JLJ Family Law » Posts for tag 'Children'

Divorce and Religious Upbringing of Children

A ruling is expected Tuesday in a contentious case testing the role of religion in divorce and child custody disputes, and the extent to which courts can involve themselves in religious observances, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune.
The divorce of Joseph and Rebecca Reyes began receiving national attention last year after Joseph, the father, violated a court order by having the couple’s daughter baptized in a Roman Catholic church. Rebecca Reyes is Jewish, has full custody of their 3 year old, and says that prior to their break-up Joseph had converted to Judaism and agreed that the child would be raised in the Jewish faith. According to the Los Angeles Times, a judge hearing their case refused last month to issue a temporary injunction that would have allowed Joseph Reyes to take the girl to church on Easter Sunday.
By all accounts the Reyes case has become particularly bitter. Joseph Reyes claims that Rebecca has only made religion an issue out of spite. Rebecca Reyes’ attorneys, speaking to the Times, accused Joseph Reyes of using religion “to deflect attention from the father’s lack of financial support and parenting skills.”
All of which places the courts in a difficult situation. Joseph Reyes contends that America’s traditional separation of church and state makes any court ruling on his daughter’s religion unconstitutional. Scholars studying the case are not as certain. Eugene Volokh, a first amendment expert at the University of California, told the Tribune that courts, as a rule, can only intervene in a child’s religious upbringing if “the religious conflict” between the two parents “puts that child at risk.” How risk is determined – especially when it concerns the emotional, as opposed to physical, well-being of the child is a complex matter and is subject to wide interpretation.
Texas courts don’t typically make specific orders related to the religious upbringing of children of divorce. §153.074 of the Texas Family Code states that “Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the following right during the period that the child is in the possession of the parent:

The right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.”

The Texarkana Court of Appeals reviewed a case in which the trial court modified a provision in the prior court order by removing the requirement that the possessory conservator take the children to the managing conservator’s church when he had possession of children. The managing conservator appealed and said the trial court violated her right to determine the religious training for her children. The Court of Appeals disagreed and denied the appeal.

It is permissible for parents to make agreements regarding the religious upbringing of their children and to incorporate the agreements into the Parenting Plan which will then be approved by the Court. Our firm reviews these options with clients to make sure they are properly addressed. Jody Lynn Johnson, P.C.; www.jljfamilylaw.com; 469-429-0093.

Chicago Tribune: Religion used as a weapon in divorce
Los Angeles Times: Child custody and religion

Same Sex Relationships

Although Texas does not currently permit same sex couples to marry, and the issue of whether same sex couples legally married in other states may obtain a divorce in Texas is currently be litigated, it is possible to enter into contractual agreements regarding many issues that same sex couples face when they are beginning or ending a relationship

Protecting and Defining Financial Interests and Property Rights

When entering into a relationship, it is important to define financial and property issues such as: how bills will be paid, how property will be owned (and divided upon separation), financial support for a partner. It is possible to draft cohabitation agreements that address the issues that are important to couples in order to achieve their goals.

Same Sex Parenting

Whether a partner has children from a prior relationship, or the couple has adopted a child or conceived through artificial insemination, it is important to ensure parental authority for non-biological parents and to protect the child’s continuing relationship with parents. In such situations, it is recommended that parenting agreements be memorialized in writing.

Ending a Relationship

Many same sex couples assume they have no process to assist them with ending a relationship. However, there are two viable process options available: mediation and collaborative law. Both processes have the advantage of being confidential, and give the couple a forum for reaching contractual agreements regarding the division of property, child support; partner support, child custody, and other issues that are specific to the needs of each particular family. For more information on collaborative law, visit www.jljfamilylaw.com.

Doing Divorce Right – Reese, Ryan and Kids

By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT

Congratulations to Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe for taking the high road when so many in Hollywood choose another path. These two are rising above resentment and vindictiveness for the sake of their children – and in the process they’re setting an example that’s worth public mention.

Three months after their split this couple was seen together attending a school function with their young children. The significance of spending time together with Mom and Dad when kids are experiencing the drama of their parent’s divorce can’t be overstated. It provides support, security and stability at a time when the children’s world is falling apart.

It takes mature parents to move in this direction. Many therapists call it Child-Centered Divorce. These parents are consciously aware of the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of their children at this challenging time. They are willing to transcend the personal drama in their own relationship to help ease the way for their kids during and after the divorce.

Witherspoon asked for joint legal custody and primary physical custody of the children.
As parents she and Phillippe will have dozens of opportunities to choose whether to
create times together as a family unit. Besides the obvious holidays and birthdays, parents in a child-centered divorce keep the door open to other activities, such as sporting events, school programs, recitals, parties, Open School Night, etc.

Parents in a child-centered divorce put their differences behind them when it comes to “family” time. They’re civil, respectful and totally focused on giving their children the best possible experience when the family spends time together. These caring parents do not confide their frustrations to their children and, most important of all, they limit venting their anger and distain about the former spouse to conversations with other adults.

To ask, “How will my divorce affect my child?” is a very courageous question, says C. Paul Wanio, PhD, LMHC, a contributing therapist in my new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! This is a time of countless demands when clear thinking and good decision-making are imperative. While at times you may feel like giving up, there are ways to lessen the severity of the negative effects of divorce on your children. Committing yourselves to creating a child-centered divorce is the best way to start.”

Congratulations again to Reese and Ryan. Their efforts are to be commended.