Choosing your Child’s Religion: What to Do When you and your Former Partner Disagree

Religion and its role in a child’s life can be a controversial topic. On the one hand, a parent wants

Religion and its role in a child’s life can be a controversial topic. On the one hand, a parent wants to raise his or her child to make their own decisions about the “big” topics like God, death, and our moral duties as human beings. On the other, religion often provides the framework in which to make these decisions as well as a sense of community with others within the religion. As Americans, we have the right to practice any religion we choose. Religion is more than just a set of beliefs, it is a key part of one’s cultural identity and many parents feel it is important to raise their children within specific religions. Raising a child religiously often involves regular church services, religious training such as catechism or Hebrew school, and the observance of certain holidays. Sometimes, it extends to a child’s academic life as well in situations where parents choose parochial school or homeschooling.

Religion can become an especially tricky topic when a couple of different faiths divorces. Choosing a child’s religion is a component of child custody. Previously, Florida law allowed for a parent to have physical or legal custody of a child (or both). Legal custody covered the issue of religion along with other related issues, like the child’s medical care and academics. But in 2014, Florida’s law was amended to remove these rigid divisions. Now, divorced Florida parents most frequently have shared parenting plans, where each parent spends time with the child and takes on specific responsibilities in his or her upbringing.

Handling your Child’s Religious Upbringing After your Divorce

In a 2014 case, the Florida Appellate Court deemed that the court does not have the authority to determine the religion in which a child is raised after the child’s parents divorce. In that case, the court had previously granted a mother the right to continue to raise her children as Catholics with the requirement that their father do nothing that “conflicts with the Catholic religion” in front of the children. When the decision was appealed, the court determined that unless a parent’s religious beliefs or practices poses a substantial risk of harm to the child.

Florida, along with many other states, holds this as the standard to use when handling religious differences between parents after a divorce. Unless and until a parent’s religious practices harms his or her child, he or she may practice the religion in the child’s presence and include the child in these practices. If the child’s other parent or another party can prove that the religious parent’s religion is harming the child, the court may restrict the religious parent’s right to express his or her religion when in the child’s presence.

Family Attorneys in Winter Park

The best way to handle your child’s religious upbringing after your divorce is to determine it in cooperation with your spouse as you work through the divorce process. If you cannot come to an agreement, a mediator or family attorney can help you reach a solution that works for your family. For quality legal guidance in Winter Park, Florida, contact Sperling Ducker.