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Religion is increasingly common in child custody agreements

In recent years, divorce attorneys in Columbus and throughout the country have noticed a interesting trend. In an effort to make their divorce easier and more amicable, parents are now including increasing levels of detail in their child custody agreements, covering everything from education to discipline to parental dating.

Stipulations on religion are now also present in many custody agreements and parenting plans, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. By adding detailed instructions and allowances regarding religious denomination and activities, parents may be led to believe that that are ensuring that their children are raised in a religious environment of which they approve. However, with the perception of some courts that the separation of church and state will prohibit the court from enforcing any "religious" agreement of the parents, the parents may discover later that the court will not enforce the religious mandates in their agreement if one of them decides to not follow it.

The details of these arrangements vary. Some include stipulations on weekly churchgoing and holidays, while others have requirements about religious milestones such as bar mitzvahs and confirmations. Still others detail parental agreements on how to talk to their children about their faith and handle any questions that may come up.

In addition to ensuring that children are raised in the desired religious manner, many parents create such agreements in order to avoid any future arguments or disagreements over religion, or to make the holidays a less stressful time for both parents and children.

But this doesn't necessarily work for all families. Some parents purposely leave the question of religion open, adding a clause that they must return to family court or mediation if they are unable to agree on a future custody issue, religious or otherwise.

Certainly, neither way is inherently better. What works best will depend on your family history and dynamic and what both parents want out of the custody agreement.

Source: The Washington Post, "Divorce's details: Custody agreements are getting more complex," Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 26, 2011

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