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Which Holiday? Religion, Child Custody, and Holiday Visitation

The holidays are already the most hectic time of year. Add visitation schedules and custody arrangements to the mix, and things can get pretty hairy.

To further complicate the matter, let's say you and your ex practice different religions. What happens when a Christian parent and a Jewish parent divorce? What about a Hindu parent and a parent who's an atheist? Who gets to decide the children's religion? And who gets the kids for the holidays?

In general, the religion question comes down to legal custody. Legal custody gives parents the right to make important decisions about their children's lives, including where they go to school, what medical care they receive, and what religious instruction they're given, if any.

If a parent is granted sole custody of a child, it will be up to her to decide which holidays the child celebrates. On the other hand, if both parents have legal custody of the kids, things can get complicated.

Under Georgia law, parents going through a divorce must create a parenting plan to address how their children are to be raised, including their religious upbringing. The plan dictates how decision-making power and visitation will be split between the parents.

In cases where the parents practice the same religion or religion isn't an issue, holiday custody is usually split evenly. For example, if one parent gets the children for Easter, the other parent will get them for Christmas. Holiday visitation schedules supersede the normal visitation schedule, so it doesn't matter which parent would normally have the kids.

Parents who practice different religions will have to be a bit more creative. They could raise their children in multiple faiths by splitting the holidays evenly between religions. That way the children would grow up with an understanding of both traditions, and can choose which best suits them later in life.

If the parents aren't able to reach an agreement about a holiday visitation schedule, they can always go into mediation. A mediator's role is not to take sides, but to bring the parents together to reach a compromise they're both happy with.

Good luck, and happy holidays.

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