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Rhode Island Court Records

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Where to Find Family Court Records in Rhode Island?

Members of the general public can get family court records in Rhode Island from the Family Court. The Rhode Island Family Court was the first state-wide Family Court in the U.S. The state’s Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over domestic relations and juvenile matters in the state. The information generated during the court proceeding is usually managed and disseminated by the family court administrator. Persons looking to obtain certain family court records may visit the courthouse where the case was filed. Rhode Island allows access to public records of family cases such as divorce, marriage, and paternity cases.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved. It is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What Is Family Law in Rhode Island?

Family law in Rhode Island is the principle and guidelines used by the family court in domestic relations proceedings. Title 15(Domestic Relations) of the State of Rhode Island General Laws encompasses statutes centered on various family matters. Some of these statutes include:

Chapter 15–1 Persons Eligible to Marry

Chapter 15–2 Marriage Licenses

Chapter 15–3 Solemnization of Marriages

Chapter 15–4 Married Women’s Rights

Chapter 15–5 Divorce and Separation

Chapter 15–6 Uniform Divorce Recognition Act

Chapter 15–7 Adoption of Children

Chapter 15–8 Uniform Law on Paternity

Chapter 15–9 Support of Children

Chapter 15–10 Support of Parents

Chapter 15–14.1 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Chapter 15–15 Domestic Abuse Prevention

Chapter 15–23 Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Chapter 15–30 Legal Representation in Child Support Cases

What Are Family Court Cases and Records in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Family Court hears cases relating to domestic relations and juvenile issues. Records generated from the court proceedings are managed at the courthouse the case was filed. Some cases resolved in the family courts are:

  • Child Support
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Child Custody
  • Paternity issues
  • Divorce and Separation
  • Adoption
  • Juvenile Delinquencies
  • Family Support

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that a person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Are Family Court Cases Public Records in Rhode Island?

According to the Rhode Island, Access to Public Records Act, information maintained by public bodies such as family court records is available to the general public. The Rhode Island Family Courts allow individuals to copy and inspect records generated and kept by the court. However, Section 38–2–3 of the state’s FOIA states that some records are exempted from the public’s access. For family-related cases, unavailable records include adoption records, child custody records, records generated from juvenile proceedings, and records on unlawful births.

How Do I Find Family Court Records in Rhode Island?

Individuals may access family court records in Rhode Island by requesting desired records from the courthouse the case was filed. There are four family courthouses in the state, and each courthouse hears family cases within a county’s jurisdiction. The family court administrator is responsible for storing records and disseminating those that are considered public information. Individuals seeking family court records can visit the administrator’s office during office hours or send a mail to the office location. Fees may apply for copying and searching records. Individuals can visit/send requests to:

Providence/Bristol County Family Court

Garrahy Judicial Complex

1 Dorrance Plaza,

Providence, RI 02903

(401) 458–5262

Kent County Family Court

Noel Judicial Complex

222 Quaker Lane,

Warwick, RI 02886

(401) 822–6725

Newport County Family Court

Murray Judicial Complex

45 Washington Square,

Newport, RI 02840

(401) 841–8340

Washington County Family Court

McGrath Judicial Complex

4800 Tower Hill Road,

Wakefield, RI 02879

(401) 782–4111

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?

The Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal gives online access to case information maintained by the Rhode Island judiciary. Interested individuals can get Rhode Island family court records on the portal. Users can search the portal by the Family Court location, details of the parties involved, and general details of the case. The public access terminal, located at the courthouse, also gives electronic access to family court records. However, exempted and sealed family court records cannot be gotten online. Case information is generally available online for as long as the family court administrator maintains the physical copies.

What Is Rhode Island Custody Law?

Custody law in Rhode Island is used to resolve custody cases in the family court. When child custody cases occur, the state’s custody laws prescribe that the family courts should determine who gets custody rights based on the child’s best interest. The court considers some factors to determine the child’s best interest, such as:

  • Plans made by the parents concerning the child’s custody
  • The preference of the child, if the court believes the child is matured enough to make a decision
  • The existing relationship and interaction the child has with its parents, siblings, and other persons that progresses the child’s best interest
  • The mental and physical well-being of all the individuals involved
  • The capability of each parent to allow a meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The moral well-being of the parents

The Rhode Island family court also offers mediation programs to resolve custody cases that arise due to a divorce action. The mediation program is usually ordered before the commencement of court proceedings. Mediation aims to help the parties resolve issues amicably and create a parenting plan that caters to both the parents’ wishes and the child’s best interests.

How to Find Family Court Lawyers in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Bar Association site has a section dedicated to finding and choosing a lawyer in the state. The section gives a detailed description of how interested individuals can find lawyers. The site also provides an Online Lawyer Referral Service that persons can fill in details of their family cases and contact information to be referred to a suitable family court lawyer. Low-income earners and the elderly can contact the phone lines - (401) 421–7799 or (401) 521–5040 to be referred to pro-bono programs that offer low-cost or free legal services to qualified persons.

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