How to Navigate the Parent's Different Religious Backgrounds when Raising Children
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Divorce with children comes with many challenges. One challenges is how to navigate the children’s religious decisions when the parent’s are of different faiths. There are several things to consider when parents are seeking amicable agreements but have different religious viewpoints.
One thing to consider… What was the original joint decision regarding religious beliefs for children. Typically when parents are of different faiths they speak of this prior to the birth of their child(ren). Was there an agreement that the children would be exposed to both religions, no religion, only one religion? For instance, did you both agree that the children should only follow one religion for the sake of stability? Did you both agree that the children would learn both religions for the sake of inclusivity? Sometimes it’s important to revisit the magnitude of the issue and what your original agreement was and why you both originally agreed upon such terms.
Another thing to consider… Did the original agreed upon terms change during the marriage or afterwards when the divorce proceedings had begun? If so, why did they change? Why was the decision to change the original agreement made? Did one parent feel that they were being shortchanged out of having a personal connection with your child? Is it because you self-reflected and logically decided that you wanted to change your mind from the original agreement? If so, what is the logical reasoning for the change?
The parenting agreement will dictate decision making the parents have which dictates their right to make religious decisions for the children. If both parents are divorced and legally share joint custody, it is generally accepted to raise the children with each of their parents' different religious beliefs, if they choose.
What happens if the parents cannot agree on a joint solution for this debate??
The court will make a decision. The court will consider if the children had previously been raised with one single religion or had been following both religions. The court will also look at how a change in the religious practices may impact the children’s education or potentially have major effects in the children’s schooling overall, particularly if the children are enrolled in a school that teaches a particular religion. Additionally, the court will consider the impact of the children, and if denying one parent’s religion will create major conflict within either home. Furthermore, the court will consider if the children will need to alter their current education system as well as if they will need to attend additional religious services and/or multiple weekly religious services? What would the new schedule look like and which parent will bring them to attend these faith based services? Moreover, are the children already old enough that have made their own decisions? Do they know a religion to follow or have they already chosen to follow their own specific religion? If not, then at what age will the child be permitted to make their own decision with regard to which religion they would like to follow on their own accord? Finally, will following one religion from one parent, over the other parent’s religion, isolate the child from one side of the family? Will it cause more harm to the child, especially if the other side of the family threatens to disown them as a grandchild or cut them off of their inheritance? These are all factors that may be considered within the court system.
It is important to remember that while you as an adult are in control of your own religious beliefs, you both must try your best to come to a mutual agreement for the sake of the child(ren)’s upbringing. This is not about proving a point to the other spouse or playing games of superiority and control, this is about what is best for your child(ren)’s upbringing, their stability and overall happiness.