Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Suck It Up for the Kid

Well, at least my timing is pretty good. I managed to pay an all-too-infrequent visit to Brian, Amy and company at Incertus just in time to to read a post that revs me up.

Here's the story: Jewish woman and Catholic man get married, he converts. They have a kid, and get divorced. Judge gives her primary custody and they agree to raise the child Jewish. Husband decides to renege on the deal later and has her baptized. Wife gets a restraining order. Husband takes the kid to church and gets news cameras to come along, loudly proclaiming that his rights to worship as he chooses have been violated. Ex-wife's lawyers demand he be held in contempt and spend the next six months in jail over this outrage.

Brian covers the various religious angles, so I won't get into that too much. Besides, I tend to agree with the notion expressed elsewhere in the post that this isn't really about religion (although I imagine many people tried to talk them out of it on that basis,and others told them a Jewish/Catholic marriage would be a tough slog), but about taking shots at the ex by whatever means available, of which religion is always prime, and in this case I believe is especially effective against the mother. The idea of the child as a possession (I do what I wish with my kid!) is also apparent here.

It's hard to feel optimistic about this situation. Either the parents are going to have to back off and compromise somehow - and we all know how often that works when religion is injected into a conflict - or this could end with someone doing hard time under tragic circumstances, or with one parent (so far the father is the likely candidate) banished from the child's life.

I do wonder about the "duress" mentioned by the father, but I suspect two types. The duress for conversion was classically romantic/hormonal; the besotted boy agrees to anything to get the girl. This is an oldie but doesn't necessarily corroborate his alleged devotion to his faith. The other is probably the type of pressure inherent in any negotiation, especially under such emotional circumstances. I don't see a court buying either of these. Religious conversions, particularly to Judaism, aren't done casually, and divorce agreements like this one are hammered out painfully and deliberately,with plenty of opportunity for contemplation. Any “duress” was self-inflicted.

On a more general level, it is another reminder that children affect a divorce just as profoundly as they do a marriage. Staying together "for the sake of the children" has long been justifiably derided, but that's effectively what must be done by divorced parents who truly care about their children; they have to get along (in this case for a very long time; the child is 3yo). The divorce ends the marriage contract, but not the parental contract. That has to be handled separately.