CHILDREN'S BILL OF RIGHTS when parents are going through a separation and/or divorce
- Category: Rights of the Child
- Created: Wednesday, 25 January 2017 09:46
- Written by Linda J. Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-R
Rights expected from the parents:
1. There is overwhelming scientific research that substantiates that children do best in a joint legal arrangement with 50-50 physical custody. Parents should endeavor to make this happen. (NOTE: It is amazing how parents do make this happen when denied a choice in these matters. Research demonstrates that giving parents the right to choose emboldens some of them to oppose joint legal custody when they would otherwise accept it if denied the right to choose.)
2. Parents must maintain a civil and respectful posture with the other parent in front of the child or in situations that can get back to the child.
3. Parents must maintain a cooperative and civil co-parenting relationship involving shared decision making in major areas such as educational, medical, religious and social activities. It is incumbent upon each parent to share these developments in a timely manner with the other parent.
4. Parents must guarantee the relationship between the other parent and their child:
a. maintain the parenting/visitation plan
b. assure regular communications via texting, phone calls, and emails between the other parent and child
c. assure the exchange of gifts, cards, and telecommunications on holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, etc.
d. permit and welcome the other parent to observe their child’s public activities even when not on the other parent’s parenting time.
5. Children have the right to love and be loved by both of my parents—without guilt, pressure, disapproval or rejection.
6. Each parent will permit the child to display photographs and mementos of the other parent in the child’s room and other areas in the house that are designated as the child’s space.
7. Neither parent will permit or encourage the child to reject or disrespect the other parent.
8. The biological parent will not permit or encourage the child to reject or disrespect the other parent’s new spouse/partner.
9. Neither parent will hold out the stepparent or significant other to the child to be more important than their other biological parent; will not permit the stepparent to psychologically or legally replace the biological parent; and will not permit or encourage the child to call the stepparent with a name that conveys a parental status unless the biological parent is in agreement.
10. Children are not to be put in a position to choose one parent over the other in relation to custody or visitation; nor should they be asked or permitted to take sides in a parental dispute; nor should they be made to feel conflicted loyalties.
11. Children should not be given a choice about the nature/circumstance of their relationship with either parent—but they should particularly not be given this option regarding the nonresidential parent any more than they are given an option about attending school and medical appointments or decide other matters reserved for parental responsibility.
12. Children are not to be involved in or come to have knowledge of adult issues—including but not limited to—legal, financial, or marital issues.
13. Neither parent shall permit the child to become privy to arguments, negotiations, or discussions about legal, financial, or parenting conflicts between the parents.
14. Parents must not be critical or judgmental of the other parent to the child.
15. Neither parent will convey to the child that the other parent is immoral regarding that parent’s choice of friends, lifestyle, career, values, or other such issues—as long as such choices do not violate the norms and legalities of the larger culture.
16. Parents will convey to the child that the child has two homes, even if the child spends more time in one home than in the other.
17. Differences in parenting styles involve compromise, and each parent must recognize the importance of reaching an accommodation with the other parent about major areas of difference.
18. Each parent must guarantee the child’s right to be kept out of the middle of the parents' conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
19. Each parent must respect the child’s right to have her/his own feelings and beliefs and be able to express those feelings and beliefs without fear of reprisals as long as the expression is in a respectful manner.
20. Each parent has an obligation to encourage the child to resolve conflicts with the other parent and to minimize/correct any distorted beliefs the child has regarding the other parent. Parents must recognize that emotional cut-offs are virtually never a satisfactory resolution to interpersonal conflict—especially when it involves a parent.
21. Each parent—particularly the residential parent—should be echoing for the child their other parent’s qualities and what that parent has to offer the child.
22. Parents must not burden their child with their emotional difficulties.
23. Children should not be expected to make adult decisions. They have the right to remain a child and not be burdened with parental responsibilities such as becoming an adult companion, friend, counselor, or confidant to a parent, or be responsible for a parent’s emotional health.
24. Children have the right to decide whom else they like and love (such as stepparents and relatives) without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal.
25. Children expect of their parents that they subvert their own needs to those of their children’s and that they subvert any negative feelings towards the other parent to their love and concern for their child.
26. Please recognize that children do not want to choose between their parents; if my parent coopts me to join in a coalition to marginalize, criticize, judge, and/or reject my other parent, I am being placed in a loyalty bind. The loyalty bind requires me to be disloyal to my co-opting parent if I express my true loving feelings and need for my other parent. This is a crazy-making situation that creates cognitive and emotional instability for me.
Rights expected from my therapist:
1. You must recognize that I was not born of the Immaculate Conception and that I therefore have another parent whose input about me must be sought before you develop a differential diagnosis and implement a treatment plan.
2. You must recognize that the child’s instinct to have and need a parent is part of the instinct for survival: due to our long dependency, this instinct is in the genes and therefore part of the instinct for survival. As with any other aspect of the instinct for survival, it is not easily overcome. Therefore, should I state that I wish no contact with one of my parents, it is incumbent upon you to explore why I feel this way and if I had been influenced to state this.
3. You must recognize that children are easily suggestible to influence—particularly by a parent—so my self-reporting should not be accepted as prima fascia accurate of reality and how I genuinely feel; therefore, you must verify my self-reporting with independent, neutral collateral sources of information and not attempt to “rescue me” just because I have alleged that one of my parents is abusive and/or neglectful.
4. You must acknowledge the clinical literature and research that children do best with two parents meaningfully involved in their lives. Therefore, you must avoid being coopted by my parent who attempts to manipulate you into supporting a campaign to drive my other parent from my life.
