Judges are humans.  They have their history, traditions, values and lenses through which they see the world.  They are expected to make orders that are neutral and impartial; yet their decisions are as much based on their subconscious beliefs as upon their conscious reasoning.

Keep in mind that any orders a judge makes in your case may not reflect your values and may even violate your personal belief system.

It is not uncommon that each parent may belong to different religions (or no religion at all).  These parents may agree early on upon the religious traditions in which the child will participate.  Examples are Mass every Sunday for a Catholic, participation in Jewish holy periods throughout the year, and abstaining from secular holidays for the Jehovah’s Witness.

Although parents are entitled to religious freedom, when you get to family court, children spending time with each parent trumps religious traditions.  The non-practicing parent of a child who went to Mass every Sunday for 10 years of his young life, will likely be given autonomy to skip church during his parenting time.

A parent may even be allowed to have the child behave in ways directly in conflict with the other parent’s traditional belief system.  A traditional Jewish teenager will not be required to fast during Yom Kippur and a child raised as a Jehovah’s Witness may go trick-or-treating. Although you made sure your child attended Mass every Holy day of Obligation, your daughter can have a Big Mac during Lent and can skip Mass to go to the other parent’s Easter picnic in the park.

As another example, some cultures place a premium on the involvement of extended family in the raising of children.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins serve as a village to support and teach a child.  However, most judges do not value these familial constructs, and when deciding parenting schedules, they may permit a parent to use a non-familial babysitter rather than relying on the extended family.

Some parents place a high value on education and even selected the pre-school when the child was born.  However, there are judges who do not see pre-school as a necessary activity and will arrange parenting schedules which interfere with pre-school.

How do you create a parenting plan that conforms to the values and traditions you and your partner developed during your relationship?  Work with respect and reasoned communication toward an intelligently negotiated agreement.

When you hire a talented attorney who is skilled in negotiation and who cares about the needs of everyone involved, you can create incredible agreements that meet your needs, the needs of your children and help you and your co-parent communicate effectively in the future.

Contact me (or encourage your friend or family member to call) if you want help creating a parenting plan that takes into consideration your values, history, needs and dreams for your life and the lives of your children.

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