Religion and Divorce – What about the children?

The recent Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce is fresh on everyone’s mind right now, and it raises up some very good questions in relation to religion and divorce, particularly about what happens when there are children involved. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist and Katie Holmes was raised Catholic. The two have a daughter, Suri Cruise. The details of their settlement is scant at the moment, however they seem to have come to some sort of agreement.

It’s always sad when a marriage comes to an end, and particularly so when there are children involved. One of the important things to cover when a marriage comes to an end is to ensure that no matter what happens, the best interests of the child are looked after. To this end it is always recommended that the parents should put together a parenting plan of some sort which sets out things like who the child would live with, how often should they spend time with the parents, what should happen on holidays, and other matters.

Sometimes it’s difficult to reach an agreement in relation to parenting plans – particularly when religion is involved. What happens when divorced parents have intractable differences when it comes to religion? Take it one step further – what if that religion engages in particular practices that the other parent sees to be harmful to the child?

If the matter were to go to court, at the end of the day the court would have to consider the question of what the best interests of the child would be. The court more often than not leans towards the concept that the child should make his or her own decisions once he or she is able to do so. And more often than not, this means that both parents have the opportunity to expose the child to their spiritual and religious practices (although this may mean that the parent that the child spends more time with has more exposure to that parent’s spiritual and religious practices).

The court will likely intervene if the religious practices will likely cause the child demonstrable harm. What that demonstrable harm will be must be argued by the parent saying that the child will likely be exposed to such harm. This exercise can be expensive as religious experts or psychatrists would likely be called to give evidence in relation to these matters.

Once again – at the end of the day, the child’s best interests must be taken into account.

This is not an easy question to answer and everything will depend on the circumstances. However where possible, take a page from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes – where possible, you should always try to come to some sort of agreement with your former partner. No child likes to see their parents fighting, especially over them.