The Demeos’ split was amicable, and they sometimes spend Easter and Christmas Eve all together. But they still felt it was important to put the details on paper.
“Let’s say he gets married to someone who is Jewish, and all of a sudden he’s going to synagogue — I’d have an issue with that,” said Regina Demeo, 39, herself a divorce attorney. The boy “is already baptized; it’s set in stone.”
Ben Demeo, 43, said he has no issue with the wording in the agreement. He describes himself as a Christian,but not one who is aligned with any denomination. “I decided only one can’t be right.”
When his son eventually asks questions, “I’ll tell him honestly my beliefs. . . . I suppose if we started attending Roman Catholic Mass or Methodist services, I guess she could object, but I hope that would not be an issue.”
Although religion typically is included in custody deals, it usually is not the most contentious issue, some experts said.
Some attorneys say disputes about religion are more common in interfaith marriages, while others say the opposite.
“For parents who feel strongly about their faith, and during the holiday the child is with the other parent who doesn’t go to church, it can be a flash point,” said Gail Thornburgh, a Bethesda psychologist who helps people create parenting plans.
“Sometimes, when people get divorced the religious aspects become significant. People who didn’t go to church or mosque all of a sudden need to and to bring their children,” she said.
Some custody agreements purposely use vague wording that requires parents to come back to the negotiating table if a disagreement arises.
Paul Reed, 39, an attorney who lives in Alexandria, said his divorce in 2007 was “not necessarily amicable.” A devout Anglican from a family of Canadian bishops, Reed said during the marriage it was “unspoken” that he would be the one to answer their now 7-year-old daughter’s questions about faith. His ex-wife was born Catholic but wasn’t religious during their relationship.
Their agreement says only that the two will “jointly make decisions about education, health and religion.” It requires them to resolve questions together or with professionals in an effort to avoid court.
Then last year, his ex started going to a Catholic church again and became confirmed.
“I told her, ‘You need to figure out the differences [between Catholicism and Anglicanism] so when she has questions we can answer,’ ” Reed said.
They alternate who spends Christmas with their daughter.
Some veteran divorce lawyers say the simple question of who gets the holidays has become less of a focus as people become accustomed to joint custody and sharing.
No document, no matter how detailed, can substitute for being together during a key community moment. Lopez said she feared having a “nervous breakdown” being home on Christmas for the first time without her kids.
She left Friday evening for Paris.
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