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Separated Parent’s Right To Choose Child’s Religion

If you and your spouse are getting a divorce, make sure to think about into what religion the children will be raised. This is especially true if both of you come from different religious backgrounds. The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that both parents have the right to practice their respective religion with the children .

In the case of Lapat v. Lapat 83 Mass. App. Ct. 1123 (2013) the Court ruled that Mother was prohibited from enrolling the children in any form of Christian education. Mother appealed and requested that she be allowed to provide Christian instruction to her children as well. She contended that ruling otherwise would be tantamount to a violation of her freedom to practice her religion. The appellate court ruled that in all child custody agreements, the best interests and welfare of the child should be given the utmost importance. The Court stated that if the father is able to present evidence that substantial harm would be brought about to the children if they received Christian religious education in addition to Jewish instruction, then Mother would be prohibited from sharing her Christian religion with the children. The father was unable to establish such harm, so the court ruled in Mother’s favor. Of importance is that the Court stated that the term “primarily raised” did not imply that the children were to be raised exclusively under one religion. The Divorce Judgment was modified by striking the clause that prohibits the mother from sharing her religion with the children.

Take note that when you and your ex-spouse are negotiating a divorce agreement it is important to be clear and specific with regards to what religion the children should or should not be raised. A separation and/or child custody agreement is an important document that ought to be drafted with care so that it does not result in a situation like the Lapat’s. If you need assistance in the drafting of your divorce agreement, do not hesitate to contact a Massachusetts Divorce Attorney.