Religion And Child Custody
A divorce can bring up different issues regarding how the children will be raised when the children are no longer living with both parents. An issue that may be very difficult to resolve is which religion the children will follow when the parents are of different religious faith. If the parents are ardent followers of their faith, they may each want the children to follow their religious faith only, thereby causing a conflict.
A court may be reluctant to make a determination that a child should be following one religion instead of another. Therefore, resolving the issue of which parent’s religion a child will follow after divorce is often best handled by the parents’ agreement. If one parent cares more about which faith the children follow than the other, for instance if the faith is connected deeply to the parent’s cultural background, the other parent may be willing to let the children participate solely in that religion as part of their upbringing.
Parenting plans can be detailed as to the level of involvement the child will have in a particular religion. If one parent has reservations about some aspects of the other parent’s religion, he can ask that the child’s participation in those aspects of the religion be limited.
Any agreements the parents make regarding a child’s religious upbringing should be memorialized in a parenting plan. Parents may agree to certain things while they are getting along and seek to change their minds if their relationship deteriorates. This is why it is both important to have the agreement put in writing, and to have an attorney present for the negotiations to ensure that any terms the parents agree to are legally enforceable.
In Pennsylvania, the parent who is granted legal custody is also granted the right to make religious decisions for the child. This parent can make these decisions without consulting the other parent or asking the other parent for permission. The custodial parent should remember that if a child is old enough to understand religion and make his own decision as to which religion to follow, the child may want to go against the custodial parent’s religious choices and follow the other parent’s religion or none at all.
The usual standard that applies in all child custody cases may be applied to remove a child from a religion that may be causing the child emotional, physical, or psychological harm. If there is cause to believe that a parent is failing to properly care for his child based on his religious beliefs, the other parent may ask the court to intervene and either change the custody arrangement or order the parent to provide for the child.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about how a divorce will affect your ability to raise your child in accordance with your religious faith, or if you have other child custody related questions, you should contact an experienced child custody attorney. Contact us at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates, serving Delaware County, Pennsylvania in all family law matters to schedule a consultation.