How child custody decisions are made in Rwanda

By Esther Muhozi
On 7 October 2023 at 01:05

The Article 206 of Law No 32/2016 OF 28/08/2016, governing persons and family, stipulates that spouses are equal, where they have the same rights and obligations. They are obligated to maintain mutual fidelity, provide help, and offer assistance to each other.

Additionally, Article 225 addresses the custody of children during divorce proceedings. In the best interest of the children, the judge may assign provisional custody to one of the spouses or a third party, and determine each spouse’s contribution to child support.

Laws pertaining to divorce and custody matters can vary significantly. Filing for divorce and parental rights can differ from one state to another. It is crucial to understand your state’s divorce laws and parental rights before proceeding.

Contemplating divorce is a major decision, particularly when minor children are involved. When assessing a custody case, the family court prioritizes the best interests of the child or children.

Minimizing disruptions to the child’s life and preserving their relationships with both parents are key considerations. In some states, the child’s preferences regarding their living arrangements may also be taken into account.

Types of child custody arrangements

Various child custody arrangements exist for co-parenting families. Physical custody involves sharing a home with the child and handling their day-to-day care. Legal custody entails making important decisions about the child’s life, including healthcare, religious upbringing, education, and extracurricular activities.

Joint custody allows both parents to share parental rights and the child’s living arrangements. Joint legal custody involves equal decision-making power, while joint physical custody means the child spends nearly equal time with both parents. Courts typically prefer this arrangement as it is often deemed in the child’s best interest.

Sole custody occurs when one parent or guardian has sole physical and legal custody of the child. This arrangement is appropriate when one parent is deemed unfit, perhaps due to domestic violence or child abuse. However, the non-custodial parent may retain other parental rights, such as visitation or parenting time.

Child custody decisions in Rwanda

Article 243 addresses the effects of divorce on children in Rwanda. Custody of the children is awarded to the spouse who obtains the divorce, while the other spouse gains visitation rights or the right to contact or be visited by the children.

The judge determines appropriate terms to uphold these rights during the judgment. However, the court may, on its own motion or upon application by either spouse or another interested party, decide to entrust the children to the care of the losing spouse or a third party based on the children’s best interests.

Children under the age of six (6) years are generally required to live with their mother, unless the children’s interests are at risk. The court may also order shared custody between both spouses if it is in the best interests of the children.

Measures ordered by the court under this Article are always provisional and can be revoked upon request by any interested party through a unilateral petition.

Courts usually decide cases of child custody taking into considerations of the best interests of the child.