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Determining a child’s religion amid divorce

Religion plays a critical role in the lives of many Pennsylvanians. But when parents of separate faiths divorce, it can create complications for them and for, especially, for the kids.

As many take their faith seriously, parents want to pass those values they practice down to their kids. However, courts don’t always know the best approach to this issue.

Custodial parents may have more sway in the decision

As custodial parents have, as a practical matter, more say over their child’s daily lives, they may have their child practice their faith of choice. At the same time, Pennsylvania courts cannot stop noncustodial parents from introducing different religions, philosophies and ideologies.

However, there are some exceptions. Depending on the circumstances, a court may see one parent’s religious influence as harmful. For instance, if a parent’s religious ideologies put the child in danger of physical or psychological abuse, a court may intervene in the interest of the child’s safety.

In other cases, if a child is facing undue amounts of stress from practicing two different religions, courts may also see this as harmful. For example, one parent pushes their child to get baptized while the other simultaneously pushes them to prepare for their bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah.

The child should have a choice in the decision

Interfaith divorces are no easy feat, especially when both parents feel a deep connection with their religion. However, it will ultimately be the child’s decision to choose what they practice. And like all divorces involving children, it’s best to keep their interests in mind.


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