Interfaith marriages are very common nowadays. That being said, it follows that interfaith divorces are also a common occurrence. How are the divorce courts dealing with divorcing parents of different faiths who cannot or will not agree on the religious training of their children? Although it differs from state to state, Florida divorce courts seem to prefer to stay out of this decision. As one Florida court noted:
“As with married parents who share diverse religious beliefs, the question of a child’s religion must be left to the parents even if they clash. A child’s religion is no proper business of judges.”
This conclusion seems to be supported by the fact that the Florida statute that governs parental responsibilities toward their children makes no mentions whatsoever to their religious training.
An exception to this hands-off judicial approach is where one parent can show that the religious beliefs of the other parent are harming the children. This usually happens in the context of determining appropriate health care for the child. For example, in a case where the mother’s religious beliefs did not permit vaccination of the child and the father strongly desired vaccinations for the child, both parents presented conflicting expert testimony that supported each parent’s position.
Ultimately, the trial court was persuaded that the best interests of the child were served by allowing the father to make the child’s healthcare and vaccination decisions. Since there was evidence supporting the trial judge’s decision, the appellate court did not reverse the trial court’s decision.
So what is a parent to do when caught in a divorce battle over the children’s religious training? Take it out of the judge’s hands by negotiating and crafting your own agreement on this issue with the help of your respective attorneys and an experienced family law mediator.