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How Adopting a Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce Could Help Limit Negative Effects on Kids

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Going through a divorce can be an incredibly challenging time for anyone, especially when children are involved. As a parent, one of your primary concerns is to shield your children from hurt and unfamiliarity as much as possible.

In most cases, children technically have limited rights in a divorce case. There may be instances where the judge makes an exception and considers the kid’s preferences for custody matters, but this is usually not the case. That said, many states do have the best interest of children at the center of decisions.

Adopting a Children’s Bill of Rights can go a long way in prioritizing the well-being of your children during this difficult time.

While divorce can have a negative impact on children, it can also be an opportunity to show your children that love and support within a family are possible even when the parents are no longer together.

An image of a man and a child smiling, representing the joy shared by a father in Maryland who has parenting time with his child.

We understand the emotional and psychological impact that divorce can have on children, and we’re here to help you find ways to limit that impact.

Read on to learn more about how you can help your child cope and rebound from the impact of divorce.

Why is Divorce Hard on Children?

Previously, many believed that divorce caused a negative emotional and psychological impact on children. However, research now shows that it’s the conflict during the divorce, rather than the divorce itself, that leads to negative psychological and emotionally traumatic experiences for kids.

Children can be profoundly affected by the conflict that arises during divorce, particularly when parents attempt to maintain a strained relationship for the sake of their children. The impact is most severe during the first year or two after divorce.

Impact of Divorce on Kids

Children may experience anger, anxiety, distress, and disbelief. That’s because divorce and the process leading up to it comes with a lot of changes, including changes in the child’s living situation and routines and even the reality that the parents are no longer together.

Fortunately, kids can rebound from this impact faster when the parents work together. The Bill of Children’s Rights recommendations can also lessen the impact of divorce on your child.

How to Limit the Impact Of Divorce

There are several things parents can do to reduce the negative effects of divorce on kids.

Keep co-parenting peaceful: It’s natural for disagreements to arise as you navigate co-parenting. However, avoiding escalating conflicts with yelling and threats is essential, as this can heighten stress for your child. Instead, strive to resolve disputes peacefully and calmly.

Avoid forcing the child to choose sides: Putting children in the middle by asking them to relay messages or pick sides only amplifies distress. It’s essential to protect them from such burdens and allow them to maintain positive relationships with both parents.

Reassure the child: Regardless of their age, reassure your child that the divorce is not their fault. Let them know that the end of your marriage does not mean the end of the love and care they get from both parents.

Teach them how to cope: Another helpful way to limit negative emotional impact is to teach your child to cope with the changes. Show them how they can handle their emotions, the change in routines, and the new reality.

Children’s Bill of Rights

Different versions of the Children’s Bill of Rights exist, each with its principles and recommendations. For instance, the Children’s Rights Council (CRC) offers its version of the joint custody bill of rights. Their version emphasizes individuality, respect, love, continuity, security, and stability.

Robert Emery, Ph.D., a professor of Psychology and director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia, also created a version popularly known as the Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce.

According to Emery, these children’s rights in divorce can help protect the well-being and rights of children during and after a divorce. Note that the Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce is not a law but a guideline.

However, many courts across multiple states value the bill and include a variation of these rights in divorce decrees. States like Texas and New Jersey are two good examples. In Texas, if these Children’s Bill of Rights rules are part of your divorce proceeding, ignoring or violating them could lead the judge to issue a penalty.

Similarly, in New Jersey, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts embraced a set of guidelines that, although not legally required, are frequently incorporated into agreements and court orders by attorneys and judges.

What exactly does the Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce recommend?

These are the fundamental children’s rights in divorce, according to Emery.

Rights Related to Parental Love and Support:

  1. The right to love and be loved by both parents without feeling guilt or disapproval.
  2. The right to have feelings, to express them, and to have both parents listen to how you feel.

Rights Related to Conflict Resolution:

  1. The right to be protected from your parents’ anger with each other.
  2. The right not to have to choose one parent over the other.
  3. The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either parent’s emotional problems.
  4. The right to be kept out of the middle of your parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.

Rights Related to Stability and Information:

  1. The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect your life, such as parental moves or remarriages.
  2. The right to reasonable financial support during childhood and through college years.
  3. The right to have a life as close as possible to what it would have been if your parents stayed together.
  4. The right to be a kid, free from excessive responsibilities or pressures related to your parents’ divorce.

If you look at these rights and those outlined by the CRC, you can uncover several themes about children’s rights in divorce.

These are the main factors parents should consider to protect their children’s well-being during divorce.

A Safe and Stable Environment

Every version of the Children’s Bill of Rights emphasizes the need for children to have a safe and stable home during and after divorce. This means creating a home that is free from conflict and violence. Furthermore, children should feel protected and secure and have some form of consistency.

Best Interest of the Child

In this case, best interest means making custody and visitation decisions that prioritize a child’s well-being, safety, and development above all else. This principle considers factors such as the child’s physical and emotional needs, their relationship with each parent, their adjustment to their home, school, and community, and any history of abuse or neglect. When deciding on custody and visitation after divorce, the courts may consider input from parents, legal representatives, and sometimes the child.

