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What is the Texas Children's Bill of Rights?

Divorce is a challenging journey, not just for the separating couple but especially for the children caught in the crossfire. Researchers have often found that high levels of conflict between parents during and after a divorce can make it harder for kids to adjust. It’s crucial, amidst the emotional whirlwind, to ensure that the needs of the children are prioritized and protected.

So exactly how do you go about making sure the needs of your children are prioritized and protected?  Years ago, an attorney wrote out the “Children’s Bill of Rights,” including provisions outlining what children should be entitled to expect from their parents. These provisions are not codified in Texas law.  Neither parents (nor children) can sue each other for violating these terms.  However, the principles set forth are outstanding principles for making sure the well being of your children are at the forefront of your actions.  

If you want to do right by your kids in a divorce, these provisions are a great place to start.

The Texas Children’s Bill of Rights underscores the child’s right to:

  • Continued Contact: Both parents have the right to frequent and continuing contact with the child, except when not in the child’s best interest.
  • Unhindered Communication: The child has the right to communicate with the parent, either through electronic means or mail, during reasonable hours and for a reasonable duration.
  • Relationship with Both Parents: The Bill ensures that the child maintains a close relationship with both parents.

If you’re going through a divorce or dealing with custody issues, you’ve probably heard about the “best interest of the child.” This means making sure the child’s needs are the top priority during legal processes to ensure the best possible outcome for them.

In Texas, there’s an understanding that parents may not always make perfect decisions for their kids. 

Even parents with good intentions might find it challenging to always focus on their children’s needs, especially when emotions are high during a divorce. The Bill of Rights is like a guide that helps maintain strong parent-child relationships and ensures the well-being of the kids is a top concern.

The Children’s Bill of Rights in Texas

Here are the 36 provisions of the Children’s Bill of Rights:

  1. Neither parent shall deny the child reasonable use of the telephone to place and receive calls with the other parent or relatives;
  2. Neither parent shall speak or write derogatory remarks about the other parent to the child, or engage in abusive, coarse or foul language, which can be overheard by the child whether or not the language involves the other parent;
  3. Neither parent shall permit the children to overhear arguments, negotiations or other substantive discussions about legal or business dealings between the parents;
  4. Neither parent shall physically or psychologically attempt to pressure, attempt to influence, pressure, or influence the children concerning the personal opinion or position of the child concerning legal proceedings between the parents;
  5. Each parent will permit the child to display photographs of the other parent or both parents in the child’s room;
  6. Neither parent will allow the child to view movies, play video games and/or listen to music that is not age appropriate for the child;
  7. Neither parent shall allow the children to stay awake past an age appropriate bedtime except on special occasions;
  8. Neither parent shall communicate moral judgments about the other parent to the child concerning the other parent’s choice of values, life-style, choice of friends, successes or failures in life (career, financial, relational) or residential choice;
  9. The parents will acknowledge to the child that the child has two homes although the child may spend more time at one home than the other;
  10. The parents shall cooperate to the greatest extent practicable in sharing time with the child, and the parents shall do everything in their power to treat all children equally; 
  11. Each parent will permit the child to retain, and allow easy access to, correspondence, greeting cards and other written materials received from the other parent;
  12. Each parent will respect the physical integrity of items possessed by the child, which depict the other parent or remind the child of the other parent;
  13. Neither parent will trivialize, or deny the existence of, the other parent to the child;
  14. Neither parent will interrogate the child about the other parent nor will either parent discourage comments by the child about the other parent;
  15. Neither parent will intercept, “lose,” “derail,” “forget,” or otherwise interfere with communications to the child from the other parent;
  16. Neither parent will refuse to acknowledge that the child can have or should have good experiences with the other parent;
  17. Neither parent will directly or indirectly attack or criticize to the child the extended family of the other parent, the other parent’s career, the living and travel arrangements of the other parent, or lawful activities of the other parent or associates of the other parent;
  18. Neither parent will use the child as a “middle-man” by using the child to communicate with the other parent on inappropriate topics;
  19. Neither parent will undermine the other parent in the eyes of the child by engaging in the “circumstantial syndrome” which is done by manipulating, changing, or rearranging facts;
  20. Neither parent will create for, or exaggerate to, the child differences between the parents;
  21. Neither parent will say and do things with an eye to gaining the child as an “ally” against the other parent;
  22. Neither parent will encourage or instruct the child to be disobedient to the other parent, stepparents, or relatives;
  23. Neither parent will reward the child to act negatively toward the other parent;
  24. Neither parent will try to make the child believe he or she loves the child more than the other parent by, for example, saying that he or she loves the child more than the other parent or over-informing the child on adult topics or overindulging the child;
  25. Neither parent will discuss child support issues with the child;
  26. Neither parent will engage in judgmental, opinionated or negative commentary, physical inspections or interrogations once the child arrives from his/her other home;
  27. Neither parent will “re-write” or “re-script” facts, which the child originally knows to be different; 
  28. Neither parent will punish the child physically or threaten such punishment in order to influence the child to adopt the parent’s negative program, if any, against the other parent; 
  29. Neither parent will permit the child to be transported by a person is intoxicated due to consumption of alcohol, illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs;
  30. Neither parent will smoke or use any tobacco materials inside structures or vehicles occupied at the time by the child;
  31. Each parent shall keep the other parent informed in a timely fashion as to the schedules for all school events, sporting and other extracurricular activities;
  32. Neither parent will schedule events for parenting time of the other parent, without the prior consent of the other parent;
  33. The parties agree to provide each other with the names and contact information of dentists, doctors or other professionals;
  34. For any “out of town” (one day or extended trips) the parents will provide each other the location names, addresses and phone numbers;
  35. Each parent shall provide promptly to the other parent either originals or copies of any significant school letters or notes brought home by the children to such party.  Each parent shall contact the children’s schools to request that report cards, school work and other school information shall be made available to each parent; and
  36. Each parent will permit the child to carry gifts, toys, clothing, and other items belonging to the child with him or her to the residence of the other parent or relatives or permit the child to take gifts, toys, clothing, and other items belonging to the child back to the residence of the other parent, as the case may be, to facilitate the child having with him or her objects important to the child.  The gifts, toys, clothing, and other items belonging to the child referred to here mean items which are reasonably transportable (and do not include pets which the parents agree are impractical to move about).

These guidelines are not just for the child’s parents. They are also good for   other grown-ups in the child’s life, like grandparents, nannies, or other family members, to follow.

And while these provisions are not officially the “law” as written, some of these terms are incorporated into Standing Orders which some counties have adopted to apply to all family law actions in that county.  Also, many judges will frown upon behaviors that violate these terms.  So, if you want to be a good parent and you want to avoid making the judge mad at you – follow these rules.  

Can Our Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

No.  Your child should never be put in the position of having to decide which parent he or she wants to live with.  While the law may allow a child who is 12 years or older to express which parent they would prefer to live with, and while a child’s preferences may be considered, the court ultimately determines custody based on the child’s best interest. The child’s age, maturity, and reasons for their preference are taken into account.

Protect Your Children’s Rights in a Divorce in Texas

Navigating divorce is challenging, but prioritizing the rights and well-being of your children is non-negotiable. The Texas Children’s Bill of Rights serves as a compass, guiding parents toward decisions that foster stability, continuity, and the best interests of their children. 

In the midst of change, let’s ensure that our children’s rights are not just protected but nurtured, paving the way for a healthier and more stable future. If you need legal assistance in navigating the complexities of divorce and child custody, reach out to Hargrave Family Law. Protecting what is most precious to you is at the heart of what we do, and we will work passionately to make sure your children and their rights are well protected.