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Settling Religious Visitation Questions in Divorce

child visitation questions

Certain holidays have special meanings for various religions. The word “holiday” is actually a derivative of “holy day,” a day that was set aside for observance of religious beliefs and affirmations of faith.

With so many different religions being practiced in California, some holidays celebrated by parents of different faiths may be in conflict with each other. For example, Christian parents may want to have their children with them at Easter, while Jewish parents may want to celebrate Passover, which occurs around the same time.

California follows an “actual harm” rule in ruling on questions regarding religious upbringing. With this standard, the court will only intervene if a parent can prove that raising a child under certain religious beliefs or restrictions will cause actual or substantial harm to the child. Most parents do not try to argue this, as it is very difficult to prove. In fact, the majority of these cases do not have to do with visitation but with health concerns when one parent wants to withhold medical treatment.

However, many parents do come into conflict when their religious holidays conflict with the other parent’s plans. How can you make sure that your child enjoys your holidays without conflicting with the other parent’s schedule?

  • If possible, have a discussion with the other parent. It may not always be easy to do, but if you can have a discussion with the child’s other parent, you may be able to work out an agreement between yourself. If this descends into an argument, however, stop the conversation and try a different approach.
  • If conversation is not possible, examine your settlement agreement. Your settlement agreement should include specific language regarding your expectations for having your children with you on certain religious holidays. For example, if you celebrate Christmas while your former spouse celebrates Hanukkah, you may have a provision in your agreement that grants you time with the children on Christmas while she takes them for Hanukkah. In the event that two holidays fall on the same day, you can include language for how that situation is to be handled.
  • Keep good records. It may be important for you to show how certain holiday situations were handled in the past. An online calendar can be very useful in keeping up with what days you have the children or in making notes on why plans were changed.

The attorneys at the Men’s Legal Center are ready to work with you to ensure that your custody and visitation agreement protects your rights fully. Contact us today for an appointment.