The emotive term 'child custody', encapsulates the archaic attitude towards children (and often wives) as property which leads to the distressing tug-of-war between estranged parents for 'ownership' of their children in which the only winners are the child custody lawyers.
Given that the term 'child custody' is a legal term which defines the relationship and duty of care between a parent and child and that parent's right to make decisions on the child's behalf it is a phrase that is unlikely to disappear any time in the near future.
Even so, many states in the US have eschewed the old common law method of establishing guardianship in favor of the guidelines laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The principles enshrined in this document have been signed by many nations including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, India, Kuwait, Ireland, New Zealand, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States.
Interestingly as shown in the United Nations Treaties report the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all but two member of the United Nations - Somalia and the United States.
The scope of the Convention goes far beyond the limits of family law related to child custody. It is a legally binding promise to the children of the signatory nations to uphold their rights as human beings regardless of their age, gender, religion, nationality, language or caste. While it protects all children equally, it is recognized that special protections need to be in place for children from vulnerable ethnic minorities.
Some of the principle rights outlined in the treaty are:
- The rights of a child to survival and development resources which include access to adequate food, shelter, clean water, education, primary health care and safe recreation and leisure.
- The right of a child for to protection from child abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty.
- The rights of a child to participate fully in their community, express their opinion and have a say in their social, cultural, economic and political future.
Regardless of the individual parents petitions for custopdy based on economic or social stability the best interest of the child would tend towards having access to both parents and both parents having a say in the decisons which affect the child's development and environment.