Rhode Island Child Visitation Attorney

Mother hugging toddler daughter tightly

Child visitation laws are an essential part of family law that govern the rights of parents to spend time with their children after a divorce or separation.  These laws aim to help ensure that children maintain a strong relationship with both parents, which is considered beneficial for their development and well-being. The specifics can vary significantly based on the circumstances of each case. Palumbo Law has experience dealing with many clients’ intricate family law problems.  This experience allows us to anticipate our client’s needs and advise them accordingly.

 Here are some general principles and guidelines regarding child visitation laws:

Best Interests of the Child

The overriding principle in determining visitation rights is the child’s ” best interests,” which means that the Court will make all decisions related to custody and visitation with the child’s well-being as the top priority. Factors considered may include the child’s age, the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s living situation, and the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community.

Standard Visitation Schedule

While there is no uniform visitation schedule, many family courts start with a standard schedule as a foundation. Such a schedule might include alternate weekends, one evening per week, alternating holidays, and extended time during school vacations. However, families are encouraged to develop a schedule that suits their particular needs and circumstances as long as it serves the child’s best interests.

Modifications to Visitation

Visitation orders are not set in stone and can be modified if circumstances change significantly. In addition, the parent requesting the change in circumstances must show that the modification is in the child’s best interest. Some common reasons for modifying visitation rights are as follows:

    1. Change in Living Circumstances: Visitation rights may need to be modified if either parent’s living circumstances significantly change, which could affect the child’s well-being. For example, if a parent moves to a location that makes the current visitation schedule impractical or a parent’s new living situation is deemed unsafe for the child, visitation rights may need to be modified.
    2. Child’s Needs: As children grow, their needs and schedules change. The visitation schedule may need to adjust to accommodate school schedules, extracurricular activities, and changing emotional and physical needs.
    3. Parental Behavior: If one parent exhibits behavior that is harmful to the child, such as substance abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, the court may modify visitation rights to protect the child. Conversely, if a parent has made significant positive changes, such as recovering from substance abuse, they may petition for increased visitation.
    4. Violation of Visitation Orders: If one parent consistently violates the current visitation orders, the court may modify the orders to ensure that both parents adhere to the agreed-upon schedule and meet the child’s needs.
    5. Parental Request: Either parent can request a modification of visitation rights if they believe it is in the child’s best interest. The court will consider whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last visitation order.
    6. Child’s Preference: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the court may consider the child’s preference regarding visitation.

It is important to note that the court must approve any modification to visitation rights. Parents can agree to changes among themselves, but for the changes to be legally enforceable, they must submit them to be approved by the court. 

Supervised Visitation

When the child’s safety and welfare might be at risk, the court may order supervised visitation, which means the non-custodial parent can visit with the child only when a neutral third party is present. Reasons for supervised visitation might include issues of domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health concerns.

Supervised visitation in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and  Connecticut, as in other jurisdictions, is typically ordered by the court when there are concerns about the child’s safety and well-being during visits with a non-custodial parent. The standards and guidelines for supervised visitation aim to ensure that the child maintains a relationship with the non-custodial parent while also being protected from potential harm or if there is a risk of abduction. The Court may also institute supervised visitation when there is a history of drug abuse or mental health issues, if a parent has a history of neglect, or if the parent and child have a strained relationship and need assistance with their interactions.

Supervised visits can take place in various settings, including specialized visitation centers, public areas, or, in some cases, at the home of a trusted third party. The setting is chosen based on the child’s best interests, the level of risk involved, and the availability of supervised visitation services. The supervisor can be a professional from a supervised visitation center, a social worker, or sometimes a trusted family member or friend the court has approved. The supervisor’s role is to ensure the child’s safety during the visit, observe the interactions between the parent and child, and intervene if necessary. Supervisors typically document the visit and may provide reports to the court outlining how the visit went, including the quality of interactions between the parent and child and any concerns that arose. These reports can impact future visitation arrangements and custody decisions.

It is important to note that the primary goal of supervised visitation is to support and preserve the parent-child relationship in a safe environment. Parents subjected to supervised visitation should understand that complying with the rules and working towards improving their situation can lead to more relaxed visitation arrangements in the future.

Enforcement of Visitation Rights

If one parent refuses to comply with the visitation schedule, the other parent can seek enforcement through the court. Attempts at enforcement involve filing a motion for contempt or seeking a modification of the visitation order.

Contact a Rhode Island Child Visitation Lawyer

It is important to note that while these guidelines provide a framework, the specific circumstances of each case can lead to different outcomes. Parents are often encouraged to work together to create a visitation schedule that works best for their child. If parents cannot agree, the court will intervene and establish a schedule based on the child’s best interests.

If you are dealing with a child visitation issue, it is advisable to consult with a family law attorney who can provide guidance based on the specifics of your situation. Palumbo Law has dedicated attorneys who will work hard to ensure your child’s visitation rights are fair and fit your family’s circumstances. Contact our Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut law firm today.