Guidelines for Parents and the Rights of Children
ParentsIn a divorce, the parent’s coping skills and the child’s coping skills are very different. Throughout the divorce and its aftermath, the parent must nurture and love a child going through a very difficult experience. Adolescence in particular is a time for someone to grow as a person; it is not a time for a teenager to be freighted with the woes and worries associated with divorcing parents. A child’s self-esteem does not have to be diminished by divorce, but can actually be strengthened; however, it takes hard work by both parents to build that healthy environment.
The obligation of being a parent does not end after a divorce. The failure to realize this incubates a very common social problem: when the marriage ends, so does the parenting, particularly when the noncustodial parent (who is often the father) drifts away from his own children by not exercising visitation rights. To be sure, parenting at the remove is difficult, but here are some basic rules:
With this in mind, here are some guidelines about parenting in the wake of a divorce:
The Rights of the Children
Almost all child custody orders are based on what is called the best interests of the child, a discretionary and foremost legal standard that pertains to support, visitation and custody. The courts reiterate this phrase over and over and over again to emphasize to divorcing parents the goals and positions they take when making any decision regarding the child(ren).
A child is not a miniature adult but a unique human being with unique feelings, ideas, and desires. While each child has a right to continuing care and proper guidance from each parent -- a parent’s love -- he or she also has a right not to be unduly influenced by either parent to view the other parent differently. A child needs to express love and respect for both parents in freedom and without shame.
A child is not property, nor is custody the reward for winning in a divorce battle.
Child support is not payment for the privilege of visitation; it is a legal and moral responsibility.
With this in mind, here is one version of a Children’s Rights Bill of Rights, which are considered in some jurisdictions in custody decisions held to the standard of the best interest of the children:
Common Questions and Answers
Q. What is the mark of a successful divorce?
A. A successful divorce is one where the spouses can rise to the occasion and fulfill their responsibilities as parents and do so without recrimination and battling.
Q. In dealing with a former spouse, what is the most important thing a parent can remember?
A. What hurts the parents also hurts the child.
Q. What is the best interest of the children?
A. It is a discretionary and foremost legal standard that pertains to support, visitation and custody. The key word in the phrase is discretionary because judges have a great deal of latitude in making decisions.
Useful Online Tools
Resources & Tools
CHILDREN’S REACTION – A child’s adjustment to divorce depends upon (1) the quality of their relationship with each parent before the divorce, (2) the intensity and duration of the parental conflict, and (3) the parents' ability to focus on the needs of the children in the divorce.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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