This booklet is designed to help you and your attorney prepare for the difficulties Christian parents often face in child custody disputes. In the eyes of the law, the overriding concern in every custody suit is the welfare and best interests of the child. In deciding which parent will better provide for a child's best interests, courts will examine all aspects of the child's physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare in either household. Thus your religious practices and teachings as one of Jehovah's Witnesses will probably be a subject of inquiry by your former spouse and the court.
Opposers often focus attention on refusal to consent to blood transfusions, holidays and birthday celebrations, arguing that Witness children are deprived of a "normal" upbringing.
There is no need to hide or distort your religious beliefs and practices in the face of such criticism. (They say it, but do they mean it?) When giving an answer, always try to focus on the positive aspects of your religious beliefs, showing how they have benefited you and your family. (Isa. 48:17) Be sure to answer questions regarding such subjects in a way that is both understandable and reasonable, accurately presenting the wholesomeness of the Christian home. --1 Pet. 3:15.
This booklet will also help you prepare for psychological examinations that frequently are required as part of a child custody determination. Having some idea of the type of questions a psychologist may ask should help you handle the examination naturally and without undue anxiety.
Disputes over child custody can be an ordeal for Christian parents. But with preparation and reliance on Jehovah, you need not be without hope, knowing that in the end Jehovah will set all matters straight.--Ps. 43:1; 1 Pet. 3:12.
4. Show that you have a balanced view and that the truth has helped you to maintain such a view. Do not present yourself or the truth as rigid or obsessive. (At this point it is probably best not to tell them that you are a full time pioneer). Rather, show the evaluator that you are a reasonable person by showing your flexibility and responding in an open and nondefensive manner. For example, questions about religious practices such as not celebrating holidays will be a part of the psychological examination. The mental health professional will be interested in determining how you, as a good parent, handle this practice with your child. He will want to know whether or not you are sensitive to the fact that your child may feel unusual, left out, or alienated by what may be a recent change in your religion.
You will want to take the initiative by showing that you have a close and a loving bond with your child, that you understand your child's honest reactions to your religious practices, that you have helped your child to develop a sense of security about the practice of his religion, and that he is not merely parroting the expressions that you have provided for him. If your child is to be tested, you should also try to prepare him or her to face the experience with an open and positive attitude.
Many try to portray the beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses as dogmatic and restrictive. (Gee, I wonder why?) When answering questions about your religious beliefs and practices, emphasize the fact that you have formed your beliefs and adopted your practices after much study and reflection your religion is not simply a matter of rules which have been imposed by the elders. (Where would they get that from?) You want to emphasize the fact that you are a thinking, well-balanced, and reasonable individual who is competent to act as a parent. Avoid any response which gives the impression that you are unwilling or unable to provide for your child's best interests because of your religious beliefs.
[Note: The court generally wants to determine if something else will precede the child's best interests in terms of mental and physical health. Will necessary medical attention be withheld in emergencies? Will the child be raised with dogmatic and narrow views of other human beings and their religions and customs? Will the children grow up to fear invisible "spirits" and beleive that they somehow influence their lives daily, causing them to act abnormal or antisocial? Will the child view the people of his religious beliefs as the only ones who ultimately have the right to live and enjoy life? As you can see their pre-planned "responses" actually play down and even fully deny their dogmatism as expounded in their own literature.]
Have you been exposed to different religious views since youth? How has this affected you?
Learned to be tolerant and appreciate divergence of opinions; while personally choosing teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses (Can you believe this, a child has to testify that he has personally make the decision to become a witness), have learned to respect others' right of choice.
How has your association with Jehovah's Witnesses affected your life?
Comment on positive value of truth; have a purpose in life; take interest in other people; good morals; obey the law, etc.
Do you go from house-to-house? Describe your reaction.
Educational value of social contact; learn how to meet people, strike up a conversation and reason on a variety of topics. At an early date learned about the many different views people have. Meeting people at doors overcame shyness and lack of confidence. Ease of clearing with people is valuable now in business as well as religious and social activities.
Is it not depressing when you are rejected at a door?
No. We have something good to share with those who want to listen. Each individual has the right to his opinion. If rejected we can leave and find someone who does want to talk a few doors away.
Are not three religious meetings a week boring?
No. Meetings are interesting. Participate in Theocratic Ministry School and learn how to talk to people. Associate with other young people at meetings. Make social and recreational arrangements.
What do you do for recreation, social activities, family activities?
Describe a balanced range of activity. (Sports, playdate with friends, parties, etc).