5. Please familiarize yourself with the research studies by Loftus and Bruck about the suggestibility of children.
6. Please recognize that alienated children don’t say what they mean or mean what they say. You must investigate and uncover my genuine loving feelings and need for both of my parents—even if I verbalize contempt and rejection for one of my parents.
7. I know you know that my cognitive and emotional development is too immature to recognize what is in my own best interests and to theorize what it would be like to have a parent absent from my life. Please protect me from having to make such a crucial decision about custody and parenting time and whether or not to reject a parent when I diminished capacity to do so. I am unable to provide informed consent about these matters.
Rights expected from Child Protective Services:
1. Please recognize that children do not reject parents and actually become protective of and align with their abusive parents. You must have discovered this truth from your observations of those thousands of children you had removed from their parents’ care and custody due to substantiated abuse and neglect. It is really quite simple: pigs don’t fly and children don’t reject parents. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to explore all hypotheses as to why a child alleges that a parent has been abusive and why the child no longer desires contact with that parent. It is incumbent upon you to explore whether or not my other parent had engaged in manipulating me to manufacture abuse/neglect allegations against my other parent.
2. Please do not empower me by giving me the right to walk out of a supervised visit with the alleged abusive parent just because you have not completed your investigation to determine whether the allegations are true. When this occurs, the alienating parent is empowered while the alienated parent is further humiliated and disempowered. Please note: contact between the child and the alienated parent is the greatest antidote to the alienation. Please recognize that the alienating parent is engaging in psychological child abuse.
Rights expected from my attorney
I understand that you have an obligation to represent my wishes, which can—and often does—supersedes what is in my best interests. Please familiarize yourself with the Rosen article in Family Court Review. Attorney Rosen states that you have an obligation to substitute your judgment in support of my best interests when I have diminished capacity. And diminished capacity generally results from my brainwashing by my alienating parent. And furthermore, another reason that you are required to substitute your own judgment occurs when my request places me at risk. And my request to remain in the residential custody of my alienating parent does place me at risk: it is documented as such on page 719 of the DSM-5, to turn a child against a love object for no justifiable reason is considered psychological child abuse. Additionally, on page 715 of the DSM-5, it states that the focus of clinical attention occurs when a child develops “unwarranted feelings of estrangement” for a love object.
Rights expected from my school
1. Please, you are educators; you know you cannot listen to just one side of a debate and then vote for that side. Before you become an advocate for one of my parents or even for me, please hear my other parent’s side of the story.
2. Please do not interfere with my custodial transfer that is in compliance with court orders. It is not your place to judge or to interfere.
Rights expected from the forensic evaluator
1. I have a right to expect that you will apply the scientific method in assessing the family dynamics in my case; will undertake a full analysis of all relevant case evidence; rely upon analytical reasoning as well as upon intuitive reasoning derived from the self-reporting occurring during the clinical interview; verify self-reporting with disinterested, neutral collateral sources; and comply with the axioms of standard clinical practice, such as to consider the total clinical picture, develop a differential diagnosis, gather adequate quality evidence, apply proper reasoning, consider severity, conduct a risk/benefits analysis, determine treatment priorities, treat the underlying condition, provide timely treatment, etc. When this all-inclusive investigation is undertaken, I will feel reassured that you have arrived at correct findings and opinions and made recommendations that are in my best interests.
2. I have a right to expect—should one of my parents allege alienation—that you will educate yourself about the numerous counterintuitive issues that typically occur in these cases.
3. I have a right to expect—should you not be sufficiently knowledgeable about the characteristic manifestations exhibited by an alienated child and with the research-validated, 17 alienating strategies as documented by Amy Baker, that you will consult with known experts in the specialty of alienation so that you will be able to reach a finding to a reasonable degree of clinical certainty about the dynamics in my family situation.
4. I have a right to expect that you will control for the cognitive and clinical errors that typically occur in a forensic evaluation when alienation is alleged or is the subject of the evaluation.
Rights expected from the Court
1. I have a right to expect a speedy trial to resolve the situation in which one of my parents has been denied meaningful contact with me and in which we do not have a normal parent-child relationship because of interference and/or lack of support by my other parent.
2. I have a right to expect evenhandedness by the court in assuring the parental rights of each of my parents. For example, if one of my parents is sanctioned for failure to comply with child support orders, it should be expected that my other parent be sanctioned by the court for withholding parenting time and violating the parental rights of my other parent.
3. I have a right to expect of the Court that the adults who make the decisions regarding custody and visitation.
4. I have a right to expect of the court that I will not be empowered to make adult decisions. I fail to understand how we have arrived at the point at which the children have acquired adult rights. Children are ill-equipped—both emotionally and cognitively—to make informed decisions which are in our own best interests. Children are not permitted to decide about attending school or keeping medical appointments; nor can we vote, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, drive a car—or engage in numerous other activities which are deemed the responsibility of adults. I therefore respectfully request that the court apply the same standard in family matters that it applies to a jury trial: jurors must be at least 18 years of age in order to sit on a jury; so, if I am a minor, I must not be anointed with the responsibility of judging custody and other parenting matters.
5. I have a right to expect that the Court will impose appropriate sanctions and penalties when court orders regarding the parenting rights of one of my parents is violated by the other parent.
6. I have a right to expect that the court will protect me from alienation just as swiftly as it does in any other case of child abuse. I respectfully request of the court that they take notice of the peer-reviewed, extensive research that has reached the finding that there is severe, long and short term detrimental consequences to me as a result of the dysfunctional family dynamic in which one parent has co-opted me to engage in a campaign to minimize and drive my other parent from my life.
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