Yes. Although children do not have the full legal capacity of adults, they are born with certain rights and gain more rights as they grow up. For example, children have the right to a safe environment, necessities like food, water, shelter, and clothing, healthcare, and education.
Children also have the right to freedom from discrimination under the law and due process in legal proceedings.
How Do Children’s Rights Relate to Parents’ Rights?
Parents have the right to raise their children unless they subject them to abuse and neglect. Children have the right to be physically, mentally, and emotionally free from abuse.
When it comes to their children, all parents have rights and responsibilities. If parents do not uphold their responsibilities, the state can terminate their parental rights. Parental responsibilities are designed to protect the rights children have under the United States Constitution.
Do Children and Teenagers Have Constitutional Rights?
According to federal law, children are people and do not belong to their parents. As such, children and teenagers have constitutional rights. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment applies to children, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 details the civil rights of children.
When Do Constitutional Rights Begin?
The U.S. Constitution applies to all children, regardless of the circumstances of birth. Nevertheless, the Constitution excludes children who are not yet born. In the United States, constitutional rights begin at birth.
If a child’s parents cannot uphold their rights, the state will get involved (please see the ‘How Do Children’s Rights Relate to Parents’ Rights?’ section above).
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Interestingly, the United States is the only country in the United Nations (UN) that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). As such, child rights in the United States may not be as strong as they are in other developed nations.
As an example, corporal (physical) punishment is still legal in Oklahoma and other states. Many people find the practice of spanking to be controversial, and sometimes there is a fine line between physical punishment and child abuse.
Can Children Decide Who They Want to Live With?
No, but child rights are especially relevant in divorce and child custody cases. Some courts consider children’s preferences when making custody decisions, but in most cases, the court determines where the child will live – not the child.
This not only prevents children from making decisions outside of their maturity levels but also keeps children from becoming “pawns” in contentious divorce and child custody cases.
How Courts Protect Child Rights
Courts protect child rights in a few different ways, including:
- Removing abused or neglected children from dangerous situations
- Making sure children go to school or receive homeschooling
- Finding children in state custody safe and comfortable places to live
- Considering children’s best interests in divorce and child custody cases
- Appointing a guardian ad litem to represent children’s interests in certain family law cases
- And more
Whether you need help protecting your child’s rights in a divorce, domestic violence, or child custody case, or you need to explain to the court why time with you is in your child’s best interests, Nichols Dixon. We are an experienced and reputable firm that strives to achieve results in every case.
Our team is dedicated to keeping your family together and advocating for the best rights of children across Oklahoma.
If you are concerned about your child’s rights, please call us at (405) 294-1511 or contact us online today. Together, we will find a way through.