Is Religion An Issue In Your Custody Dispute?

There are numerous issues to resolve when determining an appropriate child custody arrangement. One of the most frequent disputes we see involves the religious upbringing of children.

For parents who are of different religions, sects or beliefs, or parents with differing levels of observancy, religion can be a primary source of conflict in a divorce involving minor children.

In child custody cases involving competing religious views, the court must balance the rights of the parents, including First Amendment rights, with the best interests of the child. The court will always first look to whether the child will be better off being raised a certain way. In such cases, often one parent will argue that the other parent’s religion or level of observancy will put the child in danger and/or prohibit growth.

Settlements And Mediation

If possible, courts will encourage parents to agree to the child’s religious activities and upbringing in a parenting plan. At Advocate, LLP, our experienced lawyers are skilled negotiators. We have a long track record of finding innovative solutions to child custody disputes involving a wide array of issues.

If possible, we will seek to resolve matters without involving the court, which can add length and stress to a child custody dispute. However, if necessary, we are more than able to represent your interests and protect your children in court.

Physical Custody Versus Legal Custody

There are two types of custody, physical and legal. In general, courts look to have parents share both physical and legal custody. Physical custody includes where the child will live, and with whom. Legal custody involves making parenting decisions such as religious, educational and medical choices.

If joint custody is not possible, New York courts will lean toward allowing the parent with primary or sole custody to determine the religious upbringing of the child.

Factors Considered In Deciding Religion And Child Custody Issues

New York courts will consider the following when making a determination about a child’s religious upbringing:

  • Whether the child is already being raised in one religion
  • The impact to the child if his or her religion is changed
  • The ability of each parent to tolerate the other parent’s religious viewpoints

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and the law on such a complex issue can change, so please contact our office if you need guidance.

Questions? Schedule Your Initial Confidential Consultation.

Religious matters can be sensitive and contentious matters. If you have questions, schedule an initial consultation with one of our partner attorneys to discuss your legal rights and options by calling 212-776-1926. Located in New York City, we represent clients in all five boroughs and Nassau County.