The General Master of Family Court granted custody of a child to the defendant because the plaintiff received public assistance. The issue on appeal was whether receiving public assistance was a legitimate criterion for the denial of child custody. In reversing the Family Court’s ruling for the defendant, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island reiterated the rule that any custody determinations must be based on the best interests of the child and delineated a non-exclusive test to determine the best interest of the child. The factors include, but are not limited to: (i) the wishes of the child’s parent or parents regarding the child’s custody; (ii) the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding and experience to express a preference; (iii) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest; (iv) the child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school and community; (v) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (vi) the stability of the child’s home environment; (vii) the moral fitness of the child’s parents; and (viii) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.
Sammataro v. Sammataro