Religion and Child Custody Issues


When seeking divorce advice in Pasadena, many couples have questions about how disagreements relating to important parenting issues are handled. One issue that is often overlooked, however, is the religious education of the children.

Interfaith marriages, while once uncommon, now represent a sizable number of unions in the United States. Dealing with how to handle differing religious beliefs while married is no easy task, but the job becomes even harder after a divorce.

The court generally prefers not to get involved in cases involving religious disputes between parents. Parents have a First Amendment right to practice the religion of their choosing, as well as the right to raise their children how they see fit.

California is one of several states that use the actual or substantial harm standard when deciding if involvement in a parent's affairs is appropriate. This means that the court will only step in if the parent's religious practices are causing harm to the child. For example, the court might intervene if the parent's religious beliefs are preventing the child from receiving essential medical care or interfering with the child's ability to receive an adequate education. Simply exposing a child to two different religions does not in itself constitute actual or substantial harm. The same general principle applies to a parent who is an atheist; the court will not step in to force a non-believing parent to take a child to worship services.

If the child is over the age of 12, the court may consider his or her views on religion when deciding what is appropriate. This does not mean that the child gets to decide what will happen, however. The judge will ultimately have the final authority.

You and your spouse may include language relating to the religious education of your children in your divorce settlement, if you can come to an agreement. Your attorney can provide additional information regarding this issue.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at if you are a parent in need of legal representation during your divorce. Our divorce attorneys in Pasadena can provide assistance with issues relating to child custody, visitation, and child support.