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Attorney Carrie Wilcox

Can your ex change the kids’ religion after your divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2022 | Family Law

People with different religious beliefs get married all the time. Compromise is often part of starting a family when people have different faiths. Sometimes, a Protestant undergoes the Catholic Rites of Initiation to have a church wedding with their fiance. Other times, an agnostic may not join the religion of their spouse, but they agreed to allow their children to participate in that same faith.

For those with deeply-held beliefs or for whom their religion is part of their cultural heritage, raising the children in a certain faith can be incredibly important. When you divorce, it’s possible that your spouse will use any means possible to punish you or make the process more difficult for you.

Could they potentially try to interfere in the religious observances and upbringing of the children?

Legal custody determines religious practices

Your children have the right to freedom of religion just like anyone else in the United States, but that right largely depends on your choices as their parent until they reach 18. Legal custody is what gives you the authority to make decisions about what religious observances your child perform and what ceremonies are schools they attend.

Asking for legal custody when you divorce ensures that you continue to have that decision-making authority after the end of your marriage. It is common for couples to share legal custody, meaning that they have to mutually agree on big issues. However, in cases where religious practices are of deep importance to one parent, a judge may give that parent sole control over faith-based matters.

What are your priorities when it comes to the children’s faith?

When parents share custody of their children, compromise is almost always necessary. You may not have full authority to determine what services your children attend or prevent your ex from exposing them to philosophies contrary to your own.

Your children learning about other faiths and even attending services from different religions could give them more respect for religion in general or a greater appreciation for what makes your faith unique.

Knowing your rights as a parent sharing custody can reduce conflict with your ex and the negative effect of shared parenting responsibilities on the children.