Religion and Child Custody

The Effect of Religion on the Court's Decision

Children celebrating religious services
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Although there are several factors involved in determining child custody, religion is one of the most important considerations. Religion is often an issue when parents who have different religious beliefs separate and each would prefer that their child is raised with the faith they have chosen.

Factors Considered in Awarding Custody Based on Religion

Ultimately the court's position is that they do not want to get involved with day-to-day child-rearing decisions. Courts prefer that parents determine the child's religious upbringing and specify the agreement in the parenting plan. However, if parents are unable to reach a decision, the court will determine child custody based on the best interests of the child.

Best Interests the Child

Often parents differ on whether another parent's religious beliefs serve the best interest of the child. In that case, a court may need to decide what's best for the child. Parents who have differing beliefs on which religion the child should follow should remember that a court will look to the following factors in determining child custody:

  • The welfare of the child
  • The wishes of the child (if he or she is of an age and experience level to express an informed and mature opinion)
  • Actual or possible harm to the child
  • The child's educational, medical, emotional, and physical needs

Harm to the Child

The most important factor that the court will consider to determine child custody when religious questions are involved in the actual or potential harm that could come to the child. If a parent has religious beliefs that might place the child in danger, the court may award custody to the other parent.

Communication Between Parents

Communication between parents is an important factor considered by the court when concerns arise about child custody and a child's religious upbringing. The court will want to ensure that parents who have different religious views will not speak badly about the other parent's religious beliefs in front of the child. Parents should ensure that they behave in a way that demonstrates mutual respect for one another, and they should agree to not speak ill of the other parent in front of the child.

Court Orders Barring Children from Experiencing a Parent's Religion

Although extreme, if the court believes it's necessary, it may prevent a child from experiencing a parent's religion. The court will generally not do something this extreme unless it believes that a parent's religion may cause harm to the child. When children come of age, they're able to make a decision about religious beliefs for themselves.

For more information on child custody, visit the child custody guidelines of your state or speak with a qualified attorney in your state.

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