CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
By Beth Hyduke
God hates divorce, but it does happen. When children are involved the legal and financial repercussions get complicated. And then there's the passage telling Christians not to take each other to court. Should a custodial parent push for child support or trust that God will provide in some other way?
No, it is not wrong for a Christian to legally pursue child support. Child support is a legitimate way the courts ensure that minors within the context of a divorce are provided for and cared for satisfactorily. In most cases of divorce where children are involved, the court summarily awards child support unless there is some agreement between the divorcing parties not to do so. The child support helps bind the biological and fiduciary responsibility of the other party. Though it ties a couple to each other, despite their wanting to just walk away and never deal with each other again, it should be pursued in the interest of the children. Child support may not be initially seen as necessary by one or both parties, but circumstances are prone to change, sometimes drastically, resulting in a situation where supplemental child support is needed to raise the children in a safe and healthy environment.
People's objections to Christians being involved in any kind of litigation typically centers around 1 Corinthians 6, in which Paul rebukes the petty, selfish eagerness with which the Corinthians were suing each other. We are told it is better to be defrauded and cheated than to lose our witness by suing one another. People who object to Christians specifically litigating in order to receive child support usually base their position on the Scripture passages that address forgiving debts (i.e. Psalm 37:21, Luke 6:34-35). Does that mean a Christian should never seek legal recourse and/or financial remuneration through the courts?
In Romans 13:1-7, we read that God has given the civil courts jurisdiction to enforce the laws of the land, protect the innocent, and restrain crime. It becomes clear from this passage that it is sometimes appropriate for Christians to use the legal system. Generally speaking, if a dispute arises between two Christians (this is the issue being addressed in 1 Corinthians 6), they should resolve the problem out of the courts (using such means as Christian mediation, counseling, conciliation, or arbitration). Christians, in general, should make all attempts to avoid selfish, petty lawsuits and to be a good witness for Christ in their dealings with all people.
With those general provisos in mind, child support is a unique situation for two reasons. First, it is a ruling that is made on behalf of a third party (the children involved in the divorce), not on behalf of the parent who has custody. Child support is not a "debt" but a responsibility that should be willingly and gladly fulfilled. When a parent refuses to meet their responsibility to support their children, it is a serious and actionable offense (in many states it is a felony). A legitimate need for child support that is not being met does not constitute a selfish or petty lawsuit, but a valid, legal, unbiased way for the court to intervene and protect the innocent — to safeguard the minors and assure they will be cared for adequately. Looking back at our passage from Romans 13, we see that this is one main reason that God gave the courts authority — this is the court's job; asking them to do it is not wrong. Second, child support falls into a category of legal issues over which the civil court retains sole jurisdiction. Therefore, there is no other way to obtain child support than to take it to the civil court.
Whether the custodial parent is faced with an initial court ruling for child support or legally seeking to enforce a child support ruling that has been court-ordered but is not being honored by the other party, it would be wrong not to use the legal system to seek child support from their former spouse. Courts are in place, being sanctioned by God, to act on behalf of those too weak or too young to protect their own interests (in this case the children), and as such the court holds a unique position of authority to actually and literally enforce the ruling that has been given.
First Timothy 5:8 says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Regardless of current marital status, it is a Biblical directive to provide for one's family. Failure to do so shows willful and irresponsible neglect on behalf of that parent. If the other takes action by going through the appropriate legal channels, it is an appropriate response to protect their children and to ensure they will be provided for.
Image Credit: Nokdie; "Divorce"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Controversial-Issues | Family-Life | Hardships | Personal-Relationships
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Published on 8-9-16