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This blog is all about all the things that make me up. I am a Mother, I am a Pagan Witch, I am a Wife, I am a homemaker, I am a student, I am Spiritual, I am a Teacher, I am Liberal Hippie, I am a Voter, and I am extremely opinionated! Plan to see it all! If you don't like what you see, feel free to leave! However, chances are, if you stick around, you'll find more to love than hate!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pagan Parenting: Knowing Your Rights

More than once now, I have heard someone say they are afraid to go public with their new found faith because of fears surrounding their family. What if their child becomes a target? What if their marriage ends in divorce, can their ex use an alternative lifestyle against them? Knowing how to balance between your practice of faith and still protect yourself and your children is important...  So, I'm here to help!

The first thing I want to cover is child custody through a divorce. We have all heard the stories where one spouse tries to remove children from the presence of the other simply based on religious beliefs - and this happens on ALL paths, not just Pagan ones. In the great majority of these cases things are easily settled as the judge sees this for what it is, a ploy to revoke custody, but when this doesn't happen the decisions are generally left up to the state supreme courts - who it's worth noting have very different interpretations of law...

Generally, most states consider religion in deciding custody only when specific religious beliefs or practices may impede a child's development in some definable way.  In the State of Ohio, a 1992 ruling (Pater v. Pater) stated that custody "cannot be awarded solely on the basis of the parents' religious affiliations and that to do so violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution." New Hampshire state courts will not make judgment on religious grounds because of the conflict of the separation of church & state.  Other states include religious beliefs as one among many considerations. Until the negative stereotypes about Witches and pagans change, this area may present legal challenges, depending upon the state. As with ALL legal proceedings you need to make sure you consult with an attorney! Domestic law attorneys and their clients can receive legal support through pagan legal networks.

In cases where Child Protective Services (CPS) has investigated Pagan families, the outcome has nearly always been that IF a child is removed from the home it was due to an issue UNRELATED to religion -- abuse, neglect, drug use, unsavory living conditions. However, there is NO reason to believe this is more or less common in homes without a Pagan belief system. And it is very rare that a child is removed from a home on a first visit from Child Welfare.

Should someone report you to CPS, you first need to understand that ALL complaints MUST be followed up, even if the reason for the report is purely religious in nature. Should you be contacted by CPS and your home is investigated try to have a third party witness present. This is not only for your protection but for your child's. Learn your state's laws about search and seizure ahead of time and find out if allowing law enforcement or CPS agencies in to your home without a warrant will waive your rights - IF it does, make a point to insist on the proper paperwork (a warrant) BEFORE you allow them in your home.

Finally, remember the best and easiest way to avoid discrimination and reduce the chance you will ever confront these issues is educate your friends and family about what your beliefs are. In many cases reports are made to CPS out of fear and a lack of understanding, and not out of anger or contempt. Education is the key to ending this issue.

*Originally Published on my One Witch's Wonderland Blog, Which has since closed.

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