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Rhode Island child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Rhode Island child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Rhode Island child support determined?

In Rhode Island, either parent may be ordered to provide child support in any proceeding for divorce, divorce from bed and board (legal separation) or any miscellaneous petition without filing for divorce or child support. Generally, the court will award child support based on the court guidelines.

However, if the court finds that the guidelines are not fair for a particular case, the court will base its decision on the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the child
  • the financial resources of the custodial parent
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had continued
  • the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child
  • the financial resources of the non-custodial parent

There are official Rhode Island Child Support guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age.

The court has the discretion to order child support and educational expenses for children attending high school when the child is 18 or for 90 days after graduation.

Child support will not be awarded for a child 19 years or older. If the child suffers from disabilities that require care and expense, the court may award support until he or she reaches 21 years of age.

Rhode Island's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement between the parents, then the courts will make these decisions.

In Rhode Island, custody decisions are based on the best interests of the child. Reasonable visitation will be granted to a non-custodial parent, unless the courts feel it would be harmful to the child. There are no specific considerations outlined in the statute. Also, there is no specific provision for joint custody in Rhode Island.

The non-custodial parent has a reasonable right of visitation unless good cause exists to deny visitation. Past and present domestic violence affecting the best interest of the child will be considered by the court in devising a visitation schedule. The receipt of public assistance by either parent is not a factor in visitation.

As a custodial parent, it is important to abide by the court ordered visitation schedule. If a motion for contempt is filed against the custodial parent for failure to comply with the court order, the court will issue a more definite schedule. If the custodial parent fails to comply with the visitation order a second time, the court may consider changing custody to the non-custodial parent.

The non-custodial parent is also subject to a contempt motion for failure to comply with the court ordered visitation schedule. In this case, the court may sanction the non-custodial parent for the contempt.

Rhode Island's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for Rhode Island child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, it is not advisable for you to enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states, including Rhode Island, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

By statute, all child support orders issued, enforced or modified after January 1, 1994 are subject to immediate wage withholding unless the court finds there is:

  • good cause to not impose wage withholding or
  • a written agreement by both parties involved which provides for an alternative arrangement for the timely payment of support due under the support order 

How does joint custody work?

Joint custody has become commonplace in much of the nation.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. 

One parent will have physical possession of the child which amounts to the day-to-day care and control of the child. Joint custody also allows the non-possessory parent to have access to educational, medical, religious and other miscellaneous records without the express permission of the possessory parent.

How Rhode Island determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. A visitation schedule imposed by the court will depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • the age of the child
  • geographical proximity between the child and the non-possessory parent
  • the work schedules of both parents

However, the guiding principle of visitation schedules is still the best interest of the child.

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