I read a custody case today which incorporated a Children’s Bill of Rights into her decision. MMH v William D.H. (Fam Ct, Dutchess Co, 3/5/10). While I have seen the Bill of Rights incorporated into separation agreements, I’ve never seen it incorporated into a judgment. I started to scout around and found several slightly different versions on the internet – from divorcehq, one written on about.com, kids in the middle, divorce central. But my favorite, for its completeness and simplicity, is that written by Robert Emery. Emery is famous for doing the classic longitudinal study showing that mediation had better outcomes for children, and that non-residential parents were much more likely to stay involved with their children on a regular basis if they participated in mediation.
I take the liberty of reprinting his Bill of Rights here:
Every child whose parents divorce has:
1. The right to love and be loved by both of your parents without feeling guilt or disapproval.
2. The right to be protected from your parents’ anger with each other.
3. 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.
4. The right not to have to choose one of your parents over the other.
5. The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either of your parents’ emotional problems.
6. The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect your life; for example, when one of your parents is going to move or get remarried.
7. The right to reasonable financial support during your childhood and through your college years.
8. The right to have feelings, to express your feelings, and to have both parents listen to how you feel.
9. The right to have a life that is a close as possible to what it would have been if your parents stayed together.
10. The right to be a kid.