Fathers' Rights


With today's modern families, many women are in the workforce and not only are there a large number of dual-income households where both parents work equally, we have seen an emerging trend of stay-at-home Dads who handle the lion's share of the childcare responsibilities. We simply cannot ignore that fathers nowadays are more involved in child raising than ever before.

As a father in Rhode Island, your rights are addressed in the state's paternity and child custody laws. If you are married and filing for divorce, you can take comfort in the fact that the law in Rhode Island says the courts should make custody decisions based on the child's best interests. The courts no longer automatically award custody to the mother, the father is equally entitled to custody of the children.

During a divorce, it is ideal for you and your children's mother to reach a custody and visitation arrangement with the assistance of your respective attorneys; however, if you and your spouse cannot reach such an agreement, a judge will make a decision for you.

In a Rhode Island child custody case, the courts will consider:

  • Both parents' wishes
  • The child's wishes
  • The child's relationship with each parent and other family members; for example, a close relationship with a loving grandparent
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Any history of substance abuse
  • Any history of child neglect
  • The physical and mental health of everyone involved
  • Each parent's ability to provide for the child
  • Stability of the home environment

Fathers' Rights in Paternity Actions

According to Rhode Island's Office of Child Support Services, over 50% of children born in Rhode Island are born without their father's name on the birth certificate. Without being married to your child's mother, you have limited rights until they are granted by the court.

Even after paternity is established, you are not automatically entitled to custody and visitation. You must first file a Motion for Visitation and/or Custody with the family court. Once this is done, a hearing will be held to determine these issues; however, a mother and father can always reach an agreement over child custody and visitation.

When paternity is established, either voluntarily or by DNA testing ordered by the court, if the child is on assistance or Rite Care, the state will seek an order for child support and medical coverage. The mother also has the right to seek child support if she is raising the child on her own. Additionally, she may be entitled to past liabilities for up to 6 years prior to the filing of the paternity complaint.

Paternity may be established up until four years after the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years of age under §15-12-1.

Contact Steven G. Wright, Attorney at Law

If you have further questions or are in need of experienced legal representation in Providence, contact me, Steven G. Wright, Attorney at Law. With professional accomplishments such as Top 10 Ranking Family Lawyers in 2014 by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys and the Client Satisfaction Award by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys™, you can be confident that I will protect your father's rights to the fullest.

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