When collaborative law proponents talk about its advantages — especially in comparing collaborative law to litigation — one of the most compelling talking point involves children. When a couple with children is working out its divorce in a collaborative setting, the parenting plan will be paramount in the discussions, and the couple will have exclusive say in their solution. The collaborative team might help them shape it, but they’ll arrive at the decision themselves. (Whereas, in litigation, a judge decides for the couple, regardless of what either of them might want.)
Some talk about “putting the children first” when they advocate for collaborative law — but what does that look like exactly. Collaborative law professionals Carla Calabrese and Winnie Huff, partners with Dallas family law firm Calabrese Huff, shared something on their website that helps with that question — a “Children’s Bill of Rights.” Written by Robert Emery (Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia), it provides a compelling look at what children need during the challenging divorce process.
Here’s the list — fittingly, as in the actual Bill of Rights, there are 10 items.
Every child whose parents divorce has:
The right to love and be loved by both of your parents without feeling guilt or disapproval.
The right to be protected from your parents’ anger with each other.
The right to be kept out of the middle of your parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
The right not to have to choose one of your parents over the other.
The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either of your parents’ emotional problems.
The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect your life; for example, when one of your parents is going to move or get remarried.
The right to reasonable financial support during your childhood and through your college years.
The right to have feelings, to express your feelings, and to have both parents listen to how you feel.
The right to have a life that is a close as possible to what it would have been if your parents stayed together.
The right to be a kid.
It’s a straightforward list that not only speaks to what children need, but also to the traps that divorcing parents can fall into, and the challenges that can come up for parents who do want to put their children first but are also dealing with their own concerns.