This post is about the intersection of Massachusetts child custody and being a Jehovah’s Witness. When representing a Jehovah’s Witness whose spouse does not believe in the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses there can be a major roadblock to agreeing to joint child custody. Specifically, the disagreement can generally be narrowed down to joint legal custody and sharing major medical decisions. It is important to note that, like all religions, each individual Jehovah’s Witness has varying levels of beliefs and this blog post speaks in general terms. How can two parties with polar beliefs reach an agreement on child custody?
Let’s start with the premise that Jehovah’s Witnesses prohibit the use of blood transfusions, donating blood and storing blood (including their own). Let’s assume that we have one party that does not have the same beliefs related to blood as the party who is a Jehovah’s Witness.
If a non Jehovah’s Witness is not agreeable to sharing child custody with a Jehovah’s Witness because the Jehovah’s Witness is not agreeable to the use of blood as outlined above in a medical procedure, there is still room for agreement. The non Jehovah’s Witness can agree to joint child custody on all other aspects of joint legal custody except as it relates to medical procedures that require blood. The parties will then have to decide if they want to go to trial over that one issue or can reach an alternate agreement.
When deciding on an alternate agreement, it should be kept in mind that a Massachusetts’ court’s decision will be heavily influenced by what the parties did during the marriage. If the parties were Jehovah’s Witnesses during the marriage and did not believe in the use of blood and now one party is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, the still practicing Jehovah’s Witness has a strong argument to continue following the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs regarding blood.
Additionally, it should be kept in mind that the state (court) will always keep the child’s best interest in mind when making any medical decision. This means that hospitals directed to perform bloodless medical procedures may have to use blood. If blood is necessary to save the child’s life, then blood will be used by the doctor in order to comply with federal and state guidelines for the care of minors.
Let’s circle back to the original question of how two parties can reach an agreement with such polar views. It is necessary for the parties to understand that the issue is narrow. The parties need to take into consideration the history of the parties and what the state would do in an emergency. Taking everything into consideration, the three main options for child custody are 1) let the doctor decide, 2) let the non jehovah’s witness decide or 3) let the jehovah’s witness decide.
[Disclaimer: I understand, but do not have an opinion about Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs]