The Legal Language of Child Custody and Support

I have reviewed hundreds of divorce decrees from many states and one line really bothers me. It’s the one that no matter the state, or attorney reads:

“The court finds that the provisions of this decree relating to the rights and duties of the parents, with relation to the children, possession of and access to the children, child support and optimizing the development of a close and continuing relationship between each and party and the children constitute the parties agreed on parenting plan.”
Most decree’s go on to state the details of the of the custody decision and the RIGHTS of the parents involved.

What is wrong with this?

Consider the definition of “possession”
1. The state of having, owning, or controlling something
2. An item of property, something belonging to one.

Children are a possession and the parents are the only ones with “rights” listed in this legal document. Children are a “possession” legally in a divorce. Owned and controlled by the parents…

I think that our children are more than a possession and that children’s rights should have precedence over the rights of the divorcing adults in legal proceedings.

Children have the right to be safe, and safety is more than physical, it is psychological as well. Children have the right to be with the primary attachment figure. They have the right to be protected from unsupervised visitation with an addicted or abusive parent.

Children have the right to be supported by both of their parents, regardless of the state of the union or dissolution of the union of the parents.
Support is financial as well as emotional. Children are costly and the cost is tangible as well as intangible.

Children thrive on consistency. This is the issue with 50/50 custody arrangements. There is little or no consistency for the child living out of a suitcase. Children thrive when they know they are cared for and safe.

The legal language regarding children needs to change.

Men’s Rights, Father’s Rights, Mom’s Rights… all groups need to put their rights down and consider the Children’s Rights. Do what is best for our children. They are not furniture to be divided equally, they are not pets to be dumped in a shelter because we no longer want them. Children should not be discarded like a wall hanging we bought with our ex for the house.

But this legal language fuels the cottage industry of Family Courts as parents assert their legal “rights” at the expense of children who are forced into abusive custody and visitations.

Children are left behind as parents move on with their lives and refuse to support their children. There are few legal consequences enforced for this. Abandonment is never charged as a crime. Child support is considered a civil issue and even when arrears reach “criminal” levels in the tens of thousands often nothing is done.

The $118 Billion in unpaid child support in America is proof that children have no rights here.

It’s up to us as their parents to fight for what our kids deserve. Maybe in doing so the legal language and the culture will start to change and our children will go from being considered possessions to what they really are, our hearts, our future.

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