Religion is a big component of people’s lives. It affects decisions like where to live, who to marry, whether you get divorced, etc.
When people divorce, they have to extricate every facet of their lives together, including religion.
In doing this, there can be some tricky things to navigate, like where do the kids go to church?
Let’s run through some scenarios to see how children’s church attendance usually works out after a divorce is finalized.
Scenario 1: Both parents belong to the same religion but now attend different congregations.
In this scenario, the kids will almost always attend church with both parents in their respective congregations. This means one Sunday (or Saturday if the parents celebrate their Sabbath on Saturday) the children will attend with one parent, and the next they’ll attend with the other. The kids will have a different set of friends in each congregations, as well as a different set of activities.
If, as in Mormon wards, activities (scouts for example) are held on the same days across wards, then parents usually pick a primary ward so the kids have some constancy and don’t duplicate these activities. If weekday activities aren’t a thing in your religion, then you won’t have to navigate this issue.
Scenario 2: Parents are members of different religions (or one is not religious).
In this scenario, the children will engage in the parent’s religious observance (or lack thereof) when they are with that parent. This means if one parent is Baptist, then the children will attend church and engage in Baptist worship when the kids are with that parent. If the other parent is Seventh Day Adventist, they will attend church and celebrate that parent’s religion while with that parent.
If a parent is not religious or becomes irreligious during the divorce process (which happens), then the kids won’t observe any religion while with that parent.
(Note: if a parent is religious and his or her ex is not, the religious parent will often ask to have the kids every Sunday or Saturday morning to take them to church. If the irreligious parent is okay with this, and they often are, then it works out great. If that parent does not want to give up that time with the kids, then it is very unlikely a court will make that parent give up time to allow the kids to attend church every week.)
Scenario 3: One parent is religious and the other is openly hostile to religion.
In this sort of situation, the religious parent will often try to get an agreement that the children will be raised in his or her religion, despite the other parent’s misgivings. Honestly, the irreligious parent is usually fine with this. They usually draw that line at taking the children to church or other religious activities (although, sometimes they fine with this as well), but they won’t actively discourage the children’s faith or religious observance.
When parents agree to raise a child in one faith, we write that in the divorce decree so it’s enforceable, just in case someone changes their mind.
Sometimes, the irreligious parent will not agree to a child being raised in a religion and will be openly hostile toward the other parent’s faith. This creates a lot of hostility for the children. If the children have been raised in a religion up to that time, judges will often order that the parent not disparage the children’s religion and allow them to be raised in it.
Lots of Other Considerations
There are lots of other considerations and situation that I could discuss, but these are the most common. Religion among divorcing families is a tricky subject, and one that needs a lot of finesse to handle well.