The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

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The UN Conventions on the Right of the Child define a child's right to maintain close relationships with both parents regardless of marital status as a basic human right. In many jurisdictions, properly implementing the Convention requires an overhaul of child custody law. Here are some comments taken from the UNICEF Implementation Handbook:

Comment to Article 5: The convention obliges signatory countries to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. 

Comment to Article 7: Children have a right to know and be cared for by both parents, regardless of whether the parents are married, separated, have never married or have never lived together;

Comment Article 9 (Separation from parents): Children have the right to live with their parent(s), unless it is bad for them. Children whose parents do not live together have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might hurt the child. Thus, children have a right of contact, on a regular basis, with both their parents and with other people significant to their care, welfare and development, except if this is contrary to the child’s best interests (article 9.3). (i.e. the state should only fail to support the maintenance of a child’s personal relations and direct contact with a parent on a regular basis if it is demonstrably contrary to a child’s best interest)

Comment to Article 18 on Parental responsibilities & state assistance): Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their children, and should always consider what is best for each child. Governments must respect the responsibility of parents for providing appropriate guidance to their children – the Convention does not take responsibility for children away from their parents and give more authority to governments. It places a responsibility on governments to provide support services to parents, especially if both parents work
outside the home.

Comment Article 19 (Protection from all forms of violence): Children have the right to be protected from being
hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared
for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour
– ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child's level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration. In most countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light of the
Convention.