by Attorney Christopher E. Heberg

Rhode Island recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical placement and placement with one parent. When a couple files for divorce in R.I., both parents are presumed to be appropriate to share legal custody. Legal custody is not the physical location where a child lives. Legal custody allows both parents to have equal responsibility (and rights) concerning major decisions like medical care, education and religious development.

During stressful and often contentious divorce proceedings, differing ideas about the schooling or religious upbringing of children can surface. Having an attorney can make sure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law.

In cases where shared legal custody may not be best for the child, like in cases of abuse or neglect, the Court will often grant one party Sole legal custody, allowing that parent to make a final decisions about the important health and welfare decisions about the child. However, even if you have sole custody, your spouse still has a right to participate in the process. Legal custody is about decision making, it does not deny another their basic parental rights.

When it comes to visitation, most parents will need to establish a schedule. This is in everyone’s best interests as it can clearly define where the child will be at specific dates and times. Generally, this schedule details who is responsible for transportation to and from visitation events. Here too, a lawyer can help ensure the schedule is fair and expectations are reasonable for both parties.

In some instances, the court may agree to “reasonable visitation” where arrangements remain flexible and parents work them out among themselves. However, such an agreement requires a basic level of amicability and communication between parents. If things go wrong, or one parent fails to hold up their end of the bargain, the lack of a fixed schedule to refer to can be more than frustrating.

Don’t leave matters of child custody and visitation to chance in Rhode Island. The process is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead hire a knowledgeable family law attorney to make sure your rights and responsibilities are clearly defined and protected