Religious disputes and child custody. What can a parent do?

Money and property can make divorces messy, but disputes over custody and parenting time can make them unbearable. This is especially true when divorcing parents in Texas have different views (and practices) on religion. When a parent wants to move on and start a new life with their children in tow, chances are they begin to practice a new religion. This move can certainly irritate an ex-spouse, and lead to post-decree motions over where the children can attend church and what religion they can practice.

In a prior post we identified several disputes that courts rarely become involved in, and religious disputes are likely the most emotionally charged and complicated to resolve.

On the one hand, family court judges must uphold a parent's First Amendment right to practice a particular religion and include their children. On the other hand, they must balance a child's best interests against a parent's constitutional rights. These interests create very complicated questions that judges would like to avoid, because they do not want to make a determination (inherent or otherwise) of what religion a child should be raised in.

Nevertheless, Texas family court judges will intervene when religious practices expose children to definite and tangible harms. Examples include rituals that put children in immediate physical danger or subject them to continual emotional harm. The court may also consider whether religious activities prevent children from going to school.

Regardless of the facts and emotional issues, custody cases involving religious disputes are not easy; especially considering that parental involvement and exposure to one's religion are bedrock principles of our society. If you have questions about how to resolve a dispute regarding religion with a co-parent, an experienced family law attorney can help.

Source:, Divorce, Child Custody and Religion

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