One of the biggest disagreements that divorcing parents of different religions tend to have is how they will raise their children after divorce. Both parents are likely to want the children to only be raised in their own religion, and they may be very opposed to the children even being exposed to the other parent’s religion since they fundamentally disagree with it.
So, how does the court decide? Obviously, both parents may have the exact same concerns and the same reasons why the child should only be raised in his or her religion.
In Ohio, courts use the “actual or substantial harm standard.” Under this standard, the court recognizes that both parents have a First Amendment right to freedom of religion, and this extends to the way that they raise their children. The only time that the court will step in and infringe upon that right is if one parent’s religion results in the child suffering “actual or substantial harm.”
From the court’s perspective, this typically means emotional or physical harm.
Parents may disagree. They may contest that potentially being drawn into a different religion does harm their child since they believe only one religion is true. However, the court is typically not worried about that perspective, looking only at documented physical, emotional and mental issues. In fact, in other states that use the same standard as Ohio, courts have ruled that simply exposing one’s children to multiple religions does not cause any substantial harm.
These divorce cases are some of the most hotly contested, and it is critical for parents to know all of their legal options.
Source: FindLaw, “Divorce: Child Custody and Religion,” accessed May 10, 2018