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How to Make a Compelling Case for Shared Custody

For parents contemplating divorce, one of the most important issues to resolve is child custody — particularly physical custody over where children will live. In states like Rhode Island, where courts tend to prefer awarding one parent primary custody, obtaining a true shared arrangement requires planning and a strong understanding of state law.

Child custody in Rhode Island has three main components: physical placement, legal custody and visitation. Physical placement is where a child resides. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions on behalf of a child. Visitation is the set of rights and visitation times owed to the parent who does not have physical custody of a child.

Most courts and child advocates agree that it is important for a child to maintain a strong relationship with both parents after a divorce. However, many custody arrangements identify a primary custodial parent with whom a child resides the majority of a time, with visitation awarded to the parent with secondary custody. This means that a parent seeking a 50/50 shared custody arrangement must be prepared to make a compelling case for why that is the best arrangement for the child. 

A Rhode Island court considers a variety of factors when evaluating child custody options during divorce. The overarching goal is to determine what form of custody is in the best interests of the child. If the child is old enough, the court may listen to the child’s own opinion on physical custody. State law also requires the court to consider such factors as the child’s relationship with each parent; how physical custody with each parent would impact a child’s connection to school and community; the physical and mental health of each parent and the stability of each parent’s home environment. The court must also weigh how committed each parent is to helping the child maintain strong relationships with both parents.

As a parent seeking shared custody, you must be prepared to show to the court, in detail, how you will maintain stability for the child while the child moves between two households, how you will work together to support each other in facilitating shared custody and how you will proactively address issues that may arise. An experienced Rhode Island child custody attorney can help you compile evidence that shared custody will allow a child to maintain strong relationships with both parents while minimizing disruptions to the child’s life. Also very important is any testimony from the child that would support a shared custody arrangement.

At Kirshenbaum Law Associates, Inc. in Cranston, we frequently represent Rhode Island parents who are interested in establishing a shared custody arrangement as part of a divorce. We can help you make a persuasive case to the divorce court. If you have questions or need representation, please call our office at 401-467-5300 or contact us online anytime.