When you get divorced, there may be a lot of concerns about how the kids will be raised, when they are living with the other parent. When it comes to what religion the child will be raised in, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have a child be one religion when he is with the dad, and another when he is with mom.
That means that the decision of what religion the child will be raised in or as, must be made at the time of divorce, and both parents will have an obligation to comply with that decision.
Raising and Exposing are Different
There is a difference between the religion the child will be raised in, and to what the child is exposed. For example, a court will generally not get involved if the parents decide the child will be raised Jewish, but dad has the child go to a Christmas dinner. Going to, or being exposed to, religious activities is not the same as raising the child in that religion.
How a Court Will Determine Which Parent Chooses the Child’s Religion
In many divorce cases, the child will either live with one parent in their residence more than 50% of the time or the child will go to school in one district or zone, which is where one of the parents lives.
Whichever parent meets these parameters is the parent that has primary parental residence (PPR), and will be the parent that the court allows to determine what religion the child will be raised in or as. Whatever religion that parent wants is the one the child is raised in, even if the child was being raised in a different religion, before you were divorced.
There is some good news: This is just what a court will do. You can, if you settle your case, agree to something different. However, your agreement needs to be sufficiently detailed, or the court will not enforce it or help you enforce it.
For example, let’s say mom has the child 45% of the time, and the parents agree the child will be raised in the mom’s religion, Catholicism. Later, mom is concerned that dad is not taking the child to Catholic school, or observing Catholic rituals. Mom would have a hard time forcing dad to do any of this, unless these requirements had previously specifically been written into the divorce agreement.
Remember as well, with religion may come religious expenses—expenses related to religious schooling, baptisms, memberships, Bar Mitzvahs or other organized religion ceremonies that may have costs attached to them (or to celebrations related to them). A divorce agreement should specify who is paying for these expenses, when and if they come due.
Contact our New Jersey family law attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC today to help you with child custody and timesharing concerns that you may have.