Children of Divorce: Bill of Rights

1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” or be put in a situation where I would have to take sides between my parents.

2. The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession or a negotiating chip.

3. The right to freely and privately communicate with both parents.

4. The right not to be asked questions by one parent about the other.

5. The right not to be a messenger.

6. The right to express my feelings.

7. The right to adequate visitation with the non-custodial parent which will best serve my needs and wishes.

8. The right to love and have a relationship with both parents without being made to feel guilty.

9. The right not to hear either parent say anything bad about the other.

10. The right to the same educational opportunities and economic support that I would have had if my parents did not divorce.

11. The right to have what is in my best interest protected at all times.

12. The right to maintain my status as a child and not to take on adult responsibilities for the sake of the parent’s well being.

13. The right to request my parents seek appropriate emotional and social support when needed.

14. The right to expect consistent parenting at a time when little in my life seems constant or secure.

15. The right to expect healthy relationship modeling, despite the recent events.

16. The right to expect the utmost support when taking the time and steps needed to secure a healthy adjustment to the current situation.

Copied from The Wicked StepMom.

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  1. Nora says:

    Fabulous. Too bad many divorced parents won’t pay any attention to it.

  2. Batya says:

    There are things that apply to all children, even those whose parents are married.

  3. fille says:

    The right to visit the non-custodian parent is not a duty to visit the non-custodian parent.

    The right to be master over their own free time and leisure activities.

    The right that non-custodial parents do not interfere with leisure activities, even if it reduces their visiting time.

  4. fille says:

    the right to have parents who do not argue constantly

    the right to be kept out of trials

  5. fille says:

    …in this sense, I suspect that shared custody as a default solution might be harmful to the children in some cases, because parents might continue to argue constantly over “children’s issues” like time with each parent (it has to be 50:50 and not one second more or else, or else I go to court), school choice, activity choice, etc.

    It gives the “not really custodial” parent enormous leverage to interfere with the “more custodial” parent’s life.

  6. fille says:

    …and there should be a “second line of defense” in case the “other” parent does not respect the bill of rights you very adequately formulated here.

  7. Rebecca says:

    are there statistics regarding divorce among arranged marriages vs. choosing a partner?

  8. lady lock and load says:

    10.” The right to the same educational opportunities and economic support that I would have had if my parents did not divorce.”
    In my humble opinion, Hadassah, sometimes when parents divorce there is not as much money as before because there are TWO separate households to run on two salaries, where as before there was one house (with all it’s expenses) on two salaries. If the wife does not remarry it changes the financial situation and the kids sometimes can’t live like they did before. I am thank G-d not divorced but have seen others who divorced and it changed what the kids could buy and do (as much as the parents want them to still have everything as before, sometimes they just aren’t able to anymore.)

  9. fille, I respect your sentiments; but I’d like to suggest that there needs to be some sort of balance. A non-custodial parent is still a parent as far as a child’s duties towards their parents go. Remember ‘honor your father and mother’? In Judaism, children have duties. I’m claiming to paskin here; but I’d be curious to know what a sensible and qualified rav would say about a theoretical duty to ‘visit the non-custodial parent’ or ‘reschedule leisure activities to allow time with the non-custodial parent’. If the parents weren’t divorced, I suspect there would be times when the child would have to forgo some activity or another because the parent had other ideas. I will certainly admit this isn’t simple; nor is it the same as if the parents were married. I just want to suggest that even taking into account the very important psychological needs of the child (priority!), part of their proper education as Jews *might* have to include accommodating the non-custodial parent in some way. I truly don’t know; but it seems to me a worthy question.

  10. fille says:

    Mordechai, I agree with you that this is not simple.

    I have neither divorced parents, nor children of divorced parents.

    But when I read accounts from divorced parents or stepparents, it hit me home how disturbing all these visiting issues are for the schedules of the children, and I feel that especially the non-custodial parent or “almost non-custodial parent” is not always aware of how much children of divorced parents cannot do because they “have to visit”.

    So far, this is OK.

    I am Shomer shabbat, and my children would also have to renounce activities they would like to do for the sake of shabbat.

    However, I think it is very, very important for the non-custodial parent to have some flexibility in this respect: when there is an activity the child would like to do and that is not compatible with the visiting schedule, I think it is very, very important, for the sake of good relations, to allow it.

    I am horrified to read that the fathers sometimes show no flexibility, especially when they sense that the mothers do it on purpose in order to losen their relationship with their children.

    Let me tell you: a child or adolescent’s life is complicated enough, so there would be enough instances where the mother does nothing on purpose, it just “happens”. And even if the mother was to do it on purpose, I do not think that the child should suffer, and therefore the father should allow activities.

    Furthermore, the older the children become, the more the ties to the parents, especially if they do not live with them, losen. So it would be natural that a 16-year old is less interested in visiting than an 8-year old.

    The point I am making is quite simple: non-custodial or co-custodial parents who do not live with their children should not mix up their own egoism (I want to see this child) with their children’s needs.

    They should be available when they are needed, but they should not impose themselves against the wishes of the child.

    The child is punished enough with the fact of the divorce. No need to add punishment by depriving them of leisure activities for the sake of visiting right. And, of course, no need to enforce visiting rights with the police, against the will of the child. I think this is a no-brainer, isn’t it?

  11. fille says:

    For example, if you take the case were the mother moved 7 hours away from the father: I think it would be preferable for the children that the father comes over to were the children live, rather thanhaving the children do 14 hours drive every other week.

    And if this is impossible for the father, or he feels it is unfair, or his family won’t allow it, I think he should consider reducing visiting or grouping it for longer stays, so that the children do not always have to drive so far.

    That’s what I mean when saying that the children’s needs should come first, as far as visitation is concerned.

  12. Elaine says:

    When it comes to chidlren having the right to activities even when it interferes with the non-custodial parents time, there has to be a little bit of flexibility and notice on both parts. I am a non-custodial parent and I have denied my children the opportunity on occasion to go somewhere else on my time. The reason they were denied this opportunity was because they called me and told me they had other plans while I was on my way to pick them up. On other occasions, when I was given advance notice, and they were invited to a party or some other activity on my time, I let them go. The difference is whether I was given notice or not. No notice, the answer is no. Enough notice that I don’t get in the car and go, and the answer is yes.

  13. fille says:

    I agree with you that it is appropriate to ask for a minimum of respect. Advance notice before you got into your car seems quite reasonable.

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