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Every child has rights, particularly when mom and dad are splitting up. Below are some rights children should have, and parents shouldn’t forget, when the family is in the midst of a break-up.

  1. The right to love and receive unconditional love from both of their parents without feeling guilt or disapproval. This means a child should not be made to feel guilty about wanting to see their dad or mom at any time and should be able to talk about their mom or dad or things they do in that person’s home to the other parent without a negative response.
  2. The right to be protected from their parents’ anger with each other, the right to be kept out of the middle of their parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent. A child doesn’t choose separation or divorce; the parents do. Even amidst the conflict of separation and divorce, a child should be able to continue living their lives with as little change as possible. 
  3. The right not to have to choose one of their parents over the other and the right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession, or negotiating chip. If a child has an opinion about which parent they wish to live with, they should be allowed to express that opinion. However, no one should force a child to make that choice. If the parents cannot work it out, a judge will make that decision for them.
  4. The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either of their parents’ emotional problems. Separation and divorce is difficult for adults as well.  If an adult is having emotional issues managing the separation and divorce, therapy is where this distress and anger needs to be expressed; not to the child.
  5. The right to freely and privately communicate with both parents and he right to have a relationship with extended family members on both sides. A child should be allowed to have a healthy relationship with both parents and both sides of their family.  This includes being able to communicate with both parents and extended family members, without the interference or control of the other parent.
  6. The right not to be put in the middle of the two parents. Sometimes, parents get so caught up on their own problems that they forget their child is a child and that the child cannot handle their adult worries.
  7. The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect their lives. For example, a child deserves to know when one of their parents is going to move or get remarried.
  8. The right to have feelings, to express their feelings, and to have both parents listen to how they feel. It is scary when parents break up and a child is allowed to be scared. Or embarrassed. Or sad. Or angry. Or whatever emotion it is that the child is feeling.
  9. The right to have a life that is a close as possible to what it would have been if their parents stayed together and the right to have what it is in their best interests protected at all times. Stability and consistent parenting are key for a child; maintaining that stability and consistent parenting during a divorce and separation can make the process easier for a child.
  10. The right to be in a safe environment and the right to expect healthy relationship modeling, despite recent events. This means that no one is allowed to put a child in danger, either physically or emotionally. A child learns how to develop relationships from adults; if a child is surrounded by unhealthy relationship modeling, that child is likely to develop unhealthy relationships as they mature. 
  11. The right to be a child. A child shouldn’t have to worry about adult problems.

  * Compiled from various sources, including the UN’s “Children’s Bill of Rights”

Please remember that your separation from your spouse or significant other has an impact on your children as well.  To talk about how to make the separation process easier for your children, make an appointment to talk to a Family Law attorney at Brinkley Walser Stoner, PLLC today.