An issue that comes across my desk from time to time is parents who seek my input regarding the challenge of setting up appropriate custody and visitation arrangements with divorced parents, when one is not observant.
And while we often think of this in terms of one spouse becoming a ba’al or ba’alas teshuva, it is often the reverse that happens -- when an FFB parent becomes non-observant. We all know how contentious things can get in custody hearings; so just imagine how things can turn south with this complicating factor.
Until now, I have been giving this type of hadracha under the radar screen -- with 2 governing principles:
1) Children are best served when both their parents are involved in their lives – and when they set aside their differences and focus on what is best for their child(ren).
2) Children – especially teenagers – should be told the truth (obviously in an age-appropriate manner) about things that impact their lives (For example, I've come across horror stories over the years, when kids were not told that they were adopted by their parents, until someone blurted it out to them in the street, when they were adolescents.)
A few weeks ago; I was contacted by two attorneys representing divorced parents, where one of them was no longer observant. The observant parent, who has full custody, is concerned about giving significant visitation privileges to the non-observant parent, due to the concern that their children will become confused and perhaps encouraged to leave Yiddishkeit. Things were at a standstill until the non-observant parent offered to submit his request to arbitration, provided that I will be the one who is selected by the court to serve as the arbitrator. (The non-observant spouse said that having read my columns, there is a comfort level that I will treat both of them fairly.) And, although I am not exactly looking for new commitments at this time, I feel a sense of responsibility to serve in that capacity, if it can help make shalom and help the children of these parents.
So I ask my readers; what say you?
I would be very interested in feedback from our readers – especially those of you that may be familiar with arrangements made in similar circumstances.
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