In any custody dispute, it is important to be sensitive to the rights of children. As expressed by New York State Justice James Brands (Dutchess County Family Court, New York) and Justice Ira Harkavy (Supreme Court, Kings County, New York) in the "Bill of Rights for Children Whose Parents Are Divorced or Separated," the rights of children in divorce or custody include:
The right not to be asked to "choose sides" between their parents.
The right not to be told the details of bitter or nasty legal proceedings going on between their parents.
The right not to be told "bad things" about the other parent's personality or character.
The right to privacy when talking to either parent on the phone.
The right not to be cross-examined by one parent after spending time with the other parent.
The right not to be asked to be a messenger from one parent to the other.
The right not to be asked by one parent to tell the other parent untruths.
The right not to be used as a confidant regarding the legal proceedings between the parents.
The right to express feelings, whatever feelings those may be.
The right to choose not to express certain feelings.
The right to be protected from parental warfare.
The right not to be made to feel guilty for loving both parent.
Although custody and visitation matters in divorce and family court matters often become antagonistic, it is critical that parents bear the children's rights in mind and shield them as much as possible from the hostility that can be generated in such situations.
The Children's Bill of Rights has been embraced across New York State. In recent matters our firm has handled in Supreme and Family Court in Columbia County (Hudson), Greene County (Catskill), Ulster County (Kingston), and Albany County (Albany), versions of this bill have even become part of the final order of the court itself.
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