Regarding minor children there are two types of custody referred to in Rhode Island Supreme Court Cases. It is important to understand this when asking a lawyer questions because some lawyers may presume you mean one type of custody when you are actually asking about the other.
First, I will address legal custody.
- Legal Custody - This is the legal right to participate with the other parent or guardian in making important decisions regarding your minor child or children. The presumption is, that all things being equal between the parents/guardians, each parent should have a 50/50 say regarding the various categories of important decisions. By way of information, when each parent or guardian has an equal say in the important decisions regarding a minor child this is called “Joint Legal Custody.”
Legal Custody typically involves four (4) distinct areas of decision-making.
- Religion - An important issue in this area of decision-making would be something such as, “Should our child/children be raised Catholic or Jewish?”
- Education - An important issue in this area of decision-making would be something such as, “Should our child go to public school or a private school?”
- Medical/Healthcare - An important issue in this area of decision-making would be something such as, “Should our child have this surgery or medical procedure at this time or not?”
- Well-Being of the Minor Child - This is a catch-all category because neither the law makers nor the RI Supreme Court (in my state’s case) could ever fully outline all of the important issues that may affect the well-being of the Minor Child. This area of decision making can involve a variety of things ranging from “Should our child play in a dangerous sport?” OR, “Should our child change school districts” (for instance if the child has difficulty coping with change). It may perhaps even involve whether a child should move with a parent to another jurisdiction or country.
There is also physical custody which is closely related to but not identical to the concept of "placement." Even though many lawyers use these terms interchangeably, they are not identical.
Physical Custody/Placement - Physical Custody is the right of a parent or guardian to have physical custody of a minor child or children at a specific time or times. Physical Custody when it relates to having physical custody of a minor child or children for more than 50% of the time is known as "Placement." Placement is where the child or children have their primary residence where they live.
It is important to know the difference between these two types of custody because one is primarily a legal right while the other relates substantially to the physical location of a child at a given point in time and where a child lives when the amount of time at the physical location of one parent is more than 50%.
Both of these concepts affect how the family unit will function and the rights of both the parents and/or guardians as well as the children. It also has affects on extended family members such as grandparents.
What should you expect regarding your legal custody, physical custody or placement situation? If you don't know all the aspects and ramifications with respect to what you can agree to, feel free to call me for a reasonably priced Legal Advice Session.
Remember, if you don't know your rights, you might as well not have any.
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