Kiddie Divorce

America's divorce rate is a national scandal--but it could soon get much worse. If children's rights groups have their way, divorce will go beyond husbands and wives ... to include the kids. In a ground-breaking decision, a Florida judge recently ruled that an eleven-year-old boy named Gregory has the right to divorce his parents. Gregory charges his parents with abuse and neglect, and wants to be adopted by his foster parents. Now, obviously a child should not have to remain in an abusive home. But remedies for cases like that are already available. Our legal system allows a state-appointed guardian or child welfare agency to petition for a change of custody. Gregory's case could have gone through the normal channels. Instead, the judge decided to create a new right out of thin air. For perhaps the first time in our nation's history, a child was given legal standing to divorce his parents. Children's rights advocates are ecstatic. One lawyer said the decision strikes down what he called "the old paternalistic mumbo-jumbo that says children have no rights." But hold it a minute. No one ever said children have no rights. It's illegal to murder children--which means they have a right to life. It's illegal to kidnap children--so they have a right to liberty. It's illegal to steal from children--so they have a right to property. But there's a big difference between universal rights like these and procedural rights, like voting or representing yourself in court. Procedural rights are limited to adults who are mature enough to understand the law. Children are traditionally represented by parents or guardians, a system that protects them from direct legal accountability. What children's rights advocates want to do is rip away that protection, and give them the same responsibilities as adults. Karen Adams of the National Child Rights Alliance says she'd like to see kids have the right to go to court as soon as they learn how to talk. "We've had ... children as young as three years old saying 'I don't want to live here any more,'" Adams says. In her ideal world, tots could sue in court before they're even big enough cross the street by themselves. The rhetoric of liberation leads straight to litigation. Of course, practically speaking, kids aren't knowledgeable enough to claim legal rights on their own. If they don't depend on their parents to represent them, they'll turn to other people--like lawyers and social workers. So the real effect of so-called children's rights is to take power away from parents and give it to outside professionals. What's behind children's rights is a mentality that sees family bonds as narrow and constricting, and that sees the state as a tool for liberating people from those bonds. It's the Enlightenment worship of individual autonomy--extended down to youngsters. Well, Gregory may win his case in court. But if he does, parents across America will continue to lose ground to an ever-expanding state.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary