What factors does a Rhode Island family court judge consider when a parent wants to relocate with a minor child?
February 18, 2019
A relocation case in the Rhode Island family court typically occurs when one parent who either has primary physical placement or joint physical placement of one or more minor children wants to relocate with that minor child outside the state.
Relocation cases are very often opposed and a fair number of them go to trial unless you can reach an agreement or accommodation with the non-relocating parent as to how and when they will have visitation or parenting time with the minor child or children and how transportation might be arranged, etc.. In joint physical placement cases where each parent has the minor child or children 50% of the time, if the relocation is a significant distance such that their can no longer be joint physical placement, then often times a trial is inevitable.
During a trial both sides present evidence regarding the children, the family, schooling, relationships, etc.. that typically fall into the factors set forth by the RI Supreme Court in Dupre v. Dupre, 857 A.2d 242, 257-60 (R.I. 2004) that judges must consider in relocation cases.
The relocation factors judges must consider are as follows:
1. The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with the parent proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating parent.
2. The reasonable likelihood that the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the child and the parent seeking the relocation, including, but not limited to, economic and emotional benefits, and educational opportunities.
3. The probable impact that the relocation will have on the child's physical, educational and emotional development. Any special needs of the child should also be taken into account in considering this factor.
4. The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.
5. The existence of extended family or other support systems available to the child in both locations.
6. Each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation.
7. In cases of international relocation, the question of whether the country to which the child is to be relocated is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction will be an important consideration.
8. To the extent that they may be relevant to the relocation inquiry, the Pettinato factors  will also be significant.
Typically relocation cannot be for a frivolous purpose or to deprive the other parent of their placement or visitation rights. Ultimately the court will look so see where, how and why the relocation is taking place and what its anticipated affect is on the child and parents as well as extended family relationships and support systems.
Since relocation almost invariably relates to the best interests of the minor child, the parent seeking to relocate and the non-relocating parent should also consider and present evidence to the court how the relocation will affect the best interests of the child as set forth in Pettinato to the extent that the Dupre relocation factors do not already address those best interests.
 Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909 (R.I. 1990) (Sets forth for the seven (7) though non-exhaustive list of factors that must be weighed when determining the best interests of the minor child.)