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Can the court dictate your child’s religious upbringing?

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2023 | Child Custody And Support

Interfaith marriages aren’t exactly uncommon, and they can create a lot of challenges for couples – especially once there are children involved. However, the difficulties of navigating an interfaith marriage may be nothing compared to the problems you can encounter post-divorce when both parents want to raise their children in different faiths.

Who gets to make the decision? The answer really depends on your situation.

When parents take a cooperative approach

Generally speaking, it’s always better when parents approach a situation together and aim for resolutions that will work for everybody – just as if they were still married.

When it comes to religion, that may mean things like alternating temple days with church days or celebrating two sets of holidays. Or, it could mean each parent taking their child to the religious services of their choosing during their parenting time and letting the child make a decision about which path to follow when they get older.

These agreements, as approved by the court, can be worked into parenting plans. That can help keep everybody on the same page.

When parents can’t or won’t cooperate

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions for your child, including religious upbringing, and it’s distinct from physical custody. Georgia courts generally prefer to keep both parents involved in those kinds of decisions, so shared legal custody is common – but one parent will be designated the child’s “primary custodial parent,” giving them the final say.

However, this does not mean that the primary custodial parent can use religion as a tool for manipulation to hurt the relationship between the child and the other parent (or simply hurt the other parent). If a parent uses religion as a weapon to paint the other parent as “sinful” or “evil” because of their faith, for example, that can deeply harm their relationship with their child. The court may intervene and modify the custody arrangement to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.

When issues with the children turn contentious, it’s always wisest for divorced parents to seek informed opinions about their situation so that they fully understand their legal options.