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What are the Rights of Children in Divorce?

 

Four children playing ball in a clearing surrounded by trees.

 

If you are going through a divorce, it’s important that you have a full understanding of your child’s rights. There are numerous variations of the Bill of Rights for children of divorce. Brodie Friedman wants to ensure your child is protected during and after the divorce process. In this article, we review various versions of the Children’s Bills of Rights in the United States, and consider what the rights of children in divorce really are.

A thoughtful Huffington Post article penned by Sophie Rosen highlights a movement throughout the country to protect children through the divorce process. 

Rosen lists 10 things parents should tell their children during a break-up:

  1. It’s not your fault;
  2. There’s no wrong way to feel;
  3. There is outside support if you need or want it;
  4. Both of your parents love you;
  5. Parents show love in different ways;
  6. Your parents’ divorce does not define you;
  7. Your relationship with each of your parents is independent of the other;
  8. It is not your responsibility to fix your parents’ marriage;
  9. Marriage can be wonderful;
  10. Life goes on.

While this is a good list, many child advocates are going further, pushing to pass bills that will protect the rights of children in divorce. Bills have been introduced in several states and on the Federal level as well. In addition, many hospitals and institutions, public and private, are adopting a version of the Children’s Bill of Rights for their patients and clients.

Because standards of health, safety, and well-being of children vary across jurisdictions, a proposed Federal Children’s Bill of Rights was introduced by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, Rep. Karen Bass, and Rep. Judy Chu. The law covers three areas crucial to the healthy development of children. The aim is to protect the rights of children regardless of gender, class, race, ethnicity, national origin, culture, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation, or ability. 

A toddler runs through a sprinkle of water and sunlight.

The Proposed National Bill of Children’s Rights

The proposed bill would include a few important measures and considerations:

  1. The right to be free from all forms of physical, psychological, sexual abuse, or neglect; 
  2. The right to a safe and healthy environment; 
  3. The right to receive appropriate medical treatment including therapeutic care for behavioral health. 

In addition, the proposed bill contains provisions seeking to enhance the ability of children to participate in decision-making processes, and for educational opportunities and community engagement for equal opportunity:

The Children’s Bill of Rights Council has published its own proposed version containing 36 individual rights covering such things as expression of love, sense of security, and freedom of choice.

Private organizations that serve children have also adopted various versions of Children’s Bill of  Rights. The Massachusetts General Hospital instituted a Bill of Rights for Children and Teens to support its patients, which was adapted from A Pediatric Bill of Rights by the Association for the Care of Children’s Health (ACCH). It covers a number of patient concerns such as respect and personal dignity, care that supports the child and family, information the child can understand, quality health care, emotional support, care that respects the child’s need to grow, play and learn, and make choices and decisions.

You might wonder why there are so many versions and proposals on every level including state  and federal legislation and rulemaking, public and private institutions, and advocacy groups across the spectrum. The answer lies in the ancient legal principle (going back to the Book of Leviticus) that grants to parents virtually all authority concerning decisions about children. 

Unless it can be proved in a court of law by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is neglecting or abusing a child, parents are constitutionally protected from State interference in parental decision making. Therefore, there is a legal presumption that a parent is acting in the best interests of the child that is very difficult to overcome. Despite the best intentions of the authors and advocates for a universal Children’s Bill of Rights, the tension between these ancient principles concerning parental authority and adopting such a law are very difficult to reconcile, and will continue to frustrate children’s rights advocates. Advocates for the rights of grandparents, who are raising their grandchildren in ever-increasing numbers, have run into the same stumbling block and have seen years of work to enact legislation granting them rights overturned by the high courts for this very reason.

Notwithstanding the difficulties in enacting legislation, parents can agree to adopt any version of  the Children’s Bill of Rights into their Separation Agreement. This is becoming a common practice and is very encouraging for children’s advocates regarding the rights of children in divorce. It is likely that every court has some version of a Children’s Bill of Rights that they are familiar with and routinely utilize. By adopting a Children’s Bill of Rights in the Separation Agreement the parents are informed concerning the appropriate behavior towards their children during and after a divorce. 

A mother watches a video on her iPad while holding her infant and toddler sitting on the couch.If you’re contemplating an uncoupling, we at the law firm of Brodie Friedman are here to answer any questions you have regarding your family, the law, and the rights of children in divorce. We are an experienced team of professionals that can help you protect your children.

 

With over 30 years of combined experience, Jason Brodie Esq. and Joshua Friedman Esq. will guide you toward realistic goals and provide committed advocacy toward achieving them. They are known throughout South Florida for dedicated client service, tenacity, and success in complex divorce litigation involving property division, child custody, and spousal support. 

To get a better understanding of the qualities our reputation is built on, contact our office in Boca Raton to schedule your initial phone consultation (561) 392-5100

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