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Children's religious beliefs after divorce

Florida parents who are in the midst of a custody dispute or divorce may not be aware that their child's religious upbringing may become an issue. The judicial system has no conventional guidelines that are followed when addressing a child's religion, so a judge will use its own discretion in making a decision that will be in the child's best interests while also considering the parents' religious rights.

Generally, a custodial parent will have more latitude in determining what religion their child will practice. However, a child may practice two different beliefs if it causes no detrimental effects to their mental and physical well-being. If a parent feels that a child is being put in harm or risks being put in harm by the other parent's religion and can prove so to the court, a judge can deny the child from practicing that particular religion.

Parenting agreements can have many benefits in addressing issues related to the child's development and needs, but the inclusion of a provision determining the child's religious upbringing is not always concrete and may be subject to change or open to interpretation. The court will always side with what is in the child's best interests, so if it feels that the parenting agreement does not line up with the child's interests later on, that part of the agreement may not be upheld.

Parents who are considering a divorce or are going through a custody dispute should consider the best interests of the child when dealing with issues that are anticipated to cause disputes. An attorney can provide advice to a parent and provide a general understanding of the judicial process as it relates to matters involving a child.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce: Child Custody and Religion", accessed on Feb. 25, 2015

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