In Rhode Island, when the Family Court looks to determine child custody, child placement, and visitation rights of the parent, the ‘paramount consideration’ is the best interests of the child. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has set out a non-exclusive list of factors for the Rhode Island Family Court judge to weigh in determining where the best interests of the child lie in a particular case. The following are the factors that the court considers when determining the best interest of the child for awarding custody, placement and visitation rights:
1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents regarding the child’s custody.
2. The reasonable preference of the child’s, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
4. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community.
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
6. The stability of the child’s home environment.
7. The moral fitness of the child’s parents.
8. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent- child relationship between the child and the other parent.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has further advised that the best interests of a child in a particular case should not be determined by focusing exclusively on any one of these factors; instead, the hearing justice should “consider a combination of and an interaction among all the relevant factors that affect the child’s best interest.” These factors are called the Pettinato factors. See Parker v. Williams, 896 A.2d 44 (R.I. 2006); Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909 (R.I. 1990).
If you need help with a family law issue, including divorce, child custody, child support, or relocation, call us at (401) 861-9900. We can help.