Chapter 278

Chapter 278

2003 -- S 1106

Enacted 07/17/03






     Introduced By: Senators McCaffrey, Raptakis, and F Caprio

     Date Introduced: May 28, 2003



It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:


     SECTION 1. Section 15-5-16.2 of the General Laws in Chapter 15-5 entitled "Divorce

and Separation" is hereby amended to read as follows:

     15-5-16.2. Child support. -- (a) In a proceeding for divorce, divorce from bed and board,

a miscellaneous petition without the filing of divorce proceedings, or child support, the court shall

order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child to pay an amount based upon a

formula and guidelines adopted by an administrative order of the family court. If, after calculating

support based upon court established formula and guidelines, the court, in its discretion, finds the

order would be inequitable to the child or either parent, the court shall make findings of fact and

shall order either or both parents owing a duty of support to pay an amount reasonable or

necessary for the child's support after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

      (1) The financial resources of the child;

      (2) The financial resources of the custodial parent;

      (3) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been


      (4) The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs;


      (5) The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

      (b) The court may, if in its discretion it deems it necessary or advisable, order child

support and education costs for children attending high school at the time of their eighteenth

(18th) birthday and for ninety (90) days after graduation, but in no case beyond their nineteenth

(19th) birthday. In addition, the court may order child support to continue, in the case of a child

with a severe physical or mental impairment, until the twenty-first (21st) birthday of the child.

      (c) (1) The court may, if in its discretion it deems it necessary or advisable, appoint an

attorney or a guardian ad litem to represent the interest of a minor or dependent child with respect

to his or her support, custody, and visitation. (i) In determining whether an appointment should be

made, the court shall consider the extent to which a guardian ad litem may assist in providing

information concerning the best interest of the child; the age of the child; the wishes of the

parents as well as their financial resources; the nature of the proceeding including the level of

contentiousness, allegations of child abuse or domestic violence and the risk of harm to the child

if a guardian is not appointed; or conflicts of interest between the child and parents or siblings;

     (ii) the guardian ad litem shall be appointed from a list of persons properly credentialed

pursuant to administrative orders of the chief judge of the family court;

     (iii) the court shall enter an order of appointment stating the specific assignment the

optional and mandatory duties of the guardian ad litem, the guardian's access to the child and

confidential information regarding the child, and a provision for payment of the costs and fees of

the guardian ad litem;

     (iv) communications made to a guardian, including those made by a child, are not

privileged and may or may not be disclosed to the parties, the court or to professionals providing

services to the child or the family;

     (v) the guardian ad litem shall meet with the child, conduct an investigation and upon

request of the court shall prepare an oral or written report that contains the procedural background

of the case, identification of all persons interviewed and other sources of information, a statement

of the child's emotional, medical, educational and social service needs, the child's wishes and

other factors relevant to the court's determination regarding the best interests of the child;

     (vi) any written report of the guardian ad litem shall be marked as a full exhibit in the

proceedings, subject to cross-examination;

     (vii) if the guardian ad litem requests confidential health care information and consent is

withheld, he or she shall apply to the court for leave to obtain such information after compliance

with section 5-37.3-6.1;

     (viii) the guardian ad litem shall be given notice of and should appear at all proceedings

in family court that affect the interests of the child;

     (ix) a person serving as a guardian ad litem under this section acts as the court's agent and

is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for acts performed within the scope of the duties of the

guardian ad litem;

     (x) the chief judge of the family court shall issue, through administrative orders, rules

governing the appointment and performance of guardians ad litem in domestic proceedings. The

court shall enter an order for costs, fees, and disbursements in favor of the child's attorney. The

order shall be made against either or both parents.

     (2) After a decree for support has been entered, the court may from time to time upon the

petition of either party, review and alter its decree relative to the amount of support and the

payment of it, and may make any decree relative to support which it might have made in the

original suit. The decree may be made retroactive in the court's discretion only to the date that

notice of a petition to modify was given to the adverse party if the court finds that a substantial

change in circumstances has occurred; provided, the court sets forth in its decision the specific

findings of fact which show a substantial change in circumstances and upon which findings of

facts the court has decided to make the decree retroactive.

      (d) (1) In a proceeding to enforce a child support order, or a spousal support order for a

custodial parent having custody of a minor child, the court or its magistrate may assign to the

obligee any tangible personal property of the obligor that will be sufficient to satisfy the child or

spousal support arrearage owed. The court or its magistrate, after a hearing, shall establish the

amount of the child or spousal support arrearage, and the nature and value of the tangible

personal property. To effect the assignment, the court or its magistrate may order the obligor to

execute and deliver the documents of title which may be necessary to complete the transfer of

title to the property, and may order the obligor to deliver possession of the property to the

obligee. Whenever the obligor fails to comply with the order assigning the property, the order of

assignment shall be regarded as a judgment vesting title to the property in the obligor as fully and

completely as if the obligor had executed and delivered the documents of title.

