Rhode Island Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Rhode Island and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Rhode Island courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
When you are involved in a child custody and visitation matter that is brought before the court in the State of Rhode Island, you should review the family laws of the State so that you may create a parenting plan that complies with the law while serving the needs of the child.
The State of Rhode Island General Laws, Title 15, Domestic Relations, contains some of the legislation pertaining to child custody and visitation.
The law contains definitions for some of the terms used by the court, and outlines some of the procedures that must be adhered to when registering and submitting information on your case.
Like many states, Rhode Island also uses the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, as well as local court rules and case law, when determining the custody of a child.
It is important to use that law as you create your parenting plan if you want to have a successful outcome in your case.
The State of Rhode Island considers the best interest of the child to be the ultimate determining factor when ruling on child custody matters.
The court considers all relevant factors when ruling on child custody, including, but not limited to:
- The wishes of the parents as to custody. If both parents are able to agree on a type of custody, the judge should accept their agreement, as long as it is in the best interests of the child.
- The wishes of the child as to custody. If the child is of sufficient age and maturity and opts to express an opinion before the court, the court will consider (but not necessarily agree with) the child's request.
- The suitability of both parents, and each parent's ability to provide the child with a proper home, education, medical care, love and affection, and adequate food and clothing.
- The nature of the parents' past and current relationship with the child and whether or not the parents have demonstrated the ability to cooperate and work together for the sake of their child. If a parent seems eager to help foster a relationship and routine contact between the child and the other parent, that parent is considered to be acting in the child's best interest.
- Whether or not one parent has served as the child's primary caregiver.
- The proximity of the parents homes to each other and the child's school.
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community and whether or not disrupting the continuity of the child's life would have a negative or positive effect on the child.
- Any special needs of the child and whether or not one parent is better equipped to meet those needs.
- Any history of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect, and any indication that the behavior of a parent may be detrimental to the child.
- Any other factors the court deems relevant.
Rhode Island does not use gender to discriminate against a parent on custody.
The State of Rhode Island recognizes the importance of the presence of each parent in a child's life, and after reviewing the factors affecting the best interest of a child, will, at a minimum, award reasonable visitation to a non-custodial parent.
If the non-custodial parent is a danger to the child, the court may award that parent supervised visitation to protect the safety and well-being of the child.
When parents are able to set their differences aside and reach a custody agreement on their own, the court will typically accept their arrangement, as long as it is written in the best interests of the child.
You may work together on your own or seek the assistance of a court mediator or private counselor to help them resolve their differences and negotiate an agreement. Once agreed upon, you may then submit your parenting plan to the court.
When parents do not agree and do not submit their parenting plan to the court, the court will make the custody arrangements for them.
If you have tried everything and still cannot agree with your ex on a parenting plan, you may want to create your own parenting plan for the court to consider. This will give the court some perspective on the needs of your child.
It will also demonstrate your willingness to allow the other parent to have frequent, ongoing contact with the child, and it will provide the judge with an alternative to choose from, besides an old standard custody and parenting plan.
A parenting plan may contain any information regarding the child that the parents feel is applicable.
A comprehensive, well-organized parenting plan should include the following:
- The child's full name, gender, and birth date.
- A statement designating the child's primary residence, for legal purposes.
- A statement detailing the type of custody each parent will have.
- A statement defining the legal rights and responsibilities of each parent
- A designation of the authority to make major decisions for the child.
- A statement declaring the obligation to share information regarding the child and access to the child's records.
- A child visitation schedule that specifies when the child will spend time with each parent.
- Special provisions for holidays, special occasions, three-day weekends, school breaks, and vacations.
- A method for dispute resolution, in order to resolve any future conflicts.
- A method for modifying the plan as the needs of the child or the circumstances change.
- Any stipulations the parents wish to include, such as transportation arrangements, how to handle any additional, optional expenses (such as extra-curricular activities), any stipulations regarding the child's possessions (such as the return of clothing), etc.
You should always focus on the needs of your child as you make your custody agreement.
The top thirteen cities in Rhode Island (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Providence, Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket, East Providence, Woonsocket, North Providence, West Warwick, Newport, Bristol, Central Falls, Westerly, Barrington.