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Parent’s Handbook

Children’s Bill of Rights, Clients’ Rights

Ways to Reduce the Stress of Divorce on Children and Families

Issues related to the impact of divorce upon children and families are profoundly significant to the individuals involved and to society.  The New York Unified Court System’s Parent Education and Awareness Program provides classes and information that can help reduce stresses on children and adults involved in painful and complex divorce outcomes.  These classes are summarized in the Parent’s Handbook. (Parent’s Handbook, Parent Education for Separating or Divorcing Parents), available online (Parent’s Handbook).  I have decided to include the Handbook on this website because it is clear and comprehensive, providing 83 pages of valuable information, much of it enlightened and some essential,  for parents and children.

Parent's Handbook

This site will also include the “Bill of Rights for Children Whose Parents are Separated or Divorced,” and the “Statement of Clients Rights,” in divorce actions.  I believe that every person involved in a divorce proceeding will benefit with knowledge of their fundamental “rights” and so I have included them here.  I am also including the Handbook’s Table of Contents which shows the specific content of this valuable resources that is available online at your discretion.

 

Bill of Rights for Children Whose Parents Are Separated or Divorced

  1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” between their parents
  2. The right not to be told the details of the legal proceedings going on between their parents
  3. The right not to be told “bad things” about the other parent’s personality or character
  4. The right to privacy when talking to either parent on the telephone
  5. The right not to be “cross-examined” by one parent after spending time with the other parent
  6. The right not to be asked to be a messenger from one parent to the other
  7. The right not to be asked by one parent to tell the other parent untruths
  8. The right not to be used as a confidant regarding adult matters.
  9. The right to express feelings, whatever those feelings may be
  10. The right to choose not to express certain feelings
  11. The right to be protected from parental “warfare”
  12. The right not to be made to feel guilty for loving both parents

 

Statement of Client’s Rights

  1. You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in your lawyer’s office.
  2. You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you up to the point of discharge).
  3. You are entitled to your lawyer’s independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.
  4. You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain at the outset how the fee will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory.
  5. You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have your telephone calls returned promptly.
  6. You are entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter.
  7. You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, including whether or not to settle your matter (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).
  8. You have the right to privacy in your dealings with your lawyer and to have your secrets and confidences preserved to the extent permitted by law.
  9. You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.
  10. You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.

 

 

PARENT’S HANDBOOK TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Reminder, click this link to view the 
Parent’s Handbook.

 

A MESSAGE TO PARENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

REACTIONS OF ADULTS AND CHILDREN TO DIVORCE OR SEPARATION . . . . . . . . . .3

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO TO HELP THEIR CHILDREN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

FOCUS #1: YOU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Your Well-Being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Being a Role Model for Your Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Dating and Your Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Children Need Their Parents to Act Respectfully to Each Other . . . . . .7

FOCUS #2: YOUR CHILDREN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

How to Tell Your Children that You are Separating or Divorcing . . . . . . . . . . .8

Children’s Responses to Their Parents’ Separation or Divorce . . . . . . . . . . .10

Ways to Help Your Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

FOCUS #3: YOUR CHILDREN’S OTHER PARENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Parents’ Behavior — The Most Important Factor in How Children Adjust . .15

Conflict Affects Adults and Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

– Do You Want to be Trapped in Conflict? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

– Children Caught in the Middle of Their Parents’ Conflict . . . . . . . . . . .16

Ways to Parent With Your Former Partner

— The Parenting Continuum From Parallel to Cooperative Parenting . . . . . . . . .18

– What is Parallel Parenting and When is it Appropriate? . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Tips for Successful Parallel Parenting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

– What is Cooperative Parenting and When is it Appropriate? . . . . . . .19

Tips for Successful Cooperative Parenting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

Overview of the Differences Between Parallel and Cooperative Parenting . . .21

WAYS TO REDUCE CONFLICT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

Handling Anger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

– Tips for Handling Anger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23

Learn and Use “I” Messages and Effective Listening to Minimize Conflict . . . .23

Be a Good Listener . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Be Creative in Problem Solving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

Relate to Each Other as Business Partners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

– Helpful Ideas for Relating as Business Partners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

MORE TIPS AND REMINDERS FOR SUCCESSFUL POST-SEPARATION OR DIVORCE PARENTING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

LEGAL PROCESS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

BACKGROUND — CUSTODY DEFINITIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

CONSIDERATIONS IN CHOOSING HOW TO RESOLVE YOUR DISPUTE . . . .31

Negotiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31

– Mediation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32

– Collaborative Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32

Litigation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34

HOW COURTS MAKE CUSTODY DECISIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

Best Interests of the Child . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

Factors Considered . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

Others Who May Give the Court Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

CHILD SUPPORT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39

CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

APPENDICES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41

  1. Bill of Rights for Children Whose Parents are Separated or Divorced . . . . . .42
  2. Children Learn What They Live . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43
  3. Suggestions for Parents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44
  4. Factors that Reduce Stress for Children When They Go Between Parents . . . . . . . . 47
  5. Typical Age-Specific Responses of Children to Their Parents’ Separation or Divorce 48
  6. When to Get Professional Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
  7. Reading List for Parents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59
  8. Reading List for Children of Various Ages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61
  9. Reading List for Children by Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64
  10. Frequently Asked Legal Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70
  11. Statement of Client’s Rights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75

REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76