The best interests of the child from the perspective of the child

An excerpt from : The Voices of Children of Divorce

Listening to the real experts on the “best interests of the child”
Published on November 12, 2013 by Edward Kruk, Ph.D. in Co-Parenting After Divorce

My simple but constant plea to divorce practitioners and policymakers, a mantra, is that we adopt a new standard in the legal determination of parenting after divorce: the “best interests of the child from the perspective of the child,” to replace the current discretionary approach based on speculation and interpretation; and a “responsibility to needs-based” orientation, to replace the dominant “rights-based” approach. A paradigm shift is needed: the well-being of children as they define it must take precedence over judicial biases and preferences, professional self-interest, genderpolitics, the desire of a parent to remove the other from the child’s life, and the wishes of a parent who is found to be a danger to the child.

What this implies is that first of all we adopt an evidence-based approach derived from research asking children themselves about their needs in the divorce transition, and then taking responsibility to reform our laws and public policies to address those needs. By “we” I refer mainly to those of us in the human services field working within social institutions that are meant to serve children and parents, but also to the community at large. Most simply stated, it is the responsibility of social institutions to support parents in the fulfillment of their parenting responsibilities to their children’s needs.

It has been only during the past decade that researchers have made beginning efforts to listen directly to the voices of children of divorce (and also parents) about their physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual needs. The picture that has emerged is dramatically different to previous studies based on “expert” interpretations.

I will not enumerate these needs, as it is the focus of my book, along with a proposal for a new “equal parenting” approach to parenting after divorce based on what children themselves have identified as their core needs. Instead I would like to provide a platform for the voice of one child of divorce, Aimee Nicholls from England. She writes about her forced estrangement from her father, but might just as easily have been referring to her mother, as judicial gender stereotypes also devalue mothers who do not conform to judges’ views of “appropriate” parental behavior. Here are selected excerpts from her message to parliamentarians, and the public, about the effects of divorce on children, and particularly the damaging effects of misguided child and family policies and practices:

“Hi there, my name is Aimee Nicholls, I’m 16 years old, and 11 years ago, my parents divorced. It doesn’t matter why right now, that’s history… It’s certainly not something that I wanted, but I also had no say… I do love my mom and dad both the same… My dad shared my care before my parents split.

Despite what people want you to think, I’ve learned that family law… works exactly how it was designed to work… It makes more money for everyone working in family law, and my situation is only partly resolved after 11 years of fighting… The system doesn’t like giving up, unless you’re one of the few families it allows to be different to “prove” that it’s fair. It clearly isn’t fair.


Read the rest HERE

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