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Child Custody and Religious Rights


When a divorcing couple separates and arranges child custody, there may be disputes when determining the religious upbringing of the child. Discord often arises when trying to uphold parental rights while not infringing on First Amendment protections, so laws governing a child’s religious upbringing are disparate and largely handled on a case-by-case basis. Courts often must try to mediate the rights of the parents versus the best interests of the child. For example, if one parent does not approve of the religious activities of the other parent and wants to restrict them from impressing these beliefs onto their child, a conflict emerges. The court will want to respect the other parent’s First Amendment right to religious freedom, as well as the right to raise their child how they see fit. The onus will then be on the court to decide if the religious activities in question endanger the child or are a detriment to the child’s best interest. If the answer is no, the court may then decide it is not necessary to encroach upon your parental rights.

These issues are common for divorced couples who practice different faiths. Sometimes, a court will consider the child’s opinion; this approach is common for issues pertaining to religion, custody, and visitation if the child is over age 12. Religion, as it relates to the rights of a parent, is a complex situation to navigate, but the counsel of a knowledgeable lawyer can guide you through every step. If you are in need of representation and support in your child custody case, contact the adept legal team at Diggs & Sadler to make sure your interests are represented.

Religion in Custody Cases

While each state varies in how they address religion in regard to child custody, state courts will generally employ one of three standards:

  • Actual or substantial harm – a court will limit a parent’s First Amendment or parenting rights if it causes harm to the child
  • Risk of harm – a court will limit a parent’s First Amendment or parenting rights if there is a risk of harm to the child in the future
  • No harm required – a court will exclusively defer to the wishes of the custodial parent

Because the Supreme Court has not yet set a standard in cases involving religious upbringing and child custody, different courts in the same state may use different standards. Until there is a Supreme Court precedent, state courts do not have to adhere to any one standard.

Contact a Child Custody Law Firm in Houston

Although issues pertaining to child custody can be stressful and complicated to address, you do not have to undergo the legal process alone. At Diggs & Sadler, our impassioned attorneys can guide you through every step and ensure that your interests are aggressively promoted. If you are facing a child custody dispute, don’t hesitate to contact our Houston offices at (713) 766-5355 for effective representation.

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