What Rights Do Minor Children Have In A Divorce?
Divorce is a painful and difficult process for all involved, but it is particularly challenging for children. Minor children are often caught in the middle of the divorce battle between their parents. In such circumstances, the well-being and interests of the child should remain the top priority, and it’s important to understand the rights that minor children have in a divorce.
Every minor child has certain fundamental rights, regardless of a divorce or separation. They have the right to receive care, support, and love from their parents, as well as the right to know and spend time with both parents, as long as it is in their best interests.
1. Right to Financial Support
Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their minor children. This obligation exists regardless of the parents’ marital status, whether they’re separated, divorced, or were never married. Both parents’ income and resources are used to determine child support eligibility and the amount of support payable. Typically, the non-custodial parent pays child support to cover the child’s living expenses, including food, clothing, and shelter.
2. Right to Be Heard
Minor children have the right to be heard and have their views taken into account in divorce proceedings. However, their level of involvement may differ based on their age and maturity. For example, a teenager may have a stronger and more independent voice in parenting arrangements compared to a younger child who may not understand the complexities of the situation. As a part of ensuring these rights, some states have a legal duty to appoint a lawyer or guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests in court.
3. Right to Sufficient Care and Protection
Minor children have the right to receive sufficient care and protection from their parents, even after a divorce. This includes providing an adequate education, medical care, and emotional support. Both parents are obligated to provide their child with a safe and stable environment, even if they are no longer living together.
4. Right to Parenting Time
Minor children have the right to parenting time with both parents, depending on their age and maturity level. Where suitable, parents should agree to a shared parenting arrangement, in which the child equally spends time with both parents. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will determine the appropriate amount of parenting time for each parent, which is usually based on the child’s best interests.
5. Right to Privacy
Minor children have the right to privacy, and parents should not discuss their legal issues or disagreements in front of their child. Parents should also avoid using their child as a messenger between themselves or making negative comments about the other parent in the child’s presence. Giving children a space to feel safe and free from conflict can help to ensure that their well-being is not affected negatively.
6. Right to Know What’s Happening
Children have the right to know what’s happening in their parents’ divorce. It’s important to discuss in child-appropriate ways what a divorce is, what is happening, and what they can expect in the future. This can help reassure a child and lessen feelings of confusion and anxiety.
In any divorce case, the rights and best interests of minor children should always be the top priority. Both parents should work together to ensure that their child receives the emotional and financial support that they need to grow and develop into healthy adults. As parents learn to navigate their new normal, their care for their child should remain consistent. With clear communication and a focus on a child’s well-being, minor children can be protected from the negative effects of divorce.