Co-parenting after a divorce is no easy task, and it can be a process of constant give-and-take with your former spouse on everything from bedtimes to holiday plans. But there might be times when you're not willing to compromise—for example, if your ex is instilling religious intolerance into your kids or teaching them to look down on faiths other than their own. What should you do in this tricky situation?
Religion and Co-Parenting
In Pennsylvania, custody agreements can include provisions about a child's religious upbringing, like whether they will attend church or religion classes. Courts are hesitant to infringe on someone's First Amendment right to practice their religion as they see fit, including taking children to religious services or instilling the tenets of any religion into their daily life, as long as they are not harming the children in some way. However, that reluctance doesn't mean that you have to just stand by and let your former spouse indoctrinate your children into religious views that you disagree with, such as intolerance of other faiths.
To start, evaluate what your custody agreement says about religion. If you and your ex agreed that your kids would attend religious services, did you specify what church they would go to? Or what religious denomination they would be raised in? If your spouse is taking them to a different house of worship, that may violate the custody agreement, making this something you can ask a court to address. Contact Pennsylvania family law attorney Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team for help in this type of situation.
When You and Your Former Spouse Disagree
But if your custody agreement isn't clear on this matter or your former spouse isn't violating the letter of it, you may have to address the issue differently. If possible, start by having an honest discussion with your ex about their behavior and your concerns. Be clear about your objections and the changes you'd like your ex to make. This may be enough to make them rethink what they are teaching your children.
You can also sit down with your kids, discuss what your ex has been teaching them, and give them another point of view to consider. In some cases, you may be able to help your children make up their own minds instead of getting pulled into your ex's beliefs. However, you should be careful not to insult your ex or their religious beliefs.
If what your ex is teaching your kids is extreme enough to make them do something like act out at school (for example, by bullying kids of other religions), that changes the stakes of the situation, and you could argue that your ex's behavior is harming the kids. In this case, it's important to make sure the behavior is documented by a school official. Speak with experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney Joseph Lento to discuss how you can update your custody agreement to address cases like this.
Getting Help When You Need It
Divorce and co-parenting are difficult, and it's important to have a committed advocate on your side. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation with the Lento Law Firm if you have questions about how to deal with your ex. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you navigate the complex family law system to make sure your kids are being raised in a safe, healthy environment that truly reflects your values.