Analyzing the Impact of Religion During a Texas Divorce

We have all heard the saying that two things you do not discuss in polite conversation are politics and religion. These are two off-limits topics that can cause problems between yourself and the person that you are talking to. In generations past, this was just as true and as a result, people were mindful to talk about anything else than politics and religion. It’s my opinion that in the age of social media, we have become more comfortable discussing controversial subjects. Our filters are not so finely tuned as to stop us from discussing these topics or caring as much about the impact that our words can have on another person.

Like many other subjects in a divorce, religion can have a profound impact on the case and on how people operate within their divorce. Make no mistake- you and your spouse are unique and therefore your divorce will be unique. Having a plan on how to manage the complexities of your case in addition to the normal processes involved in a divorce is essential to achieving success within the case. Not only will your life during the divorce be impacted by these issues but so will your life post-divorce.

Being able to make decisions during the divorce, whether it has to do with religion or not, can be impacted tremendously by the help that you have in your case. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to help you manage your divorce, provide you with advice and advocate for you both inside and outside the courtroom. We are the type of attorneys who understand what you are going through and want you to know that we are with you every step of the way. For a free of charge consultation, please contact our office today. We offer consultations at no charge both in our office locations, over the phone, and via video. We would be honored to be a source of great information in these consultations and to be able to discuss with you the advantages of being a client of ours.

Assess the importance of religion in your divorce

If religion is a major part of your life, then in an ideal world the same can be said of your spouse. If it is not a shared faith that you have with your spouse, then this has likely been an issue for you all on some level even before the divorce. Choosing what faith your children will retain, balancing the need to spend time attending to family matters and how much time to devote to religious practices, and even how to manage marriage ceremonies both inside and outside your faith can be major topics to consider. For every family, this can mean something different. You can consult with your religious leaders and those who you trust about matters related to your religious denomination.

For today’s blog post, we are going to discuss how religion can play a part in your divorce and how it can influence the decisions that you and your spouse make within your case. Let’s start with something that I was told about marriage over a decade ago before I got married. Marriage, I was told, has a much greater chance of success if you and your spouse agree on the following: 1) the role of extended family within the marriage and your immediate family 2) how you handle money 3) children (if to have them and how many to have) and 4) religion. Agree on those four subjects and your chances of success in marriage are high. Disagree on one and the chances of success decrease and then so on and so forth as you begin to consider additional factors that you do not agree with your spouse on. Opposites may attract but after a certain point, the polarity begins to become an issue. Repelling is just as likely with opposites as staying attracted. We see this in marriages just as easily as we saw it in relationships of all kinds.

For religion, this may have been an issue for you and your spouse while you were dating. Whether you are different denominations within Christianity or different religious faiths altogether, in an ideal world you and your spouse would have talked through these subjects while in the dating stage before getting married. Many churches and denominations within Christianity require that you and your spouse get counseling or go through some type of pre-marriage classes to introduce one another to what it means to get married within a particular church or denomination. Even when this is not required it can still be beneficial in many ways. Talking through your problems with your fiancé or significant other can help you determine whether your problems are mere bumps in the road or whether they are something much more significant.

If you have children, then these types of discussions and conversations take on added meaning and importance. It is not just a philosophical discussion at that point- that of which religion is best for your family and how you and your spouse are going to balance differing religious faiths if that is what you ultimately decide. Rather, raising your children in one or both religious experiences can be a challenge for many families to execute. While this may sound like a great thing for your family to try to do it likely proved to be more challenging than you could have anticipated. The collective education and fulfillment that the family could have ideally had from being engaged in multiple religious faiths probably played out as more of a competition and a source of frustration. I say this as someone who has seen it occur in families many times.

When you decide to raise your child in one faith or denomination and not another it would only be natural for the parent whose faith is “left out” to feel like he or she has received the short end of the stick, so to speak. Maybe if you supported the decision to raise your child in the faith of your spouse it is now something that you regret. If something was a major part of your life growing up it is only natural for you to want the same for your children. Defending what you believe and sticking by it is not merely an exercise in philosophy as we talked about a moment ago. When it comes to your religious heritage it may mean the difference between life after death, your health, and a range of other outcomes.

When religion is a major issue in your life then you should plan on it being a major impact on your divorce. Some religions forbid divorce or at least greatly discourage it. If you are someone who has a feeling of guilt even in pursuing a divorce, then you should understand that this can be incredibly difficult for you. Following through with the divorce may mean coming to terms with disagreements that you have with your religion. It may be that for the first time in your life, you have a serious disagreement with your faith leaders and church. Divorce sometimes creates a situation where you start to turn a corner on many ideas that you had previously held up as sacrosanct. Not to say that you will ultimately come to that sort of conclusion with your religious faith, but it is possible.

