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Children's rights and best interests

Children in Wisconsin have long been recognized as having certain rights when it comes to the relationship with their parents and how their parents relate to one another. The Children's Bill of Rights, as articulated by the Dane County Child Support Agency, for example, recognizes that children should be able to have a relationship with both parents, to receive guidance and support from each parent, and to have a "relaxed, secure relationship" with parents. The context, however, of these enumerated rights is that children have a right to be protected from deprivation of these rights by another parent. Parents should know that their children should be free of manipulation and should not have to listen to one parent degrade and speak in a demeaning way about the other. Children should be able to love and respect each parent, and to express that love and respect, "without having to stifle that love because of fear of disapproval."

This enumeration of rights for children coincides with the factors that aid the courts in determining a child's best interests. Under the family law code, the Wisconsin State Legislature has made clear that the best interests of the child are represented when parents cooperate and communicate with each other. A child is benefitted when his or her parent encourages a close relationship with the other parent and facilitates the same. Of course, there are times when a child is better off not associating with an abusive or otherwise negligent parent.

Remembering that children's interests are better represented when parents respect one another can facilitate and improve progress in a family case. In most circumstances, one parent should not be afraid of a child having a good relationship with the other. The courts look much more favorably upon a parent who is willing to view the relationship between the other parent and child in a reasonable and beneficial way.

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