Who decides your child’s religion after divorce?

Settling matters with your soon-to-be ex-spouse during a divorce can be a messy and challenging process, and things only get more complicated with matters of religion. If you and the other parent practice different faiths, deciding which denomination your children should follow can end in irreconcilable disagreement.

Whenever possible, the courts always recommend coming to an agreement about your children’s religion when creating your parenting plan during the divorce proceedings. However, if you are both unable to come to terms, then the court may decide for you.

Who gets to choose?

Depending on the type of custody parents have, one or both parents will have the right to make religious decisions. If one parent has legal custody, he or she will have the power to decide. If you share legal custody, you both have a say in these decisions.

If parents cannot agree and the issue must go to court, the court will base its decision on the perceived best interests of the child. Some factors the court will consider include:

  • Has the child previously been raised following a single religion?
  • Will a change in religious upbringing force a change in the child’s schooling?
  • Will denying one parent’s religion create conflict and intolerance within either household?

Raising children with two religions

If parents with shared custody can come to an agreement, then the children may be raised with dual religions. When forming your parenting plan, make sure you and your ex-spouse iron out all the details in advance. Here are some things to consider:

  • Will your children attend multiple religious services each week? If so, who will bring them?
  • Will your custody schedule change during periods of religious observance?
  • Does your former spouse need to prepare food according to the practices of your faith?
  • At what age will your children be able to make their own decisions regarding religion?
  • Will your children receive any sort of religious-based education?

Understanding decision-making rights and options regarding religion can make it easier for parents to come to informed decisions and pursue resolutions amicably. Divorce is already difficult enough without going to court. Whenever possible, aim to remain civil and work together while you and your former spouse create your parenting plan.