Beyond any doubt it is the minor children of any divorce that are of most concern to the court and many times to the attorneys involved in the cases.
As I have heard stated by several Rhode Island Family Court judge's, "it is one of our supreme responsibilities to attend to the protection and safety of the children within our borders".
As an attorney I am an officer of the court and believe that even when representing a parent in a divorce, I am duty bound to be cognizant of what is happening to the minor children placed with either parent.
One aspect in which both the court and the attorneys address this concern for the minors within Rhode Island is for the court to determine the appropriateness of legal custody for one or both parents and for the attorneys and clients/parents to carry that through.
Legal Custody is often confused with physical placement because custody often means "having possession of something". Thankfully once you understand that legal custody does NOT mean where the child physically is, then it is much easier to understand.
Legal Custody is the legal right to have a say when making important decisions about the child, including healthcare, education, religious upbringing, activities and overall wellfare.
Typically there are only two forms of Legal Custody. There is "sole legal custody" in which one person has the only say regarding what happens in these areas of a child's life. Then there is "joint legal custody" in which two people share the responsibility equally for making the decisions in these areas of the child's life.
What happens if the two parent's disagree?
You return to Rhode Island family court and a judge will determine what is in the best interests of the minor child and issue Orders accordingly.
During the course of a divorce, it is common that the parents will agree that they will share joint legal custody of the minor child. The reason that it is not uncommon is that joint legal custody is typically thought to be the natural way of things. If either party wants to seek sole custody of a minor child and deprive the other parent of his or her rights as a legal custodian for the child then it is likely that the parent petitioning for sole legal custody either (1) is bitter and simply wants to hurt the other parent in the divorce, or (2) the parent petitioning for sole legal custody does not understand the concept and the fundamental rights it is asking the court to strip from the other parent, or (3) the parent petitioning for sole legal custody is aware of some conduct, habit, pattern, addiction, or other activity that would render that spouse unsuitable to render important decisions for his or her child.
This is why the question is typically asked of each spouse in a Rhode Island Divorce proceeding "Do you believe that the other spouse is a fit and proper person to share joint legal custody of the child.
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™