Divorce and School Choice
My ex-husband and I were divorced 10 years ago. I was granted sole custody of my son. My ex-husband has visitation and pays me child support. Now that my son is 13, I would like him to go to a parochial high school, but my ex-husband is Jewish and prefers him to go to public school. How do we solve this dilemma?Question:
The trend in the United States is to grant joint custody of the children to both parents after divorce. In joint custody, the parents share equal decision-making rights and responsibilities concerning their children. Sole custody, on the other hand, grants you the final word in all decisions for your children.
All custody agreements are made "in the best interest of the child." When couples marry outside their religion, they often agree as to how the children will be raised before they are born. If this agreement is sincere, then divorce should not change the decision. You did not say whether your son is practicing one of the religions mentioned, but if he is, and he is then forced to go to a school that conflicts with his religious training, this may not be deemed in his best interest, and if your ex is a stickler, this could be grounds for a change in your custody agreement. It is important that you check with a lawyer.
May I point out something hidden in your question? When talking about your son, you refer to him as "my" son, not "our" son. Though small, this slip may indicate that you are not open to feedback from your ex on any subject, no matter who has legal custody. I suggest it's time to do some soul searching. Are you pushing for parochial school because you believe it is the best education for your child, or because you know this is the one thing that will upset your ex-spouse? If it's the former, then stick to your guns and offer your ex support for your choice by way of test scores or teacher evaluations. If not, and you are secretly doing something to incite a disagreement, it may be time for some (ex-)couples counseling to ensure that your intentions are honorable. Divorced couples often provoke arguments so they can stay estranged.
Child custody is the most complex and difficult issue divorcing parents face, and in times of anger or frustration it is hard to put aside our differences and make unselfish choices for our children. Fear of rejection and insults can make negotiations with an ex-spouse even more difficult. Your son is 13 and fully aware of the turmoil that exists between his parents. The example you set when interacting with his father is the model he will use when interacting with friends or even his future spouse. Teach him to constructively deal with conflict by making this decision with his true best interest in mind. Make him proud of both of you.