Most of the time, clients who have an uncontested divorce are also able to co-parent pretty well. They manage to anticipate and reduce conflict, and have agreements about who makes certain decisions in their children’s lives. They usually are hyper-focused on the best interest of their children, and try to maintain stability in what can be a traumatic and destabilizing time in their lives.
Of course, not every case is so straightforward. Even when parties have an agreed divorce, they might still lose sight of the happiness and well-being of their children some of the time. This is why it might be helpful to incorporate the ‘Child’s Bill of Rights’ into the divorce decree. The bill of rights basically puts the children front and center. Similar to the bill of rights in our Constitution, it lists out certain expectations the parents must follow for the benefit of the children.
Most of the time, these seem like common sense. For example, one right is that neither parent should speak badly about the other parent to the child, or discuss any family law matters with their child. Another is that the parents should cooperate to the fullest extent in sharing time with their children.
In fact, if you read the bill of rights (reproduced below) you might think that any good parent would make these decisions in their sleep! But, incorporating these into a decree serves two purposes.
First, having the Children’s Bill of Rights means that these obligations to the children are enforceable. If one parent fails to follow the list, then they can be brought to court and held in contempt of violating a court order. But second, and probably more importantly, including this language in a final decree serves as a periodic reminder to parents that their children should always come first – no matter how acrimonious and difficult their own relationship might be.
The Children’s Bill of Rights
- Neither parent shall deny the child reasonable use of the telephone to place and receive calls with the other parent and relatives.
- Neither parent shall speak or write derogatory remarks about the other parent to the child, or engage in abusive, coarse or foul language, which can be overheard by the child whether or not the language involves the other parent.
- Neither parent shall permit the children to overhear arguments, negotiations or other substantive discussions about legal or business dealings between the parents.
- Neither parent shall physically or psychologically attempt to pressure, attempt to influence, pressure or influence the children concerning the personal opinion or position of the child concerning legal proceedings between the parents.
- Each parent will permit the child to display photographs of the other parent or both parents in the child’s room.
- Neither parent shall communicate moral judgments about the other parent to the child concerning the other parent’s choice of values, lifestyle, choice of friends, successes or failures in life (career, financial, relational) or residential choice.
- The parents will acknowledge to the child that the child has two homes although the child may spend more time at one home than the other.
- The parents shall cooperate to the greatest extent practicable in sharing time with the child.
- Each parent will permit the child to retain, and allow easy access to, correspondence, greeting cards, and other written materials received from the other parent.
- Each parent will respect the physical integrity of items possessed by the child which depict the other parent or remind the child of the other parent.
- Neither parent will trivialize, or deny the existence of the other parent to the child.
- Neither parent will interrogate the child about the other parent nor will either parent discourage comments by the child about the other parent.
- Neither parent will intercept, “lose”, derail, “forget” or otherwise interfere with communications to the child from the other parent.
- Neither parent will refuse to acknowledge that the child can have or should have good experiences with the other parent.
- Neither parent will directly or indirectly attack or criticize to the child the extended family of the other parent, the other parent’s career, the living and travel arrangements of the other parent, or lawful activities of the other parent or associates of the other parent.
- Neither parent will use the child as a “middleman” by using the child to communicate with the other parent on inappropriate topics.
- Neither parent will undermine the other parent in the eyes of the child by engaging in the “circumstantial syndrome” which is done by manipulating, changing, or rearranging facts.
- Neither parent will create for, or exaggerate to, the child differences between the parents.
- Neither parent will say and do things with an eye to gaining the child as an “ally” against the other parent.
- Neither parent will encourage or instruct the child to be disobedient to the other parent, stepparents, or relatives.
- Neither parent will reward the child to act negatively toward the other parent.
- Neither parent will try to make the child believe he or she loves the child more than the other parent, by, for example, saying that he or she loves the child more than the other parent or over-informing the child on adult topics or overindulging the child.
- Neither parent will discuss child support issues with the child.
- Neither parent will engage in judgmental, opinionated or negative commentary, physical inspections or interrogations once the child arrives from his/her other home.
- Neither parent will “rewrite” or “re-script” facts which the child originally knows to be different.
- Neither parent will punish the child physically or threaten such punishment in order to influence the child to adopt the parent’s negative program, if any, against the other parent.
- Neither parent will permit the child to be transported by a person who is intoxicated due to consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Neither parent will smoke tobacco materials inside structures or vehicles occupied at the time by the child.
- Each parent will permit the child to carry gifts, toys, clothing, and other items belonging to the child with him or her to the residence of the other parent or relatives or permit the child to take gifts, toys, clothing, and other items belonging to the child back to the residence of the other parent, as the case may be, to facilitate the child having with him or her objects, important to the child. The gifts, toys, clothing and other items belonging to the child referred to here mean items which are reasonable transportable and does not include pets (which the parents agree are impractical to move about).
Why this Bill of Rights Matters For You
We can add this language to your divorce decree, and help you enforce your family plan into the future.
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