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Parents may find it difficult to maintain positive relationships with their children following separation and divorce, particularly as at the same time, parents are trying to manage the various issues arising from the breakdown of their marriage or relationship.

Jewish parents are, of course, not immune to these problems and indeed, may face specific challenges linked to their Jewish values, traditions and practices. Certainly, the Jewish community is so fundamentally family-orientated, with the tradition highlighting the importance of family ties.

This creates various challenges for Jewish children and parents upon separation and divorce. Indeed, many Jewish parents want their children to continue to participate in Jewish festivals (such as Shabbat) with them, even after separation or divorce.

Shabbat is an important time each week for many Jewish parents and their children to be able to spend together, serving as a valuable respite from the busy week. However, it is vital for both parents to recognise the impact that contact disputes about child arrangements on Shabbat can have on the children. Parents should remain mindful of the fact that the children’s welfare is paramount when considering any arrangements concerning their care.

This dichotomy can be challenging for Jewish parents experiencing a breakdown in their relationship to grapple with – on the one hand, Judaism places a great emphasis on parents spending quality time with their children, especially during festivals like Shabbat. On the other hand, separating parents need to ensure that their children have a relationship with both mother and father, as this is generally in the best interests of the children.

We have therefore listed below some tips when considering childcare arrangements during Shabbat.

Tips when considering childcare arrangements during Shabbat

1. Continue to respect and accept each other’s Jewish heritage

Now that you are no longer living together as a family, you and your ex-spouse are likely to want to spend Shabbat with your children in different ways. For example, one of you may wish to take your children to synagogue, whilst the other may prefer to relax at home. These differences often arise as a result of the variation in levels of religious observance between parents.

Ultimately, it is in the best interests of you and your children if you can both continue to respect each other’s Jewish heritage, remaining committed to ensuring, as far as possible, that each of you are able to spend Shabbat with your children in the way that is best for you all.

2. Focus on the welfare of the children

Shabbat is normally an exciting time for children, providing an opportunity for them to relax and spend time with their family and friends. It is vitally important therefore, that you consider the needs and wishes of your children and the importance of them spending time with both their parents on Shabbat.

Your children will now need to spend Shabbat at different times with each parent, in a way that is different to what they are accustomed to.

You may decide that your children should spend alternate Shabbatot with you so that they can continue to enjoy all elements of Shabbat with each of you.

Ultimately, you should try to view things from the point of view of the children, rather than thinking about your preferences.

3. Communication

Communication between you and your-ex partner is key to successfully managing children arrangements.

You should always remember that any dispute between you will be difficult for your children to deal with. Arrangements will be much easier to manage and always preferable for your children if you can work as a team, communicating respectfully with the other parent, as far as possible.

4. Compromise

Whilst a compromise might not be ideal, having an agreement rather than a dispute where at all possible is in the best interests of your children. Compromise is key!

Even though you might want to spend as many Shabbatot with your children as possible, remember that your ex-partner is likely to want to do the same.

What can I do if my ex-partner and I cannot agree on the child arrangements?

If you cannot agree the arrangements, you should speak with a solicitor regarding the next steps. Your solicitor may be able to discuss the arrangements with your ex-partner or their solicitor in order to reach an agreement which can then be formalised in a document.

If this proves to be unsuccessful, you could consider mediation, which is a voluntary process in which you can discuss and negotiate further arrangements for your children with the help of a neutral third party.

If mediation and solicitor negotiations are unsuccessful, it may be necessary to apply to the Court. The Court will want to see that you have attempted to resolve disagreements between you prior to taking the matter to Court. 

Given that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to how the child arrangements should be dealt with during Jewish festivals such as Shabbat, we suggest that you take legal advice on your individual circumstances as soon as possible. Rayden Solicitors will guide you through the child arrangement process upon a breakdown of your marriage or relationship and advise you to help you reach an arrangement that is right for you and your family. If you would like to discuss the circumstances of your case, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our parental responsibility specialist solicitors.

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