, speak with our knowledgeable attorneys today.