Experienced Family Law Attorney

Child Custody, Placement and Visitation

When a couple decides to divorce, one of the most difficult decisions they face is how to resolve issues pertaining to their children - child custody, placement, and visitation.

Rhode Island law promotes "the best interests of the child." While that standard will take precedence over the wishes of either parent, a skilled family law attorney can assist in creating ways for both parents to maintain prominent roles in a child's upbringing and development — and for the child to receive the stability and structure that he or she needs.

Child Custody

The legal term "child custody" refers to the rights and responsibilities of one or both parents to make major decisions concerning the child.  These decisions do not typically include day-to-day decisions, such as a child's bed time, but involved such decisions as consent to marry prior to turning 18 years of age, consent to enter the military prior to turning 18 years of age, authorization for non-emergency health care, choice of school, and religious affiliations, to name a few.  A court will typically enter an order granting joint-legal custody to each parent unless there are serious circumstances which would merit the granting of sole legal custody to one parent.

Child Placement

The physical placement of a child deals with which parent the child will live with and what type of placement schedule can be agreed upon.  If the parties cannot agree on a physical placement schedule, or who may be granted primary physical placement, then the court will make that determination.  In child custody and placement disputes, the court may order that a Guardian ad Litem be appointed to investigate these issues and make a recommendation to the court.  A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney who has specific knowledge and experience concerning what is in a child's best interest.   Some of the relevant factors that a Guardian ad Litem and the court will consider when making a determination on child placement are:

  • The wishes of the child's parent or parents regarding the child's custody.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child's parent or parents, the child's siblings, and any other person who may Significantly affect the child's best interest.
  • The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community.
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  • The stability of the child's home environment.
  • The moral fitness of the child's parents.
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.

In most divorce cases, one parent is awarded the physical possession of the minor children.  However, there are circumstances in which the court will award shared physical placement or split physical placement of the children. 


The parent who is not awarded physical placement of the children is entitled to reasonable rights of visitation. These rights include, not only routine weekly visitation including overnights, but also time spent with children on holidays and during vacations. 

Contact an Experienced Family Court Attorney

Attorney Christopher E. Friel has years of experience in the Rhode Island Family Court, and has handled hundreds of child custody, placement, and visitation disputes.  Issues pertaining to children are always reviewable and modifiable by the Family Court.  Contact Attorney Friel today to discuss any issues you might have concerning child custody, placement or visitation, at 401-737-4200 x23.