Child Custody Lawyer

What is the legal process involved in arranging for child custody and how you can help?

In most cases a parent files a legal pleading with a court requesting custody, visitation and a child support order. The court will typically award a joint custody arrangement with one parent being the primary physical possessor, subject to all reasonable rights of visitation with the other parent. I often advise my clients that if possible it is always better to work out with the other parent custody and visitation of the children rather than leaving the fate of your children in the hands of someone who has never even met them. Of course, it is not always possible for the parents to communicate reasonably on these matters so guidance from a knowledgeable attorney is a must.

I encourage my clients to first attempt reasonable open communication with the other biological parent in discussing the custody and visitation of the kids. I provide my clients with the guidelines I know a Judge will follow if they were to be making a decision regarding the custody and visitation of their children. Mediation is mandatory in Rhode Island on the issue of custody and placement of the children when parents cannot agree. Judges and lawyers have found this to process to be helpful in many of the family court cases involving children.

What are the main types of child custody and what factors determine the level of custody?

There is joint custody, sole custody or shared custody. Usually in a joint or shared custody arrangement the parents jointly make decisions regarding the children’s health education and welfare. In a sole custody arrangement usually but not always one parent makes the decisions regarding the children’s health education and welfare such as what school they go to, what doctor they attend, what religion they practice.

In regulating custody, the judge will determine what is in the best interest of the children. Case law has interpreted what that means. It is best to discuss the factors that determine an award of custody with a well-qualified family court attorney.

What are some factors that determine the level of custody?

In a famous Rhode Island family court case called Pettinato v. Pettinato, the court spelled out the factors for a judge in determining custody of children. They are 1. Wishes of child’s parent or parents regarding custody: 2.Reasonable preferences of the children: 3. Interaction and interrelationship of the children with their parents and others: 4. Adjustment to home, school, and community: 5. Mental and physical health of all individuals: 6. Stability of the child’s home environment: 7. Moral fitness of the parents: 8. Willingness to facilitate the parent-child relationship.

If one parent suffers from an alcohol or drug dependency, or has been convicted of a violent or lewd crime or has abusive tendencies, the court will either deny that parent custody or visitation or order supervised visitation and most often with counseling.

How would I prove my ex is unfit to be a parent?

To be declared an unfit parent the Judge must find that the parent is physically or sexually abusive. Acts of domestic or family violence are also facts considered when determining if a parent is fit and proper to have custody of the child(ren). A person’s criminal and medical records can be subpoenaed in establishing the fitness of a parent in having custody of their child(ren). Other ways to prove that a parent is unfit is to hire private investigators. If there is any suspicion of child molestation I’ve had parents put up baby cams in the house to monitor what the other one is doing when one of the parents is away.

In the state of Rhode Island is it harder for a father to get full custody of a child?

Not so much anymore. No, I find that dads have come a long way in having access to their children as well as becoming the primary custodial parent.

Why would I need an attorney to help me fight for custody?

There are many rules of court, including evidentiary rules, which must be followed in order to prove your case. A lay person does not necessarily know or even understand the rules and how they apply. A litigant also may not realize all the tools that they have at their disposal when trying to prove their case. For lots of reasons an attorney’s knowledge and expertise is important.

Are there any situations where a child can choose where they want to live?

Yes. Usually when the child reaches a certain age, judges’ rule differently on this but I’d say 14, 15, 16 years old it’s really up to the child where they want to live. Assuming either parents homes is a healthy environment for the child, the judge will let the child choose.

How can your law office help mediate the terms of the custody when my ex and I aren’t being civil?

It is difficult to mediate a custody arrangement when the parties are not being civil. A preface to mediation is a willingness to work and compromise with each other. Having been around hundreds of broken families and seeing what dynamics come into play when it comes to the children; our experience and expertise will guide the parents to reasonableness and hopefully get them where to focus and where not to focus.  Divorce means change; so we try to help the parties understand that and find ways to make it best work for the children. It is inevitable that parties move on; blended family units are created and if you can get the parties to understand that these transitions work best for children when the parents are civil with each other and when they refrain from passing their judgment or feelings onto the children you have had a successful mediation.

Martineau Davis & Associates is committed to aggressive advocacy for our clients while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards. Contact us at 401-398-8333.

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