For many parents, it isn’t so much a question of who will baptize the children, as it is a question of which church they’ll be baptized in. However, some religions allow members who meet a certain criteria to perform baptisms or other religious ceremonies. In these cases, one party may want their parent, or step-parent to perform the baptism, while the other party wants to perform the ceremony themself. This is commonly seen in Utah where religious groups, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, allow members who meet specific requirements to perform baptisms or other religious ceremonies. In these cases, it can be difficult for families to come to an agreement on who will perform the ceremony, like baptism, for the children involved.
Legal custody of a child generally refers to making significant decisions for the child as it relates to medical care, their education, and religious membership. In the religious context, determining who will baptize the children is considered to be a significant religious decision. This means that it all depends on who has legal custody of the child. You will need to check your divorce decree to see what kind of legal custody you have and what rights were awarded to each party by the court. It is possible to have sole physical custody of a child while sharing joint-legal custody of the child. In fact, in Utah having joint legal custody is presumed to be in the best interest of the children. Having legal custody gives each parent the ability to at least have a part in making important decisions regarding the child.
Some divorce decrees have a final say provision which gives one party the “final say” when disagreements, such as the aforementioned, arise. Typically, the parent with the majority custody, even if it’s only by one night, will be afforded the final say—but this isn’t always the case. It’s becoming less and less common for divorce decrees to specify a parent with final say unless the parties agree. If your decree does not specify a parent who has the final say, you will need to go through dispute resolution when religious disagreements arise even if you have more physical custody. The parent with the majority of overnights only has the final say when it comes to educational decisions unless otherwise specified.
Going to Court
This issue doesn’t typically go in front of a court because there are typically instructions about how to resolve a dispute in the decree. However, when they do, the court typically looks at what may be in the best interests of the child. In a case such as this, the court may, or may not, consider the child’s wishes depending on the age and maturity of the child. The courts are generally trending toward the child not participating in any religious ceremonies unless the parents agree or it finds it’s in the best interest of the child to do so. If your divorce is not yet finalized, and you know this issue is relevant to you, be sure that your divorce decree names a specific person to baptize your children or a process for selection of that person. This person does not have to be a family member. You and your spouse may agree that a mutual family friend or clergy member can perform the ceremony. Your options may be limited if the decree allows your ex to have final say, or the decree designates someone else to baptize your child. Though you can always attempt to have the issue resolved in court, your chances of succeeding may be lower under certain circumstances.
Consider the Child
If you’re currently going through this disagreement with your ex, emotions may be very high. Baptism and other religious ceremonies are significant events in a person’s life and the decision of who will perform them should not be made lightly. However, the most important person in this situation is the child. Allowing your child to weigh in on the decision without any guilt or drama may be the best way to go about resolving the argument. Some families choose to hold off on baptizing the child until the child is either an adult, or until they can come to an agreement. Depending on your religious beliefs, this may be an option to pursue.
Be Open to Compromise
Although it isn’t uncommon for exes to contact each other’s religious leaders in hopes of damaging their ex’s reputation, this is not advisable. Attempting to sabotage your ex’s reputation within their religious congregation can add conflict to an already emotionally tense situation. A lot of people find that they do not want to waste the time and money in order to take this issue before a court. Though it may be difficult, finding a compromise with your ex may be the best way to ensure that no additional drama is added to your life. As previously mentioned, a compromise may include identifying other third parties, such as a member of the clergy, to perform the ceremony.
When You’re Going through Divorce
If you’re having a difficult time coming to an agreement with your ex, and you’re ready to explore your legal options, CoilLaw is here for you. Our attorneys are experts in working through high-conflict divorces and protecting your rights. If you’re going through a divorce, don’t wait to get the legal advice you deserve. Contact CoilLaw today.