Joint Custody versus Sole Custody-what’s the big deal????

Joint Custody or sole custody in a Rhode Island Divorce

Joint Custody or sole custody in a Rhode Island Divorce

I have been practicing in the Rhode Island Family Court arena for 26 years. Things have not changed much when it comes to the sole versus joint custody debate.  It’s amazing the amount time and energy parents, lawyers and the judiciary spend on deciding whether to award joint versus sole custody.  Does it really make a big difference in most cases? I am not so sure.  I try to be practical and realistic.  Whether a parent is awarded joint custody or sole custody  in a divorce proceeding does not define the type of parental relationship you are likely to have with your child. Kids want to be involved in a healthy and stable relationship with both parents. The legal labels placed on the custody aspect of a divorce or legal separation are often meaningless in the big picture.  Sometimes one parent is more mature and stable warranting an award of sole custody.  In this situation, the other parent can still request that he be notified and informed about major issues in the child’s life, hence getting some of the benefits of joint custody without the official label. Joint custody requires both parents to work together and communicate effectively regarding medical care, safety issues, education  and religious upbringing of the children. Joint custody prevents one parent after the divorce from unilaterally moving and relocating to another state with the children without permission or advanced notice to the remaining parent.  Joint custody assumes that parents can cooperate and work together for the betterment of their children. The overwhelming majority of divorcing parents resolve their custody issues in a dignified and respectful manner.   That is a good thing because in my experience, Rhode Island Judges generally favor joint custody.  This is not novel and is consistent with many judicial philosophies.  Fortunately, 90 percent of Rhode Island divorces go through the court system with very few bumps in the road regarding the custody issue.  We wouldn’t have enough courtrooms to handle the cases if the opposite were true.

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