Who Chooses the Child’s Religion?

Religion in America can be a contentious issue in the best of circumstances. But, when in the middle of a court battle over what is best for the child of separating or divorcing parents, it is like pouring gasoline in a fire. What does the court do when the parents disagree over where, if at all, the child should go to church?

What Rights Are Allocated to Whom?

Illinois no longer uses the term custody to describe which parent has what rights when it comes to the child. Instead, Illinois family court judges are now tasked with allocating parental responsibilities; although, in some ways this looks a lot like custody. The child will most likely live with one parent for a majority of the time with the other parent entitled to parenting time on a regular schedule. The parent with whom the child primarily lives will be allocated responsibility for most of the day-to-day decisions.

However, the court could allocate to the other parent certain responsibilities such as education, non-emergency health care, and choices of religious training. The court has a lot of flexibility in making such determinations and its primary guiding principle is to make decisions in the best interest of the child.

Best Interest of the Child and the First Amendment

Questions sometimes arise over what the best interest of the child are and what to do if the best interest of the child conflicts with a parent’s First Amendment rights. Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution people are free to practice whatever religion they choose, or to have no religion at all.

Parents typically want their children to share their religious views and customs of worship. But, when the parents both want different things, the court may be put in the difficult situation of favoring one parent’s religion over the other parent’s objections.

Every case is different and completely unique. Based on the circumstances, a judge may handle the situation in a variety of ways. The child may have to alternate attending worship services every week, or on some other schedule. The judge could simply order that one parent’s wishes prevail completely. Judges may use other strategies to allocate this important and controversial parental responsibility.

No matter the choice, the judge will be guided by what is in the best interest of the child. Many times as a child matures and circumstances change, the religious issue may be brought up again during a modification hearing.

Get the Help You Need

If you have questions about the allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, or any other family law issue, you need to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable Orland Park family law attorney. Call 708-518-8200 today to schedule your free consultation at Kezy & Associates.