Decisions about religious upbringing and education can be very significant in the lives of some families. When a marriage deteriorates to the point of divorce, religion for the parties’ children can be a real point of contention, particularly if the parents come from different religious backgrounds. While parents may have been able to reach a compromise about their religious beliefs in terms of raising their children during their marriage, they may not be so willing to do so following a divorce. This issue also can create problems when it comes to the children observing religious holidays.
Courts have uniformly held that the substantive due process clause of the 14th Amendment gives parents a liberty interest in directing the religious upbringing of their children. However, in a divorce situation, the court frequently is in the position of determining which parent’s liberty interest in their child’s religious beliefs should take precedence over the other. In the case of an older child, the court may give the child the freedom to choose which religion to practice. For a younger child, however, this decision is much more difficult.
If the court grants one parent sole legal custody of a child, then one of the rights that parent has is the right to make decisions with respect to the child’s religious education and upbringing. However, if the parents share joint legal custody of a child, deciding which religion the child should follow can be much more complex. In many cases, a judge will look at what religion the child followed during the parties’ marriage, and may order the child to continue in that religion until he or she is old enough to make a reasonable decision for himself or herself.
The Los Angeles divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates are eager to listen to your concerns and answer your questions about all issues related to your divorce case under California law. We have represented countless clients involved in divorce cases and other family law proceedings, and we are here to give you the legal advice and guidance that you need. Call our offices at (888) 888-6582 and learn how we can help you with your California divorce or family law case.