Child Support

Under the Bill of Children’s Rights in divorce, both parents are responsible for supporting their child financially and emotionally. Financial support ensures children have what they need for food, housing, and education. Emotional support, on the other hand, involves giving love, guidance, and stability to help children feel secure and well-adjusted.

Access to Both Parents

Children have the right to access both parents as long as it’s in their best interest.

Respect for the Child’s Individuality

As parents, it’s understandable that you may have concerns and fears when it comes to divorce and your children. However, it’s important to remember that your children are individuals with their own thoughts, wishes, and unique personalities.

For instance, children should be allowed to enjoy activities they like without feeling guilty, even if it conflicts with parenting time. It also means avoiding treating them as possessions and recognizing that they have their own wants and needs.

Furthermore, it’s important to provide your children with respectful answers to their questions about changing family dynamics without blaming or belittling them. Encouraging them to talk with both parents privately and express their feelings openly can also go a long way in ensuring their individuality and autonomy are respected.

Freedom of Choice

Children should be free to express their desires regarding living arrangements and other decisions affecting them.

Privacy and Dignity

It’s essential for parents to safeguard their children’s dignity and privacy throughout divorce proceedings. For example, sensitive details about the child’s life, experiences, and relationships should be handled discreetly to avoid unnecessary exposure.

These fundamental rights and freedoms will vary from state to state. However, the ‘ best interest of the child’ principle is usually the unifying factor in all divorce proceedings involving children.

How Can You Implement the Bill of Children’s Rights in Your Divorce?

Below are some practical ways you can use the Children’s Bill of Rights to limit the negative implications of divorce on your kids.

  • Recognize the emotional weight carried by your children during the divorce. Also, try to create a safe space where their thoughts and emotions are acknowledged and genuinely valued. Encourage open dialogue, reassuring them that their feelings will be met with understanding and compassion, free from judgment or resentment.
  • Create a flexible custody agreement that prioritizes the child’s needs and routine. Consider allowing the child to continue with the pre-divorce extracurricular activities. Keeping routine changes to a minimum will reduce anxiety and help them adjust better.
  • Create an environment of unconditional love and guidance to ensure your child feels loved by both parents. This may mean allowing children to maintain relationships with extended family members. In addition, regularly express your love and reassure them of their importance in your lives. Above all, strive to preserve the child’s relationships with the other parent and avoid any actions that may undermine their bond.
  • Facilitate open communication with both parents and loop in the kids in advance about visitation schedules and any changes. For instance, parents should share details about their well-being, including school events and medical appointments, to ensure both parties remain actively engaged in their lives.
  • Promote children’s privacy and avoid discussing sensitive or adult topics in their presence. For example, avoid sharing details of the divorce proceedings or criticizing the other parent in front of the children. Furthermore, respect children’s boundaries and allow them to have private conversations or personal space without intrusion or monitoring.
  • Embrace child-centered decision-making and involve children in age-appropriate decisions.

You can create a non-binding agreement to further protect children in a divorce. This would mean incorporating the Children’s Bill of Rights into the divorce settlement. In essence, the Bill of Rights would be a guiding principle for both parties to maintain the child’s best interest.

Adhering to these principles can significantly reduce the stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil that children experience during and after divorce. Why exactly?

  1. Children will feel loved and supported both emotionally and financially.
  2. They will experience safety and some sort of stability even as the parents’ marriage dissolves.
  3. The open communication and transparency offered would mean less doubt and confusion.
  4. They will be spared from being placed in the middle of their parents’ conflicts and the emotional trauma that comes with this.
  5. The children will be able to maintain healthy, non-judgemental relationships with both parents.

When the main goal is to protect your child’s welfare during a divorce, your lawyer will prioritize creating a settlement that facilitates open communication in co-parenting. They may also recommend including a non-binding agreement about the children’s rights in divorce. Moreover, the attorney may develop an agreement emphasizing flexibility in custody and support agreements.

Resources for Limiting the Impact of Divorce on Children

We understand that divorce is challenging for you and your child. Fortunately, the Bill of Children’s Rights can offer direction and normalcy during this difficult period. Our firm knows how critical this is and can help you through divorce negotiations while keeping your child’s best interest at the center.

In fact, several of our attorneys and mediators have personally experienced divorce and share this goal of limiting the impact of divorce on children. That said, we will still proceed in a way that leaves you room to move forward and live life to the fullest.

Our attorneys have compiled several valuable resources to support effective co-parenting and ensure your child’s well-being during and after divorce.

Looking for more Information? Download our FREE Guide “Parenting Through Divorce”

Explore our guides on co-parenting without ruining your child’s childhood and parenting children of different ages. Our comprehensive parenting guide also provides practical tips and strategies for navigating divorce while prioritizing your child’s needs.

The mentioned resources are only for general guidance. If you want customized legal advice, contact Petrelli Previtera. Our family law attorneys will provide tailored guidance that fits your case and protects your interests and your child’s.

Schedule a consultation with our attorneys to get personalized guidance.

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