Our nation was founded with certain inalienable rights, rights that were won after a monumental struggle to establish a society in which all its citizens could be free and secure within its borders. Since the concept we all cherish became a reality more than 225 years ago, we have done a fairly good job of eventually including just about everyone under the Constitutional umbrella we know as the Bill of Rights.
I say "just about everyone", because it was only a few years ago that someone got the long overdue notion of including in the equation the victims of marital and paternity wars -- the children. It finally came to our attention that children had been largely ignored as citizens who must be accorded full protection under the law, even if it meant creating another Bill of Rights.
And so it came to pass that a little-known document has been drafted exclusively for the children of divorce and paternity cases known as the Child's Bill of Rights, a set of guidelines established and endorsed by the courts in all 50 states that must be preserved in any custody arrangement.
While each state's judicial system has its own laws governing divorce and custody issues, all the states embrace a general blueprint that was originally designed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I have taken the court's concept a step further by adding a few articles so it now resembles the U.S. Constitution's version even more strongly.
Divorce and paternity are anguishing processes for adults, but they must remember that dissolution and custody issues have the potential to traumatize their children, indelibly injuring them to the extent it may endanger their growth into productive, loving adults.
Accordingly, here is our nation's other Bill of Rights, one that each American parent should store with their other treasured documents. Like the original, there are 10 of them:
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of these guidelines. I have been a participant in hundreds if not thousands of divorce, custody and paternity cases, and all too often, the adults become so wrapped up in their own emotions that the children are ignored.
The turmoil that goes hand-in-glove with dissolution or custody proceeding is wrenching for everyone, but children are the least equipped to deal with the irrevocable separation of their parents. We have to remember to be there for them, especially at the most anguishing of times.
From my perspective, it is a matter of priorities. And the children should be priority Number One.
Stacy D. Phillips is a founding partner of Phillips, Lerner & Lauzon, L.L.P., a leading Los Angeles family law firm, which has represented a broad spectrum of clients facing serious paternity, custodial and marital issues. She is also a certified family law specialist. She can be contacted at (310) 277-7117 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. View her Divorce Magazine profile online.Back To Top
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