On Religion and Child Custody: What about the Kids?

child custodyIn cases of divorce, the courts generally decide who gets custody of children based on the parent’s ability to provide, relationship of each parent to the child, and other considerations. But how do courts decide which religion a child should follow when parents of different faiths decide to end their marriage?

Interfaith marriages and divorce rates are on the rise, and the matter of religion in child custody and divorce has been contested and deliberated in many courtrooms across the country.

A Battle between the Best Interests of the Child and the Rights of Parents

The court’s decision on which religion a child should follow after a divorce lies on two conflicting interests: the rights of the parents and the best interests of the child. Child custody attorneys from QuinnTakaradaLaw.com say that courts have the duty to uphold the rights of each parent — stated in the United States Constitution First Amendment — to the free exercise of religion and bring up kids in the way parents deem most suitable. When deciding custody and arranging visitation arrangements, courts will have to consider the best interests of the child.

In most court proceedings, one parent will claim that bringing up the child under the other parent’s religion will compromise the child’s welfare. Because of this, courts determine the pros and cons of each of the options.

Standards Followed in Child Custody and Religion Matters

There is no national law about child custody and religion matters. The rules differ across states, and most state courts usually consider these standards when deciding:

• Actual or substantial harm standard. This guideline implies that the court will hold the parents’ First Amendment right if a parent’s faith causes harm to the child.
• Risk of harm standard. With this guideline, the court will hold the parents’ First Amendment right if the parents’ religious custom may cause harm to the child.
• No harm standard. When a court complies with this standard, the court doesn’t factor in actual or potential harm to the child. The parent who has been granted custody will have the final say on the religion the child will follow.

If you’re concerned about child custody and religion matters, it’s best to consult family law attorneys. They will help you understand the law better and give you useful insights on how to negotiate.