The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by the UK in 1991.
States are required to act “in the best interests of the child.” This is different from the common law approach in which children are ‘possessions’.
The Convention acknowledges that every child has certain basic rights, including
- the right to life,
- his or her own name and identity,
- to be raised by his or her parents within a family or cultural grouping,
- and to have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated.
The Convention obliges states to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. The Convention also acknowledges that children have the right
- to express their opinions and
- to have those opinions heard and
- acted upon when appropriate,
- to be protected from abuse or exploitation,
- and to have their privacy protected,
- and it requires that their lives not be subject to excessive interference.
The Convention also obliges signatory states to provide separate legal representation for a child in any judicial dispute concerning their care and asks that the child’s viewpoint be heard in such cases.