How Would an Illinois Court Determine Who Gets to Choose My Child’s Religion?

Religious tensions can arise at any point during a marriage, but the holidays tend to exacerbate any differences that exist between spouses. While two married adults may be able to tolerate – even respect and participate in – one another’s religious traditions, when a couple of differing faiths have a child, determining what religious faith practice in which to raise the child can become a source of tension in the marriage. These tensions do not disappear after a divorce. If anything, they are only magnified.

Illinois’ New Areas of Parental Responsibility

Beginning January 1, 2016, the concept of “legal custody” of a child – which parent has the authority to make decisions concerning the child’s welfare and upbringing – will be replaced with four areas of parental responsibility. One of these “areas of parental responsibility” concerns religious upbringing and instruction. After January 1, 2016, a court can award one parent or both parents responsible for making decisions concerning the religious upbringing of the child.

Factors a Court Might Examine-in Deciding Who Gets to Make Decisions Regarding My Child’s Faith

A court is unlikely to award joint decision-making responsibility for any area to parents who have not demonstrated an ability to work together in that area and make decisions that are in the best interest of their child. In lieu of evidence that parents can work together in making religious decisions for their child, a court may consider the following factors in deciding which parent should get to make these decisions following a divorce or separation:

  • What faith has the child been exposed to more during his or her life?
  • What faith does the child identify with more?
  • Which parent will encourage the child to appreciate and seek to understand the faith of the other parent?
  • Which parent has traditionally been the religious figurehead in the family prior to the divorce or separation (i.e., did the mother or the father routinely take the child to religious services whereas the other parent did not)?

In making this decision, a court could be leery about passing judgment on the merits of either parent’s faith. Instead, the focus is primarily on which choice will cause the least disruption in the life of the child.

If I Don’t Have Decision-Making Authority Over Religious Decisions, Does That Mean I Have No Voice?

Not being designated as the parent responsible for making religious decisions does not necessarily mean that you do not have a “voice.” You should still endeavor to work with the other parent and make your wishes and concerns known to him or her. However, the other parent will have the authority to make final decisions concerning the religious upbringing of your child.

Work With an Illinois Family Attorney

If you are filing for divorce or seeking custody of your child, you need the talented and dedicated counsel and representation of the Chicago child custody attorneys at Arami Law. We can help ensure the court is fully apprised of all relevant facts and circumstances so it can make an informed and appropriate decision concerning which parent ought to make religious decisions on behalf of your child. Call us or contact us online to discuss your situation today.

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