Does religion enter into the determination of child custody?
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As a general matter, the religion of one parent or the other does not enter into the decision regarding child custody. In fact, religion really should not be considered by the court in most child custody cases. The United States is founded upon the premise of freedom of religion, a freedom that is protected by the Constitution. However, while religion generally cannot be a deciding factor, there may be certain instances where religion is one consideration that the court thinks about when assessing child custody.
Custody Determinations and Religion
When a court decides custody, their purpose is to set an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child or children. All of the factors that they consider are designed to help them assess exactly what the child's best interests are. Factors commonly considered in child custody cases include:
- What custody arrangement will provide the least interruption to the child's routine. So, if one parent has, for most of the child's life, provided the bulk of childcare, then the child is more likely to remain with that parent.
- What custody arrangement will provide the child with the most stable home life. This can include looking at things like whether the parent has the desire and ability to help the child retain his ties to the other parent, as well as to the extended family and the community where the child grew up.
- Whether each parent is fit to be a parent, meaning which parent is able to provide financial and emotional stability and support.
Religion, therefore, is not one of the factors that is typically considered in a child custody case. However, religion may indirectly affect custody. For example, if a child has grown up in a strong religious community and if remaining with the religious parent is also going to allow that child to maintain his ties to the community, this may weigh in favor of the child remaining with that parent. On the other hand, if a parent has become involved in a type of religious situation that could do harm to the child, such as a cult situation, this could adversely affect the parent's custody rights.
Understanding how a court awards custody is important if you are attempting to secure an arrangement that will allow you to spend as much time as possible with your children. As such, if you are involved in a child custody dispute, you should have a knowledgeable legal representative on your side.