Who has to sign the permission forms for a child/teen to participate in Our Whole Lives? Do both parents have to sign the permission form if the parents are separate/divorced? There are different family structures in our congregation. Do we really need to have everyone sign permission forms?
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) strongly recommends that congregations require all legal parents of minor participants to sign permission forms. If divorced parents share legal custody, then yes, the congregation must obtain written permission from both parents. If divorced parents do not have joint custody, and the divorce agreement clearly stipulates that the custodial parent may make decisions regarding their child’s education without consulting the non-custodial parent, then it is usually only necessary to get the written permission of the parent with sole legal custody. If a child has a step-parent in the home, it is a good practice to get their signature as well.
If the situation is unclear, or if there are persistent questions or concerns, and especially if there is a history of conflict between the divorced parents, it is wise for the participating parent to consult a lawyer for clarification of their agreement. Remember that even a parent without physical custody can still share legal custody and retain rights regarding decisions about the child, including decisions about education or religion.
Also, whatever family structure is present in the home, it is strongly recommended that all adults who are in a parental/guardian role for the child sign the permission form, even if they technically don’t have legal custody. This is both to satisfy legal requirements and to honor the diversity of family structures in our congregations.