Welcome back as we continue our “Sunday Morning Strategies” series designed to help you to accommodate children of divorce and children from single parent homes in your Sunday morning children’s ministry. In this installment we are going to explore some of the legal issues related to a divorce or separation that you need to be aware of in terms of your children’s ministry and the safety of the children left in your care. This advice is given from the perspective of a children’s ministry worker and should not be construed as legal advice. You should check with your attorney or insurance carrier for specific advice or requirements for your church.
The biggest legal concern you should have as someone entrusted by at least one parent with the care of their child(ren) is any custody issue that may arise out of the divorce or current requirements related to the child. The last thing you want to do is to be responsible for releasing a child to a parent who is not supposed to have custody of the child for some reason or another. Even if that parent is a member of your congregation, you have a responsibility to adhere to any court ordered or agreed visitation and custody schedule.
Make sure that you have a plan in place for who can pick up all of the children in your ministry, but this is particularly important in the case of a contentious custody battle. In our Divorce Ministry classes, we ask parents to let us know if someone other than they will be picking up the child, and we still require photo ID before we will release the child. I explain to all of the parents in orientation that I would rather annoy a grandma and grandpa than do anything to endanger the welfare of their child(ren). We also ask specifically if there is anyone who is not allowed to pick up the child. All volunteers should be made aware of this situation in order to avoid releasing the child to the “wrong” parent.