      (2) Any order for child support issued by the family court shall contain a provision

requiring either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child to obtain health insurance

coverage for the child when coverage is available to the parent or parents through their

employment without cost or at a reasonable cost. "Reasonable cost" shall be defined in

accordance with guidelines adopted by administrative order of the family court in conjunction

with the child support guidelines. Any existing child support orders may be modified in

accordance with this subsection unless the court makes specific written findings of fact that take

into consideration the best interests of the child and conclude that a child support order or medical

order would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. In addition, the National Medical

Support Notice shall be issued with respect to all orders issued, enforced or modified on or after

October 1, 2002, in accordance with chapter 29 of this title. The notice shall inform the employer

of provisions in the child support order for health care coverage for the child, and contain

instructions on how to implement this coverage. In lieu of the court ordering the non-custodial

parent to obtain or maintain health care coverage for the child, the court may order the non-

custodial parent to contribute a weekly cash amount towards the medical premium for health care

coverage paid by the state of Rhode Island and/or the custodial parent. The method to determine a

reasonable weekly amount shall be addressed in the family court administrative order pertaining

to the child support guidelines.

      (e) In a proceeding to establish support, the court in its discretion may, after opportunity

for hearing, issue a temporary order for child support payable into the registry of the court and to

be held pending entry of judgment. In the event of a final adjudication requiring no payment or

payments in an amount less than those payments which have been made pursuant to a temporary

order under this section, the defendant shall be entitled to a refund of all or a portion of the

amounts so paid.

      (f) In any proceeding to establish support, or in any case in which an obligor owes past

due support, for a child or children receiving public assistance pursuant to chapter 5.1 of title 40,

the court or its magistrate, upon a finding that an able bodied absent parent obligor is

unemployed, underemployed or otherwise lacks sufficient income or resources from which to

make payment of support equal to the public assistance payment for the child or children, or is

unable to pay the arrearages in accordance with a payment plan, may order that parent to perform

unpaid community service for at least twenty (20) hours per week through community service

placements arranged and supervised by the department of human services and/or the division of

taxation within the department of administration or to participate in such work activities as the

court deems appropriate. The performance of community service shall not be a basis for

retroactive suspension of arrears due and owing.

      (g) (1) In any proceeding to establish support for a minor child whose adjudicated parent

is a minor (minor-parent), the court or its magistrate may order a grandparent of the minor child

to reimburse the department of human services in an amount not to exceed the total amount of

cash assistance benefits paid to or for the minor child pursuant to chapter 5.1 of title 40 until the

minor-parent reaches the age of eighteen (18), less any payment made to the department by the

minor parent.

      (2) It is declared that the obligation of reimbursement for the minor child shall be the

joint and several responsibility of the minor parent and the grandparent(s) until the minor parent

reaches the age of eighteen (18) and provided, that each joint obligor shall have a right of

contribution against each joint obligor, which right is enforceable by an action in the family court.

      (h) (1) All support orders established or modified in the state on or after October 1, 1998,

shall be recorded with the Rhode Island family court degrees department of administration,

division of taxation child support computer enforcement system which maintains the official

registry of support orders entered from then on in accordance with applicable administrative

orders issued by the Rhode Island family court. The support order shall be recorded whether or

not services are being provided under the IV-D state plan.

      (2) The obligee to a paternity or child support proceeding shall be required to file with

the family court, upon the entry of the order, the appropriate form as provided by family court,

which includes the full name of the parties, residential and mailing address, telephone number,

drivers license number, social security number and the name, address and telephone number of

the employer. The form shall also include the full order amount and date and amount of

arrearages if any, the name of the child(ren), their date of birth, address and social security

number and any other information as required by administrative order.

      (3) Thereafter, each party is required to file an amended form whenever any of the

information contained on the original form has been changed in any way, within ten (10) days of

the change. The information shall be entered in the child support enforcement computer system

within five (5) business days of receipt of the amended form.

      (i) In any subsequent child support enforcement action between the parties, upon

sufficient showing that diligent effort has been made to ascertain the location of a party, the court

may deem state due process requirements for notice and service of process to be met with respect

to the party, upon service by first class mail or, where appropriate, by service as specified in the

Rhode Island rules of procedure for domestic relations for the Family Court of Rhode Island, of

written notice to the most recent residential or employer address of record.

      [See section 12-1-15 of the General Laws.]

     SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.