Guidelines for Parents and the Rights of Children
Key Points
  • Just because your marriage is ending, does not result in the end of parenting as well. This is one of the biggest mistakes parents make when facing divorce. The responsibility of being a parent has never been more vital. Children need and deserve both parents.
  • Children in the midst of a divorce have the court to legally look out for their best interests. The parents are called upon to do the same, regarding their well-being especially.
  • Children’s Rights are listed and explained. They are a great guideline to follow to get a solid grasp of what responsibilities lie ahead as a parent during and post divorce.


In 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 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:

  • Successfully divorced spouses achieve a rapport approaching benign indifference, so that each can address situations with business-like behavior. If, after the divorce, necessary conversation about child care becomes too heated, it might be wise to continue it on a later date.
  • Both parents must respect and encourage the child's relationship with the other parent.
  • Former spouses should schedule regular meetings to discuss parenting issues. Some parenting plans include protocols for such meetings.
  • Refighting past battles, rehashing pass grievances and opening old wounds serves no purpose.
  • Each partner must remember that the other partner also loves the child, and each partner should express and/or show appreciation towards one another as even the simplest comment or action can create a stronger and more effective partnership.
  • The parenting plan is, among other features, a schedule, so neither parent should intentionally break or skip appointments. Parents should be forthright and honest when a problem arises. This applies to children, too, who are entitled to a clear explanation for any change in plans and/or cancellations.
  • Parents who share custody should not make unilateral decisions about the children. Joint custody means a shared partnership.
  • Be open minded.
  • Remember the goals and recognize the benefits as they arise.

With this in mind, here are some guidelines about parenting in the wake of a divorce:
  • Children need some time to adjust to the new lifestyle they encounter. Children, more than the parents, need some time to cope with the changes that are taking place as a result of the divorce. Parents must remember that they, or at least one of them, acted to end the marriage. No child ever asks his or her parents to divorce. A child, therefore, must react to a situation not of his making -- playing the cards dealt in a game he or she did not ask for.
  • Children must know that they are not the reason for the divorce. Many children, usually the younger ones, feel that they have done something to cause the separation. Children must never be enlisted as allies, spies, operatives, or pawns in a manipulative bargaining scheme.
  • As angry as the spouses may be with each other, each must recognize that the other is also a parent; divorce does not minimize parental responsibility.
  • Parents should never force children to take sides, or to be put in the middle of something over which they have no control.
  • Difficult as it may be, divorced parents should create for their children as stable an environment as possible, so they can feel secure and loved.

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:

  • Children have the right to spend time with each parent. They need both parents in order to develop emotionally.
  • Children should not be forced to take sides with either parent.
  • Children deserve to know from both parents that they will follow through with child care plans. Commitments to the children should be honored.
  • Children should be able to spend time with each parent. They need both parents in their life, and they need to know that both parents are there for them.
  • If possible, children should be entitled to their own personal sleeping area at each parent's home.
  • Children need to know their parents are available for open and honest conversation. Children need to discuss certain issues when they are growing up, and this will continually occur as they mature and interact with peers.

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

Suggested Reading
How to Win Child Custody How to Win Child Custody
This is not your basic child custody book like most you will find in a bookstore. This book is for people who are in the middle of a custody dispute or feel as though there is a possibility of one in the future. This is a resource for those parents who are fighting for their rights and/or custody of their children.

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THE DON’Ts – Good parenting through divorce has a dimension that is negatively defined. Good divorced parents do not speak badly or make accusations about the other parent in front of a child. They do not force a child to choose sides, or use a child as a messenger or go-between, or pump a child for information about the other parent, or argue or discuss child support issues in front of a child. In short, they do not use a child as a pawn to hurt the other parent.
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Featured Book How to Win Child Custody

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Featured Download Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases

Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases

Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases

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