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What Proves a Parent Unfit In Rhode Island?

Dealing with the end of your marriage isn’t easy. In fact, divorce is often one of the most challenging times in life. Still, most adults are able to cope with the pain of divorce, knowing that the process is temporary and on the other side is a chance to start anew.

When you’re a parent though, the uncertainty of knowing how your relationship and daily interactions with your child will change can feel unbearable. This is especially true if your soon-to-be-ex is someone whom you feel is unfit to take care of the kids without you in the picture.

It’s no surprise that one of the most contentious issues in a divorce is child custody. In this article, we’ll examine what makes a parent legally unfit in the eyes of the court.

The Rhode Island Family Court Standard

In Rhode Island, the court makes decisions regarding children in accordance with the best interest of the child standard. In doing so, the child’s needs are considered first and foremost when making decisions that will impact their future development and well-being.

  • The court also considers:
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, including:
    • Shelter and a safe environment
    • Food, clothing and required medical care
    • Parental guidance and support
    • Interaction with extended family
    • Consistency in living arrangements and school
  • The child’s age and ability to adjust to a change in routine
  • The time each parent has spent nurturing and caring for the child
  • Willingness on behalf of each parent to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent

Types of Custody in Rhode Island

There are two different types of custody, legal custody, and physical custody.
Legal custody is the term used to describe the parent who makes decisions about a child’s education, medical treatments or religious upbringing. It is not uncommon for the court to award the parents joint legal custody, meaning that both parents have equal say on these issues.

Physical custody describes the child’s primary residence. When one parent is awarded physical custody, the other parent will have a visitation schedule, such as every other weekend and one overnight during the week.

Years ago, the court typically awarded sole physical custody and joint legal custody. Now, it’s common for the court to award both parents with joint legal and physical custody. Often referred to as joint custody, this means that the child shares time with both parents.

What Makes An Unfit Parent?

In certain situations, the court might award one parent sole legal and physical custody of the child. This typically happens when one parent is deemed legally unfit to care for their child. While every situation is unique, grounds for unfit parenting may include:

  • Physical or sexual abuse suffered by the child, at the hands of the parent
  • Parental history of domestic violence
  • Substance abuse and addiction leading to the neglect or mistreatment of the child
  • Physical or emotional abuse inflicted by the parent on the child
  • Untreated mental health issues that negatively affect the child

In cases where custody and visitation are limited versus denied, supervised visitation is often an option.

Proving a Parent Is Legally Unfit

If you are involved in a child custody battle and think that your soon-to-be-ex is unfit, contact an experienced Rhode Island child custody attorney. Custody cases are complex and require a deep understanding of Rhode Island custody laws.

To best prepare for your case, gather evidence to support your claim, including:

  • Medical documentation of injuries the child has suffered and/or any therapy or professional treatment you’ve sought for your child
  • Photos, videos and/or recordings of any abuse by the other parent
  • Voicemail, text messages, emails, and any other electronic messages from the other parent
  • The parent’s criminal record if applicable
  • Statements from third-parties who’ve witnessed neglect, abuse, or other evidence of the parent’s unfitness

If you’re considering seeking professional treatment for your child to aid your court case, check with your attorney first. We’ll help you determine if this is something you can do with or without the permission from the other parent. Depending on your circumstances, we might need to request a court-ordered evaluation.

Time is of the Essence

If you’re fighting for sole physical and legal custody of your child, time is of the essence. The sooner you contact an experienced Rhode Island attorney, the better. At Kirshenbaum Law Associates, we’ll aggressively advocate for your family and the best interest of your child.

For immediate assistance, contact our office today at 401-467-5300 and schedule your confidential consultation.