A denial of visitation rights by the custodial parent to a non-custodial parent, absent a change in an existing court order for visitation rights, is illegal. This is true both in situations in which the parents have agreed on a parenting plan outside of court, and in situations in which scheduled visitation has been ordered by the court. The legal phrase for this scenario is called frustration of child visitation rights, and in many states this can be cause to change the court-ordered child custody arrangement and hold the custodial parent in contempt of court.
In its 1979 parental rights decision Parham v. J.R., the United States Supreme Court declared,
“The law’s concept of the family rests on the presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.”Unfortunately, a bill recently passed by the New Jersey legislature completely throws out this presumption.
Assembly bill 3435 (A3435), “The Boys and Girls Clubs Keystone Law,” adds to New Jersey law that “when a minor believes that he or she is in need of behavioral health care services for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disorders, the minor’s consent to treatment…shall be valid and binding as if the minor had achieved the age of majority.”
This is scary enough if it puts a 16- or 17-year-old in the position to make such a serious and difficult health decision. But under this irresponsible bill, a child of any age could give legally binding consent for such treatments. There is no requirement for parental consent or even notification – for any child!
Of course, when we learned of A3435 we urged New Jersey supporters to call for its defeat and, more recently, for Governor Christie to veto it. So far, he has not done so.
Sadly, this bill reflects the growing dangerous trend of cutting parents out of the lives of their children. The new “wisdom” seems to hold that children are best left up to government experts or, barring that, their own devices.
It is the same argument used by the internationalists who push for the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). They argue for children’s rights to make their own decisions and not be “burdened” by the superior wisdom and experience of their parents.
But that isn’t really the way life works. At some point, that decision is going to be made by an adult, whether it is the parent or an agent of the state.
The Parham Court recognized that dichotomy. “Simply because the decision of a parent is not agreeable to a child, or because it involves risks, does not automatically transfer the power to make that decision from parents to some agency or officer of the state,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote for the Court. “Most children, even in adolescence, simply are not able to make sound judgments concerning many decisions, including their need for medical care or treatment. Parents can and must make those judgments” (emphasis added).
The internationalists recognize the dichotomy, too – and simply hope the rest of us don’t notice. In speaking of the CRC’s “best interest of the child” provision, international legal scholar and CRC advocate Geraldine Van Bueren writes, “Best interests provides decision and policy makers with the authority to substitute their own decisions for either the child’s or the parents’, providing it is based on considerations of the best interest of the child.”
So if the parents and the child disagree in court, the judge gets to make the final call – not the child. What’s more, under the “best interest” principle, the judge still gets to make the call even if the parent and child agree with each other, but happen to both disagree with the state.
In neither system, then, does the child get to make his own decisions. He lacks the mental and emotional capacity to do so. In the traditional American system, the parents are the safeguard to fill that lack and protect their child. In the new internationalist norm, the State is responsible to second-guess the child “for his own good.”
A3435 claims to let the child stand or fall completely on his own. But at some point, unless we protect the traditional role of parents, it will be an agent of the State who ultimately gets to decide. We agree with Chief Justice Burger: “Parents can and must make those judgments.”
If you live in New Jersey, please take a moment to read our action alert here andcall on Governor Christie to veto this dangerous legislation.
And wherever you live, plan now to participate in National Parental Rights Week beginning July 20. To take part, plan with your family or friends how you can fill up one petition sheet (just 16 signatures!) of new supporters of the Parental Rights effort. Will you host a car wash? A barbecue? Or maybe just go door-to-door? Maybe you can reach out to folks at church, or sign up other parents of your child’s summer sports team.
However you choose to join in, know that standing together we can protect children – like those in New Jersey – by empowering parents to make those hard decisions with them and on their behalf. Parents, not bureaucrats, will best decide what is right for their child.
Thank you for standing with us in this all-important battle!
Director of Communications & Research
PAS petition to Scottish Executive by UKMM Chairman George McAulay has prompted the following article in the The Sunday Herald. Unfortunately, even though Neil Mackay of The Sunday Herald has produced a very good article he has failed to put the credits were credits are due, to George McAulay and UKMM for initiating the petition:
New law to stop divorcing parents turning children against each other
http://www.sundayherald.com/25120 2nd June 2002
Scottish parliament to amend Family Law Bill after a 13-year-old hires an advocate in fight to see her sisters
By Neil Mackay Home Affairs Editor
AT first Megan seems like any other 13-year-old girl from a middle-class home. She’s pretty, but a little conscious of the braces on her teeth, has a taste for tracksuits and trainers and tends to look a bit peeved with her dad, Jack, when he interrupts her.
Megan, however, is no ordinary teenager. Although she…
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