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Child custody and the best interests of the child

A recent post on this blog discussed "bird-nesting" after divorce -- a living arrangement in which the child remains in the family home, and the parents take turns living with the child, maintaining separate residences when it is not their turn to care for the child. This may happen in joint custody cases, where both parents spend a relatively equal time with their child in their care after a divorce. However, whether it is bird-nesting, other joint custody arrangements or sole custody with visitation, any child custody decisions in Rhode Island will be made based on the best interests of the child.

There are a number of factors, in general, that courts will consider when determining what the best interests of the child are when it comes to devising child custody arrangements. Keep in mind that the laws vary by state -- a Rhode Island attorney may be able to provide more specific information.

First of all, it is important for the child to have a stable home environment, especially after a divorce. This means that the parent's health, both mental and physical, may be examined, as well as the opportunity for the child to have the support of other family members that they may interact with within the home. The ability of the child to adjust after a divorce to their community and school after a divorce may also be considered, particularly if a parent plans on moving after a divorce.

If the child is old enough, the child's preferences for where the child wants to live may also be a factor. Other factors include any cultural values or religious preferences that may be important to the parents who are raising the child.

Finally, the child's safety with each parent will be a factor. If a parent is physically, emotionally or sexually abusive toward the child, this will be a factor in determining the child's best interests. In addition, if substance abuse is an issue, that may also be a factor when determining the best interests of the child.

Making child custody arrangements in Rhode Island is not always a straight-forward situation. There is no cookie-cutter answer to such cases, as every family's situation is different. Courts evaluate a number of factors in each individual case, so they can reach a decision that serves the child's best interests.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody Basics," accessed May 23, 2016

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