Being used as a “bargaining” in a divorce proceeding is a traumatic, stressful and psychologically damaging place for a child to be. In order to help children of divorce overcome their status as powerless, many professional legal associations and organizations, adopted and promote a document called the “Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce.”
While some of the rights described are divorce specific, others are general. Spouses looking for tools to improve their parenting might find the Children’s Bill of Rights makes for a more peaceful home.
There are many permutations of the Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce. For economies of space, several documents are combined into a single document that is non-duplicative but rich in content.
Why Children Need a Bill of Rights in Divorce
Children of divorce have no say in most things that affect their immediate future. If they did, their number one choice would be – no divorce. They may move, change schools, lose the use of a car, have a lowered standard of living and even feel responsible for parents splitting up. While you and your spouse may have reached the end of your emotional ropes and feel the only thing to do is move on, that means your kid is going to have a disrupted life for a while. Even if you both believe it is best for all concerned, it is likely your child is in disagreement.
Almost every parent puts their child’s happiness at the top of their list of concerns. But, even those laudable thoughts do not give your child any rights.
Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce*
- Children have the right to love and be loved by both parents, without guilt, pressure, disapproval or rejection.
- Children have the right of protection from their parents' anger.
- Children have the right not to be in the middle of their parents' conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
- Children have the right to have a regular daily and weekly routine, one that is absent of unpredictable disruptions, chaos, or unpleasant surprises.
- Children have the right not to choose between parents. It is their right for others to decide with whom they will live. Having to make this kind of choice will always hurt someone, and therefore, the children. They have this right even when they are a teenager. CHILDREN CAN NEVER CHOOSE BETWEEN THEIR PARENTS.
- Children have the right not to be responsible for the emotional needs of their parents.
- Children have the right to know well in advance about any major changes that will affect their life.
- Children have the right to reasonable financial support from their parents.
- Children have the right to appropriately express their feelings to their parents and expect that they will listen to their children.
- Children have the right not to make adult decisions. Children have the right to remain a child and not take on parental duties, or to act as an adult companion, friend, or comforter to their parents.
- Children have the right to like and love as many people (such as stepparents and relatives) as they want to without guilt and without pressure to feel disloyal.
- Children have the right to a life as close as possible to what they would have had if parents had stayed married to each other.
*Source: NJ Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
Without an Implementation Plan the Bill of Rights for Children May Fail
While the Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce is a fine document with laudable objectives, it fails to explain in simple terms how to meet these objectives. There should be a corollary to the Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce – perhaps calling it Parents Must Act like Adults, Corollary to the Bill or Rights for Children of Divorce.
- No parent has the right to belittle, coerce, or otherwise attempt to alienate affection by the child for the other parent.
- Neither parent shall tell a child the other parent is to blame for the marriage failing.
- Parents who have financial responsibility for spousal support and child support shall pay the support promptly and in full.
- Parents planning on going on vacation with the child will notify their ex well in advance of the planned trip. All travel will be in accordance with court rules.
- Parents will attempt to put their differences aside and attend special events such as graduations, sporting events, religious ceremonies, and school conferences together.
Contact Kenny Leigh and Associates, divorce and child support lawyer in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Fleming Island, Daytona, Fort Walton and Boca Raton for more information on children's rights.