Divorce is never easy. No matter your religion, upbringing, or age, it is one of the most difficult life events that a person can experience. The divorce process can present challenging and complicated issues specific to the Jewish faith that couples should be aware of.
1. Raising Children and Level of Observance
Nearly all couples face challenges when deciding how to raise their children with religion after a divorce. While a large percentage of Jewish couples will continue to raise their children Jewish, some may have a desire to practice at a different level of observance or to practice another religion altogether.
Couples who continue to follow the same observance level of Judaism may still have different preferences and perspectives when it comes to life cycle events. Are the children going to attend religious school? Have bar/bat mitzvahs? Keep kosher? Attend synagogue regularly? Observe Shabbat?
When embarking on the road to divorce, Jewish couples may face major challenges when deciding how to raise the children and under what faith and level of observance. Having continued conversations with your spouse and extended family can be helpful in resolving these issues. Make sure to consult with an attorney in the event the issues are not resolvable.
2. Jewish Holidays
Jewish holidays are traditionally celebrated with both the immediate and extended families., Jewish holidays also sometimes span several days, and if the children are not attending a Jewish day school, they will likely have to miss school, which can make holiday schedules more complex.
Other key questions that may arise and require discussion and compromise:
- Who should take time off of work on Jewish holidays?
- For what holidays will the children miss school?
- Who will be responsible for taking the children to the synagogue?
- Where will the children celebrate the holiday and with what part of the family?
Couples will need to attempt to cooperate and work together to create an arrangement that works for their family. If a holiday spans two or more days, divorcing couples may consider splitting the holiday to allow the children to share observance with both parents.
In addition, many family law attorneys will have standard holiday schedules they use in their divorce decrees, and they will likely include Easter and Christmas but not the Jewish high holidays, Passover, or other observed Jewish holidays. If your attorney is not Jewish or does not know about certain important holidays, make sure they are aware that there are specific Jewish holidays that should be included in the holiday schedule.
3. Moving On
Divorce is now more common in the Jewish community, but some social stigma remains. Divorced members of the Jewish community sometimes face a stigma that can make it difficult to return to the synagogue or continue relationships with former friends.
Joining a support group and making connections with other divorcees in the community can help ease the transition. Support groups allow members to express their feelings and challenges with others who have been through or are going through similar experiences. In addition, Rabbis are trained to deal with these types of family changes and can also be extremely helpful before, during, and after a divorce.
Jewish couples face the same difficulties other couples faces, but they also have a fair share of unique challenges that may complicate proceedings. Working with a lawyer who knows and understands these unique challenges can make the process run more smoothly and reduce stress as much as possible.
Alexandra brings proven experience to the firm of Kathleen M. Newman Family Law from her years of serving within the family court system as a law clerk. Her first-hand knowledge of the court system and the needs of families in transition enable her to work efficiently and compassionately on behalf of those she serves.