Religion is a charged issue that can be difficult to come to an agreement on, which makes it all the more important to address as specifically as possible in your parenting plan. The parenting plan is the core of your divorce, and a road map for everything that follows. Religious education is a grey area in court, since the separation between Church and State is one of the hallmarks of American law.
One Arizona case in particular, Ball v. Ball, illustrates the importance of being very specific on the issue of religious education in your parenting plan. The parents in question were not clear enough, and as a result, their lives were thrown into limbo as the courts struggled to come to a resolution on their case.
Many divorcing couples decide to represent themselves, both to save money and because they feel the divorce is amicable enough that they can come to an agreement together. There are even parenting plan forms that can help guide you in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, these forms are often vague at best, and divorcing couples lack the experience to know all of the pitfalls to avoid. In Ball v. Ball, the parenting plan form had only a one-word blank to specify religious education, which was simply filled in with the word “Christian.” The meaning of this one word would be later thrown into question when the father converted to another religion that could be considered an offshoot of Christianity.
The Importance of Clarity on Religious Education
The ensuing court battle in Ball v. Ball demonstrates the importance of being very specific about religious education in your parenting plan. Clearly, a one-line mandate that the children would be educated in the “Christian” religion didn’t anticipate the future problems that would arise. The ensuing court battle temporarily postponed the divorce’s progress as the original decision from the lower courts was appealed and partially reversed. Ultimately, the Arizona Court of Appeals found that the courts could not interpret a parenting plan’s intent regarding religious education. It’s the parents’ job to spell it out with as much detail as possible in their parenting plan, so that if one parent is in violation, the courts can make a judgment based on the violation rather than the question of religion itself.
The Case for Representation
Of course, there is no way either you or your former partner can predict the future, just as neither parent in Ball v. Ball had any idea that either one’s religious values would ever change. Good representation, on the other hand, would have totally transformed this entire case. While your attorney cannot predict the future either, they do have the training and experience to recognize potential pitfalls and the need for specific language. Even more importantly, an expert in family law will be aware of major cases that establish guidelines for an airtight parenting plan, especially on contentious issues that are out of the court’s jurisdiction, as with religious education.
Besides the issue of religious education, one of the key ideas Ball v. Ball illustrates is that divorce and parenting plans offer almost unlimited opportunities for missteps, some of which could have a substantial impact on both parents’ and children’s lives. A parenting plan form offers only the basics, with none of the experience of an attorney. If establishing firm guidelines on religious education is an major goal for your parenting plan, contact the Simon Law Group, PLLC, today for a free consultation with an attorney, and let us help you hammer out the details.