Religion and Custody - Can I Take My Child to Church? by Cassandra Hearn

Religion and Custody – Can I Take My Child to Church.jpg

Divorces and separations happen for all sorts of reasons ranging from infidelity to just growing apart.  Regardless of the reason for the separation, if the parties share children, custody can be one of the most hard-fought battles.  If the parents are of different religions, the custody issues can become even more complicated as each parent may have very different opinions on what type of religious upbringing the child should have.

When courts must make a decision concerning the custody and control of children, they will look at what is in the child’s best interest.  The factors for this determination can be found in the California family code.  Once the court decides what is in a child’s best interest, the court will determine whether the parents have joint or sole legal custody, in addition to making a visitation schedule.  Legal custody is the ability of the parents to make or at least share in major life decision for the child.  These major decisions include several areas, such as education, non-emergency health care, and religion.  The legal presumption is that joint legal custody is in the child’s best interest.  This means that if you and the other parent are joint legal custodians, you should talk together about how the child is to be raised in terms of religion.  If you cannot agree, unless there is a court order to the contrary, the other parent cannot prevent you from taking the child to church or engaging in other religious activities during your court-ordered parenting time.

In some cases, one parent may not believe that the other parent’s religion or even just bringing up the child in two different religions is best for the child.  In those cases, the concerned parent may request that the court enter an order preventing the other parent from taking the child to church or engaging in religions activities.  However, it is difficult to obtain such an order, as courts are very hesitant to interfere with a parent’s right to raise a child how he or she sees fit in conjunction with a resistance to restricting a person from practicing a certain religion.  Typically a parent will need to present evidence that allowing the child to practice with the other parent will actually or substantially harm the child.

If you have questions about your rights with respect to religion and your child, call us today.  We can talk about your case.