On the other hand, if you are a religious person then you may come to rely more upon your faith during your divorce than at any time before. Developing a routine during the divorce where you can read the Bible, particular scripture passages, prayers, novenas, or other practices specific to your religious faith may be something that you engage in regularly during your divorce. Every person will react to divorce differently, but your religion can be a place of refuge for you during a divorce. If you share your experience with the people that you attend church or religious services with then you can lean on those people more and create a support system for yourself. For years your support system may have been your spouse. However, with your spouse and you going through a divorce, this is an opportune time for you to build and strengthen your relationships with others as much as possible. Religion can be the way that you do this.

The impact of religion on your community property division

Community property division is a major part of most divorces. Texas defines community property, broadly speaking, as property purchased or acquired by you and your spouse during your marriage. Exceptions to this rule are that gifts or inherited property would count as separately owned by the recipient- either you or your spouse. However, for the most part, property that you purchased or came to own during your marriage is classified as community property. This is important to be aware of since community property is subject to division in divorce whereas separate property is not. Depending upon the length of your marriage most if not all the property that you own could be community property.

On top of that, Texas considers income earned during your marriage too, for the most part, to count as community property. So, if you work a job where you earn $150,000 per year and your spouse works a job where she earns $20,000 per year it does not matter whose income was utilized to purchase an item. Rather, income earned by either of you is equal. What you earn and what she earns goes into a big pot in the middle of your metaphorical living room and it is used to pay bills, buy groceries, invest in your retirement accounts, etc. It isn’t that you own 15/17 of your property just because you earn 15/17 of the income that you earn each year. On top of that, incomes for most people fluctuate from year to year and it can be difficult to say one way or another whose income was what over time other than going to your tax returns.

What does this mean for a religious family? Well, your background may require that you consider your spouse before yourself when it comes to finances and money. In that case, it would be wise for you to think more about how you would want to negotiate on community property division. For example, many people would try to retain as much property as possible in that circumstance. However, you may want to take the opposite approach in a situation like this where your spouse comes out ahead when it comes to the division of retirement funds, bank accounts, and the like. Talk with your attorney about what your conscious says about how to divide property and listen to their feedback. There is no one way to divide up community property. Being as aggressive as possible when it comes to dividing your estate may not be what is best for you and your spouse.

Spousal maintenance is another topic that comes up in many divorces. Spousal maintenance is post-divorce spousal support in financial form. If you and your spouse have been married for at least ten years, then the law in Texas allows a judge to order one spouse to pay the other a specific sum of money each month for a period that usually will not last longer than ten years. In other cases, spousal maintenance can be ordered if you were a victim of domestic violence during the prior two-year period, you care for a disabled child and are unable to work as a result, or if you are disabled yourself and unable to work. These are the situations where a judge in a hearing can order post-divorce spousal maintenance.

Additionally, you and your spouse can agree to contractual alimony in mediation. Contractual alimony is another form of post-divorce spousal support but this time it is agreed to in writing between you and your spouse before a trial. There are no requirements, criteria, or other metrics that must be met for contractual alimony to be paid. If you and your spouse agree for money to be paid from one to the other after your divorce ends that this is fine by the court. Your sense of right and wrong will undoubtedly be impacted by your faith so this is an area where your property can be impacted by religion.

Religion and its impact on your child custody situation

When you have children, they are the keepers of the flame, so to speak. After you are gone, they will be the ones who are expected to uphold the tradition and faith of their fathers. Religion is a major issue in this type of discussion. Many people spend huge chunks of time teaching their faith and passing it on to their children. If religion has played a role like this in your household, then you will probably be interested in learning about how religion can impact issues related to child custody within a divorce.

Setting up a possession schedule that allows you to take your children to religious services, holy days of observation, Sunday School, etc. could be an important part of your faith tradition. A Standard Possession Order has the non-custodial parent with the children on the fifth, third, and first weekends of each month. Christmas holidays are divided in half with one parent getting the first half and the other parent getting the second half. The portion of the holiday that each parent receives alternates on a year-by-year basis. If there is some special importance that your religion places on a certain time of year, holiday, or stretch of days then you should consider that when you are negotiating a possession order.

A standard possession order with slight variations is typical across the board in divorce cases. However, you and your spouse can negotiate for whatever you would like to a large extent when it comes to custody. Negotiate with your faith in mind when coming up with dates. You have a chance to modify your order in the future, but it is difficult to do so. The best opportunity you must negotiate for the child custody orders you want is in the divorce case.

Without a doubt, religion plays a major role in the lives of people going through a divorce. Just because a divorce is ongoing does not mean that you must put your religious practices aside. Rather, you should consider your religious beliefs and practices when negotiating child custody and property division issues. Having an experienced family law attorney can help you do just that.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These free-of-charge consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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