Rhode Island Child Custody and Support

The Rhode Island Family Court requires all divorcing parents with minor children to attend a seminar entitled “Divided Yet United,” which is designed to further support young children and help parents put their children first throughout the divorce process. All too often adults lose sight of the magnitude of the loss children feel when their parents separate. Staying in an unhealthy or unhappy marital relationship is not necessarily any better for young children. But parents, in their own emotional unrest, often fail to realize that their children are suffering as well.

Divorcing adults need to focus on custody issues carefully. After getting the information you need from an experienced Rhode Island divorce lawyer, you will be better able to help your children understand what will happen, and why. Discussing arrangements with those children who are old enough to understand, and comforting younger ones, is very important to the emotional health of everyone involved in the divorce.

Older children may want to be involved in the decisions of where they live and how often they visit with the absent parent. Younger ones will be relieved to know that they will not be “losing” a parent, and will still be able to see and talk to the absent parent whenever they want.

The Rhode Island Family Court has very clear guidelines where children are concerned. The court takes child support obligations very seriously, and bases support on financial percentages for divorcing parents. The Family Court does not grant custody of minor children solely to mothers anymore, as fathers are having more influence in the care of their children. In most cases where both parents are stable and healthy, joint custody of the children is awarded to the divorcing parents. Physical placement of minor children is based on a variety of factors, including where the children want to live, who is best able to care for the children, and who will be remaining in the marital domicile.

Rhode Island law also states that the Family Court in nearly all circumstances should grant to the non-custodial parent reasonable visitation schedules. Typically, parents are free to visit with their children at times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. It is best when parents can agree on a visitation schedule without fighting over visitation rights and involving a Rhode Island child custody lawyer. However, when animosity between divorcing parents is high and they have trouble communicating, resolving visitation issues outside of Family Court is next to impossible. In other instances, the conduct of one of the parents is so disruptive that limited or supervised visitation is required to protect a child.

Child support. The guidelines for calculating support in Rhode Island have remained unchanged since 2007. According to the Rhode Island guidelines, $50 is the absolute minimum a non-custodial parent can pay per month for the support of their children. This figure is based on a poverty level income of $938 gross income per month. The formula for determining child support encompasses the income of both parents as though they remain in the same household caring for a child. Additional expenses – such as uninsured medical bills, daycare, private schooling, extracurricular lessons or activities, summer camp, and college – will be generally shared between divorcing parents.

Medical coverage. Rhode Island law requires the parent with existing medical coverage to continue providing medical coverage for the benefit of the minor children, as well as the ex-spouse, until he or she remarries. The providing parent is responsible for his or her minor children’s medical care until a child reaches legal maturity at 18 years old. The sharing of co-payments and monthly insurance premiums can be determined based on income and medical expenses. A qualified and knowledgeable Rhode Island divorce lawyer can guide you through this process, and help you reach the best possible settlement agreement.

Tax implications. The custodial parent will have the benefit of claiming the children as a deduction for the purpose of income taxes. If the parties have agreed to allow the non-custodial parent to take the child as a dependent deduction, the child support obligation will be modified to reflect the benefits of lower income taxes.

Massachusetts Child Custody and Support

The Massachusetts Family Court, similar to its counterpart in Rhode Island, makes every effort to ensure that divorcing parents focus just as much on their children’s needs and desires as their own. For example, divorcing parents, as a condition of getting a Massachusetts divorce, must attend a mandatory seminar related to the impact of a divorce on minor children.

Joint custody is the default child custody arrangement in Massachusetts. However, in some instances, especially those involving alcohol, violence or substance abuse, these arrangements will be modified to suit the health and welfare of the children. For the most part, the Massachusetts Family Court wants parents to make every effort to get along amicably in sharing the responsibilities of raising their children, including medical decisions, school participation and religious influences.

Child support. For divorcing couples with an annual income under $250,000, the minimum amount of support the court will order is $80 per month. All child care cost expenses will be deducted from the income of the party paying for such care. This deduction will subtract from the income considered for his or her child support obligation.

Medical coverage. If either parent has health care coverage and it does not impose a financial hardship, the court will order that health coverage be paid by them. Insurance premiums may be deducted from the income of the party paying for the medical coverage prior to determining the child support obligation. Any expenses over and above the normal coverage, including co-payments and extraordinary expenses, will be shared by the parties.

Tax implications. Child support is not tax deductible and it cannot be claimed as income by the recipient. Determining which parent will take the children as deductions can be determined by agreement. If no agreement is reached, the custodial parent has the right to claim the deduction.

Custody, visitation and child support laws in Massachusetts and Rhode Island can be complex and intimidating. If you are getting a divorce, and have small children or are currently disputing custody rights or child support issues, you should consult a child custody lawyer for advice and representation in your divorce proceeding.

Rui P. Alves is a Massachusetts and Rhode Island child custody and visitation lawyer. He can be reached at 888-273-9903 or for a free initial consultation about your legal rights. A native of Portugal, he speaks fluent Portuguese and Spanish.