Though not specifically addressed within the realm of Rhode Island divorce proceeding, a particular issue has raised its head several times in my practice over the years in the form more of a particular factual set of circumstances rather than as a direct legal issue itself.
A recent call presented this scenario from a Rhode Island lawyer and colleague who was endeavoring to assist clients with a preplexing issue. It went something like this.
Two parents who have not yet become a divorce statistic have moved across the country. Their minor child has remained with a friend (unrelated by blood or marriage to either parent) here in Rhode Island to provide consistency with the child remaining in his current school system, etc. The parents would like to have the child remain with the friend through the remainder of his or her schooling. The friend is presumably agreeable to his as long as the parents continue to provide the financial support necessary for the child and that the friend is not held responsible for any liability of the child. The friend also needs the authority to be able to act in the best interests of the child and take legal action as necessary to enroll the child in programs, receive confidential health care information regarding the child, etc…
This of course causes a variety of questions to arise that the colleague wanted my input on. The general question was, how should this be done properly (i.e. legally) to be able to accomplish what they would like to do.
The tremendous number of Rhode Island family law questions that this factual situation presents is remarkable and therefore, I will end this particular blog post with the questions it raises rather than simply providing the answer I believe is appropriate under the circumstances.
Now you may be saying…. huh . . . Chris, what the heck are you doing? This is a Rhode Island Divorce Tips blog. What you’ve set your self up for is to give us TIPS and HELP on these issues, not to give us the darn questions and have us figure it out for ourselves!
This may or may not be a semi-useless exercise but it is one that I wanted to try. True, this is a Rhode Island Divorce Tips blog and that it is my intention to give at least some general guidance regarding the issues presented as opposed to any specific legal advice. Yet the one common thread that I have found in writing this Rhode Island divorce and family law blog is that when people contact me about these issues they rarely appreciate the nature and depth of the issues or the true value that are getting by some insight from a legal professional who is trying to assist in the understanding of these issues.
In truth, it seems that Rhode Islanders, divorce and family law clients, and even other Rhode Island lawyers who don’t practice in the areas of divorce and family law have a greater appreciation of the the depth and complexity of these legal problems and issues if they at least consider the questions. . . .or by considering the number and type of questions that present themselves to a legal practitioner when he or she either endeavors to provide some helpful information on a Rhode Island legal issue
relating to divorce and family law.
Ultimately, is you consider the Rhode divorce and family law questions presented before receiving the answer directly, you gain a better understanding and appreciation of what legal professionals offer in their services and perhaps why their education is so costly which often necessitates rates that seem out of whack with today’s minimum wage.
All this digression from the topic aside, consider these various questions that this scenario presents:
1. Can an unrelated person be given legal authority over all aspects of their minor child’s life?
2. Can custodial rights be given or assigned to another person?
3. What are the bodies of rights that a parent has with respect to a child?
4. How would you absolve people who take in your child from any liability for decisions relating to your child?
5. If you have your child stay with an unrelated person iin a particular school district n order to keep the child in a particular school system, is this perpetrating a fraud upon the school department.
6. If you can place your minor child with another person voluntarily and you do so, what are your obligations to support that minor child?
7. If place your minor child with an unrelated person voluntarily and with the person’s consent and agree to continue to support the child but assign the child’s care to that unrelated person, who is responsible for the minor child’s transgressions if he or she decides to damage school property?
The questions are truly endless. What are your thoughts? What else should you consider? These are all questions that are very specific and your matter is factually driven. There is no real set answer to any general questions such as these that could be included in an article such as this. In my opinion, the best you can hope for is to be informed and to think about all the concerns that need to be presented to the Rhode Island attorney that your approach to seek guidance about your factual situation.
When approaching an attorney about these issues, list all the issues and concerns in the form of questions and present to the attorney a detailed picture of all the facts and relationships based on all the possible scenarios that may be encountered both by you as a parent or as a caregiver for the child. It is only be identifying all the facts and the anticipated issues that you want the caregiver to address and/or be protected on when executing those duties that a good Rhode Island family law practitioner will be able to provide you with sound legal advice to address your particular facts and circumstances.