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A Modern Christian’s Guide to Divorce and Child Custody

Sat, Jan. 28, 2017 Posted: 02:32 PM

Divorce was once a dirty word for Christians, and even today, many evangelical Christians lambast anybody who pursues divorce as an option. Even so, the national average divorce rate hovers around 50 percent, with fluctuations up and down every year—and some studies suggest that the divorce rate for evangelicals is even higher than the national average.

Does this mean that marriage is a less holy union than it used to be? Does it make you un-Christian to want a divorce from your spouse?

The Whys and the Hows

The acceptability of divorce is debatable, strictly speaking. There are many passages in the Bible which prohibit any kind of divorce, with marriage being described as a permanent lasting union between a man and a woman. However, we all know from experience that some marriages are too painful for any person to struggle through merely for the sake of honoring that union—for example, should the victim of spousal abuse truly be expected to maintain her marriage in God’s eyes?

Various religious leaders have embraced divorce as a possibility for this reason. Though marriage is a holy union, there are times where a marriage simply cannot continue, and in these cases, your approach to divorce is more important than the divorce itself.

Why you’re getting a divorce, and how you choose to go about getting divorced, are far more important than the divorce itself.

Considerations for a Christian Divorce

If your marriage isn’t working, here are some important considerations.

  1. Negotiation and compromise are always the first steps. Divorce shouldn’t be your first go-to when things get tough in a marriage. All marriages come with their own challenges, and some will be harder than others. Long before you even consider divorce, you should work through negotiations and compromises. Talk about what the real problems in your relationship are. Try to understand each other’s perspectives. Establish new boundaries and behaviors that are mutually agreeable, and try new ideas if your original set doesn’t work out. Shutting down and giving up should never be your first option—only your last resort if none of your compromises and negotiations are effective.
  2. The needs of your children must come first. Child custody can be a confusing and challenging process. Fortunately, there are many resources that can help you navigate the legal constraints in this area. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary for your child to live with one parent over the other, but if there’s a gray area, it’s important that you keep your child’s best interests in mind. This isn’t about getting one over on your ex, and it’s not about seeing your child as much as possible. Instead, it’s about giving your child the best possible environment in which to grow.
  3. You must treat your partner with dignity, love, and respect. No matter how your marriage is ending, even if it’s painful, and even if your partner has mistreated you, your partner is still a human being and is worthy of your love and respect. Divorces have a tendency to become battles, with each spouse trying to take advantage of the other, and with insults and accusations along the way. These complications are often driven by jealousy, resentment, and a sense of betrayal. Instead, search yourself for sympathy, care, and compassion; treat your partner with respect and they’ll be more likely to treat you with respect, in turn, resulting in a much smoother and peaceful split.
  4. Rely on the community for support. Christianity is all about community, so don’t be afraid to rely on that community for support—before, during, and after your decision. Talk to your fellow church members or leadership about your plans, about your feelings, and about what you’ve done so far. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction, and support you in that direction, no matter what it may be. Just try not to force your community to choose sides—your partner deserves support, just as you do.

Divorce is never an easy decision or an easy process. As a Christian, you may hope to never have to think about divorce. But if divorce is your only reasonable option, you owe it to yourself, your children, your partner, and your community to pursue adivorce in the most compassionate and orderly way you can.

The motivations behind your divorce and the process you take to complete it are where your true colors will shine.

Sophia Mixon