One of the most difficult topics to deal with in a divorce is a child's religious upbringing. Even if both you and your spouse share a common religious faith, the expression of similar beliefs can vary wildly from church to church. Also, since the future is always uncertain, there's no guarantee that the beliefs you hold today will last through your son or daughter's childhood.
As if the topic weren't complex enough to begin with, studies show that almost 4 out of every 10 married couples are in an interfaith marriage. Whether that means different religious backgrounds or no religious beliefs at all, the fact remains that coming to a consensus on your child's upbringing could be difficult. However, for the sake of consistency and stability for your child, it's important to develop a plan for this aspect of their life.
That's why religious discussion should be a part of every couple's divorce agreement. A few important questions can help you frame your thinking as you enter into these difficult discussions.
How Strong Are Your Beliefs In General?
There is a wide variance in the strength of people's beliefs--even if they go to the same church. For some people, religion is an integral part of their life, their world view, and their sense of self. For others, it's more of a force of habit than anything.
You'll need to figure out which category you fall into. Is religion an important part of your life? If so, you might want to share this part of you with your child. If not, you might choose to step back and allow your spouse to take charge of your child's religious exposure. It's normal to feel defensive and confrontational during divorce discussions, so understanding your level of belief prior to these experiences is critical to making smart, honest decisions.
Are Your Beliefs Generally Compatible?
Some religious teachings are widely compatible with other spiritual practices. For example, Universal Unitarianism encompasses many different people with many different beliefs. If you are a member of a church such as this, your child's experiences with your spouse will have very little impact on their ability to have religious experiences with you.
On the other hand, some religions are somewhat incompatible with other schools of thought. If your religion of choice requires members to renounce all other religious experiences and teachings, your conversations with your spouse will be much more difficult. Be sure to fully understand both your religion's compatibility and your spouse's as well. This will go a long way toward helping you determine the immediate plan for your child.
What Are Your Non-Negotiable Elements?
It's important to not fall into the trap of only considering the beliefs of you and your spouse. Your spouse is likely to meet other people--the census indicates that 15% of all people have been married more than once. That means your child could be exposed to any number of religious teachings, not just the ones currently present in their lives. As a result, you need to consider what possible outcomes aren't tolerable for you.
However, when having this discussion, stick to specific examples and situations. For instance, do you believe that all forms of medical care are acceptable in the treatment of your child? Is contraception something you're comfortable with? By agreeing on these outcomes in advance, your agreement will trump the possible religious influences of new partners in the future. Also, even if it seems unlikely that any of these issues will create problems, it's better to have the conversation now than years down the line.
Divorce and religion are both difficult topics in isolation. When you combine them, the possibilities and problems become extremely diverse. That said, by auditing yourself with these questions, you'll put yourself in the right frame of mind to advocate for your child's religious upbringing in a way you can live with.
For more information about divorce and your proceedings, talk with a local law firm or visit websites like http://www.gremlaw.com.Share
24 June 2016
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