Know Your Parental Rights and How to Enforce Them

If shared parental responsibility has been awarded in your divorce and there are no specific limitations within your divorce decree, there are certain parental rights awarded to each parent. The list below outlines some of these important rights. When I practiced family law, I was often counseling a post-divorce parent with co-parenting issues. Usually, the issue(s) pertained to one of the rights below; however, it was never a clean-cut case. There was always more the story than just a pure intentional violation with no other issues.

I realized quickly as an attorney that the best route to “fix” these issues is not the courtroom. The absolute best route is to coach the client and change certain behaviors of that client that are contributing to the issue. It usually takes to two to tango. In those cases where the client is simply dealing with a manipulator or other high conflict personality, coaching is still ideal because we can teach the client how to diffuse the drama. High conflict people are usually driven by fear and once that fear is alleviated they will stop acting out and they will respond more appropriately. We coach our clients to deescalate the fear and create appropriate boundaries so that there is less chance the high conflict personality will act out. This will dramatically change the relationship and reduce the stress on basic parental rights.

The second-best option, if the parents are on speaking terms is mediation or a facilitated conversation. Right now, courts are assigning parent coordinators to help parents with these kinds of issues. However, often the coordinator is assigned during the divorce case itself and as a result, the parties begin to see the coordinator as biased or unable to be impartial because of their role or history in the case. Another problem is, quite frankly, that just like mediators, some coordinators are simply not as skilled as others. These types of issues require experience and skill in the field of divorce with knowledge of the law and an understanding of the judge involved in the case. Additionally, these cases require experience with people who have divorced and are trying to co-parent. Using a good mediator with experience in the field and with experience with divorcing couples is crucial. Not only is it more cost-effective than litigation but it helps the parents skill to build in terms of learning effective co-parenting strategies as well as learning to handle a difficult personality or learning how one’s own behaviors can go against one’s own best interests.

So take a look and digest these. If you are having trouble with any one of these issues, give us a call. We can help you get out of a vicious cycle and create a more comfortable working relationship that is better for everybody especially the children.

Parents Bill of Rights

1. You have the right to reasonable telephone contact with your child when he/she is in the care of the other parent.
2. You have the right to speak with your child privately and to expect the other parent not to eavesdrop on phone calls or read correspondence and e-mail between you and your child.
3. You have the right to notice all school functions and extracurricular activities and to participate in these activities.
4. You have the right to participate in the decision of who will be providing daycare and after-school care for your child. You have the right to the name, address, and phone numbers of all babysitters and care providers for your child and to meet and speak with these individuals.
5. You have the right to reasonable notice when your child has been sick or injured.
6. You have the right to the name, address, and telephone number of all physicians providing care to your child. 7. You have the right to meet with the physician, to copies of your child’s records, and to participate in all decisions regarding non-emergency medical care.
8. You have the right to receive prior notice of and to participate in the decision to take your child to a psychologist or a licensed mental health worker. This includes the right to the name address and phone number of the counselor and copies of the counselor’s curriculum vitae and any other information relevant to the counselor’s credentials.
9. You have the right to be on the emergency pick-up list for schools, childcare, and extracurricular activities.
10. You have the right to copies of your child’s school records, medical records, and in most cases, mental health records.
11. You have a right to an itinerary whenever the other parent will be spending time with the child away from their home. This includes dates of departure and return, travel, hotel and flight information, the names, address, and telephone numbers of persons who will be traveling with your child, and phone numbers where your child may be reached during their trip.
12. You have the right to expect the other parent not to discuss your disputes with your child, or in front of your child.
13. You have the right to expect the other parent to encourage the child to love you, visit you, telephone you, and not to speak badly of you in the presence of the child.
14. You have the right to expect the child and the other parent to be consistently on time when dropping off or picking up the child and to a phone call when the other parent is going to be late.
15. You have the right to speak with (or at least correspond or e-mail) the other parent directly regarding your parental rights and scheduling contact. The child or others should not be used as messengers.
16. You have the right to expect the other parent to be reasonably flexible with the time-sharing (visitation) schedule upon reasonable notice for special events.

Parents Bill of Rights courtesy of Beth Reineke, Esquire, Tampa, Florida. Thank you.