Child-Centered Divorce: Rights

Child-Centered Divorce: Rights

Parenting: Children’s Bill of Rights Offers Parents Guidelines for Divorce

The American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers formed a committee back in 1998 to formulate a Children’s Bill of Rights. At first thought one would think such a bill of rights would not be necessary in a culture that certainly values — and even spoils — its children.

Unfortunately, when divorce enters the picture, that concern about children often seems to clash with the parents’ larger agenda and, too often, the powerless children suffer the consequences. Divorce has a way of turning loving, caring, compassionate parents into hard-nosed, bitter, stick-it-to-the-SOB crusaders who lose track of how their attitudes and decisions are affecting their innocent children. And the hard-nosed approach never affects them positively.

The overall theme of the Children’s Bill of Rights is quite simple. It says to children: this divorce is not your fault and you should never blame yourself. It goes on to say every child has rights and parents should not forget them when the family is in the midst of a break-up.The list of rights is sound and universally relevant.

1. You have the right to love both your parents and be loved by both.

It reassures children not to feel guilty for wanting Mom and Dad in their life or desiring to see Mom or Dad at any time.

2. You do not have to choose one parent over the other and shouldn’t be forced to.

It reminds children they are entitled to all the feelings they are having — including feeling scared, sad, resentful or angry.

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3. You have a right to be in a safe environment.

Children are advised to speak out to an adult if they are being hurt in any way.

4. You don’t belong in the middle of your parent’s break-up

It encourages children to remind their parents that it’s their fight, not yours. Children are not equipped to handle adult conflicts and shouldn’t be brought into parental disputes.

5. You have the right to keep extended family members in your life.

Even if you’re living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent’s side without guilt or opposition.

6. You have a right to be a child.

Children shouldn’t be taking on the burden of adult problems. They should be focusing on loving Mom and Dad, their school work, friends and other activities. Parents should be able to handle the parenting.

It’s doubtful that anyone would disagree with any of the tenets set forth in this Bill of Rights. The problem is that children are powerless victims when their parents separate or divorce — and are helpless to do much about it. What we need is for every attorney, mediator, therapist, educator, coach and clergy who deals with divorce-related issues to bring this Children’s Bill of Rights to the table before any discussions begin.

It should be used as the foundation — as the mandatory guideline behind any agreements or decisions made by either parent regarding their children. Parents need to be reminded again and again that the consequences of their choices will affect their children not just for a few years, but for decades to come. It will influence their self-esteem, their sense of trust, their life choices, marriage partners and other vital decisions. Parents who violate the principles of this Children’s Bill of Rights are emotionally and psychologically violating their own children.

Let’s all work together to make a child-centered divorce the only choice for families facing divorce — and never forget that our children do indeed have rights!

About the author: Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, author, and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. Her books, coaching services, co-parenting courses, valuable resources, and free book on Post-Divorce Parenting can be found at

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