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Rhode Island Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

unmarried parents argue over custody

Legal issues regarding child custody in Rhode Island are often complicated and stressful. At McIntyre Tate LLP, we are committed to providing diligent representation for clients navigating the RI family court system. If you are a divorced or unmarried parent, what are your rights concerning custody of your child?

Here’s what you need to know:

Mother’s Custody Rights

An unmarried mother has sole physical and legal custody of her child if there has been no acknowledgment of paternity by the biological father. Sole physical and legal custody means that the mother is the residential custodian and primary caretaker of the child. Furthermore, she has the authority to make legally binding decisions regarding the child’s education, religious training, healthcare, and other factors.

However, the court may take away the custodial rights of the mother if it is in the child’s best interests. This may include situations where the mother is abusive, alcoholic, negligent, or otherwise deemed unfit to care for the child. Furthermore, this rule also applies if the mother abandons her child. In these situations, the court may grant physical and legal custody to another family member, parent, or foster home.

Father’s Custody Rights

If a father’s name is on the birth certificate, he will be recognized as the child’s legal father. There are a number of other ways a biological father can acknowledge the paternity of his child. If a father voluntarily acknowledges paternity, then he will have equal standing with the biological mother in court when determining both legal and physical custody.

Depending on the situation, the court may grant physical or legal custody to the biological father. This determination will be based on the child’s best interests and the suitability of both parents. Once a court order is filed, it may be modified at a later date if there is a change in circumstances.

How do Rhode Island Courts Determine Custody?

When determining custody arrangements, the primary factor the courts will consider in making their decision is the best interests of the child. At McIntyre Tate LLP, we have guided hundreds of clients through the family court system. Our Rhode Island child custody attorneys can analyze your situation and discuss your options for seeking custody of your child.

The best interests of the child are based on a variety of factors, including:

  • The stability of each home
  • The strength of the parent-child relationship
  • The emotional and physical health of all individuals involved
  • The child’s connection to the community and school
  • Any evidence of domestic violence or abuse
  • The ability of each parent to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child

In situations where the parents are unmarried, courts will generally grant physical placement to one parent. However, legal custody may be shared between both parents. Joint legal custody means parents must work together to agree on decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and education, even if one parent has primary physical placement of the child.

Call McIntyre Tate LLP Today at (401) 351-7700

At McIntyre Tate LLP, we have guided numerous clients to successful legal solutions. If you are an unmarried parent seeking custody of your child or want to know more about your rights, we can help. Our experienced Rhode Island child custody lawyers can discuss your options and walk you through the process.

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Contact McIntyre Tate at (401) 351-7700 today to schedule a consultation.
We have served Rhode Island for 30+ years and have over 130 years of collective experience.

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