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Issues of Religion and Child Custody

If parents of two different faiths decide to get a divorce, there could potentially be a conflict regarding which religion their children will follow. What do the courts tend to say about such conflicts?

First, it’s important to remember that the courts will always rule according to what they believe to be in the best interests of the children. Although they must protect parents’ rights to practice the religion of their choice and their right to raise children as they see fit (so long as those choices do not endanger the children), they must also consider what is best for the kids.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled in any cases regarding religious upbringing and child custody, so there is no single federal standard for these situations. However, there are a few standards that are generally used in variations of these cases:

  • “Actual or substantial harm.” A court will only place restrictions on a parent’s First Amendment rights if that parent’s religious practices cause clear, substantial harm to the child.
  • “Risk of harm.” The court may choose to restrict a parent’s First Amendment rights if that parent’s religious practices could potentially harm the child at some point in the future.
  • If the parties are hopelessly deadlocked on religious upbringing, the Court may provide one parent sole parental responsibility on all the issues related to the religious upbringing.

If you have additional questions regarding how issues such as religion are handled in child custody arrangements, speak with a skilled Jacksonville family law attorney at Combs Greene, PA.

Attorney Andrea Jevic contributed to this blog post.

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