The Children's Bill of Rights

children of divorce

Most parents enter a divorce process agreeing to shelter their children from all the adult drama. However, if the proceedings become heated, issues such as conservatorship, visitation, and financial support may become a veiled continuation in the battle for supremacy. Children stop being people and start being used by one parent or both parents as a pawn to tarnish the reputation of the other. They see and hear things children shouldn't have to as they are helplessly shuffled from one parent to the other.

In order to protect these children, Texas, along with several other states, has adopted a Children's Bill of Rights. The purpose of this bill is to remind parents that their children are just that, children, and they deserve to be treated that way during and after the divorce.

Even though it’s not an actual law, many parents agree to attached the Children’s Bill of Rights to their custody order to remind them of the commitment they made to their children. Here are the points in the Children's Bill of Rights that parents should become familiar with:

  • Neither parent shall use derogatory language about the other parent around the children.
  • Neither parent shall allow the child to overhear arguments concerning legal or business dealings.
  • Neither parent will trivialize the existence of the other parent.
  • Neither parent will do anything toward making the child their “ally.”
  • Neither parent will encourage the child to be disobedient to the other parent.
  • Neither parent will reward the child for misbehaving when with the other parent.
  • Neither parent may try to convince them they love the child more than the other parent.
  • Neither parent will be judgmental or negative about the other when the child returns from a visit with that parent.
  • Neither parent shall communicate moral judgements about the other parent to the child concerning that parent's choice of values, successes, or failures in life (career, financial, relationship) or choice of residence.
  • Neither parent will “rewrite” facts the child knows to be different.
  • Neither parent will use the child as a “middleman” in order to communicate with the other parent on inappropriate topics.
  • Neither parent may keep the child from making or receiving phone calls from the other parent or extended family.
  • Neither parent may keep the child from displaying pictures of the other parent in their room.
  • Neither parent may stop the child from keeping letters, cards, or other communication from the other parent.
  • Neither parent may damage or destroy a memento or picture involving the other parent.
  • Neither parent may discourage comments about the other parent from the child.
  • Neither parent will seek to undermine the other in the eyes of the child by manipulating or rearranging facts.
  • Neither parent will intercept, “lose,” “forget,” or otherwise interfere with communication between the child and the other parent.
  • Neither parent should make the child feel guilty for having fun with the other parent.
  • Neither parent may criticize the career, living conditions, or lawful activities of the other parent to the child.
  • Neither parent may undermine the other parent in the eyes of the child by manipulating or “rearranging” facts.
  • Each parent will allow the child to carry personal items that are important to him or her to and from each home, as long as the items are reasonably transportable.
  • Neither parent will smoke tobacco materials inside a structure that is occupied by the child at the time.
  • Neither parent will allow the transfer of the child by anyone who is intoxicated due to consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs.

By including the Children's Bill of Rights in the custody order, the bill becomes enforceable in court, and the judge may impose penalties on a parent who purposefully ignores or violates it. More importantly, it reminds parents that their children should always come first, no matter what they are going through.