Legal Rights of Children

  • Lenore E. WalkerEmail author
  • David Shapiro
  • Stephanie Akl


The U.S is only one of the two countries around the world that did not sign onto the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that changed the legal perception of a child as having different wishes and feelings from the parent. Although the CRC does support the need for a cohesive family, it also emphasized the need to facilitate the growing independence and autonomy of the child by encouraging participation in legal proceedings that impact their life. In many different legal proceedings, children’s best interests may be represented by a lawyer or guardian ad litem, but not their wishes. We discuss research in different countries where children are encouraged to participate as much as their developmental age permits to express their wishes but also knowing that they may not get them granted. Nonetheless, the power of participation makes a big difference in their adjustment to whatever final decision is made. The arguments against participation especially in custody decisions are discussed including those fearing the child will be pulled into the middle of the parent’s disagreements and forced to take sides. While this may certainly occur, research shows that when it does, the child’s ability to have a mental health professional or sensitive judge to speak with may actually provide help for the child to process their own feelings that surface after they may parrot what their parent tells them to say. The issue, of course, is to find sensitive judges who know how to listen, show respect, and talk to children. Several model projects are described as are assessment of mental status and competency skills needed by mental health professionals.


Convention on the rights of the child Best interests of the child Wishes of the child Power of participation Competency evaluations Empowerment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lenore E. Walker
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Shapiro
    • 2
  • Stephanie Akl
    • 3
  1. 1.Nova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA
  2. 2.Nova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA
  3. 3.Nova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA

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