Parents are always welcomed to resolve custody issues out-of-court. However, if they fail to submit their parenting plan to the court, the judge may do it for them. In doing so, the judge will consider all the factors of the case to determine what would be in the best interests of the child. Based on these considerations, one of the possible custody models will be appointed.
In general, in Rhode Island, there are two types of child custody: physical and legal custody.
Physical custody determines with whom the child lives and who is responsible for the everyday care of the child. Physical placement may be sole or shared. Sole physical custody means that one parent has primary custody of a child, and the other party has the visitation rights. Shared physical placement is when both parties provide a home for the child or at least spends nearly equal time with the child.
Legal custody determines the decision-making power of the parents, and it can also be either sole or joint. If a parent has sole legal custody, they do not have to consult with the other parent about any decisions concerning the child's life.
When parents have joint legal custody, they should make the most important decisions about the child's education, health, travels, ethical and religious issues together, no matter who has primary physical custody. This type of custody is prevalent in Rhode Island since it is assumed that close contact with both parents is good for the child unless proven otherwise.